Here’s the payback for bringing a funky, cutting-edge compact SUV to market: 70 per-cent of the predominantly young buyers of the Nissan Juke are new to the brand. Nissan’s job is to keep these newcomers within the ‘family’ and with a suite of larger SUVs to move onto (Qashqai, X-TRAIL, Pathfinder and Patrol) the Japanese giant certainly has the artillery.
Nissan is surging in Australia – the fifth best-selling automotive brand (ahead of Ford) with sales this year up by 2,934 vehicles over the first quarter in 2014 and market share up to 6.4 per-cent. And don’t forget Nissan also boasts one of Australia’ best finance operations (Nissan Finance), is an OEM manufacturer with parts from its Dandenong South, Victoria casting plant exported to Nissan, Renault and Infiniti plants around the world and has its own factory V8 Supercars race team (also based in Dandenong South).
Certainly the alliance company is a powerhouse - globally one in every 10 cars sold is a Nissan, Infiniti or Renault vehicle. Next-up for Australia is the crucial all-new Nissan Navara ute (next month) and in July expect an all-new Infiniti model.
Nissan Juke Overview
The compact Juke is Nissan’s entry-level SUV-Crossover. The Juke’s breakthrough design is the work of Nissan Europe and it comes to Australia from Nissan’s award-winning assembly plant in Sunderland, England.
First launched in Australia in 2013, the Juke has racked-up local sales on 4273 vehicles. Now Nissan has launched the mid-life facelift which brings a new engine, refreshed looks and some extra technology.
The updated lineup is:
|ST 2WD six-speed manual||$23,490|
|ST 2WD Xtronic automatic||$24,490|
|Ti-S 2WD six-speed manual||$29,790|
|Ti-S AWD Xtronic||$33,490|
Nissan Juke Engine
Headlining the updated Nissan Juke layout is the debut of a new Renault engine. The turbocharged 1.2-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine is available in the entry-level Nissan Juke ST (six-speed manual).
Like all Nissan Juke engines, the new 1.2-liyre complies with the tough Euro 5 emissions standards. And it’s punchy with maximum power of 85kW at 4500rpm and peak torque of 190Nm at 2000rpm.
Combined-cycle fuel consumption (aided by auto start/stop) is rated at 5.6l/100kms.
Nissan Juke ST with the CVT automatic transmission retains the 86kW/158Nm naturally-aspirated 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol engine.
For the range-topping Nissan Juke ST we have the turbocharged 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with maximum power of 140kW at 5600rpm and peak torque of 240Nm between 1600-5200rpm. To provide enhanced torque below 2000rpm Nissan has given this engine a once-over (higher compression ratio, cooled exhaust gas recirculation and improve low friction technologies).
All Nissan Juke models are front-wheel-drive but the range-topping Ti-S CVT automatic uses Nissan’s All-Mode all-wheel-drive system which includes a new Xtronic transmission offering an improved gear spread.
Nissan Juke The Interior
Inside you’ll notice the Nissan Juke has adopted a new grey-coloured centre console but range-topping Ti-S is the major beneficiary from the update with improved NissanConnect Telematics and satellite navigation via a 5.8-inch colour touchscreen. That same screen is used for the four-camera ‘Around View Monitor’ which provides a 360⁰ external review to aid parking and off-road activities.
Nissan Juke Ti-S also picks-up Lane Departure Warning, Blind Spot Warning and Moving Object Detection.
Across the range Nissan Juke provides a very slick interior layout and good seating comfort (leather seats in Ti-S). You sit high in an SUV-like position and even those in the rear enjoy a good view.
We liked the instrument layout although the tilt-only adjustment for the steering wheel is a bit 1980s.
Rear seat accommodation is good.
The other news from the update is a re-designed boot layout which sees 2WD Nissan Jukes boost cargo capacity by 40 per-cent to 354-litres (rear seat in-place). Nissan Juke AWD provides 207-litres.
Nissan Juke Exterior & Styling
So how do you update one of the funkiest, head-turning automotive designs of the current era? The answer is: with flair.
Most obvious with the latest Nissan Juke are the front lights which get Nissan’s signature ‘boomerang’ shape (see the 370Z coupe and Qashqai SUV) with incorporated bi-intensity LED DRLs (range-topping Ti-S adds Xenon bulbs and new lens covers).
But the Nissan Juke designers weren’t done there. Also noticeable is the new ‘corporate’ ‘V-Motion grille (which Nissan is rolling-out across all of its models) and a tougher trim under the front bumper.
Door mirrors now include LED repeaters for the tuning indicators.
And at the rear is a new bumper incorporating new LED ‘boomerang’ tail-lights.
All Nissan Jukes ride on new-design 17-inch alloy wheels.
For colours we can add ‘Bumblebee Yellow’, ‘Magnetic Red’ and ‘Ink Blue’ (in the Nissan Juke way, hardly subtle).
Nissan Juke On The Road
We got behind the wheel of the entry-level Nissan Juke ST six-speed manual with the new turbocharged 1.2-litre engine. The route covered some familiar roads from Melbourne airport through the north-eastern suburbs to Nissan Casting Australia in Dandenong South (although we did notice a couple of new roads around Warrandite were included with some good twists and curves).
That Renault-sourced 1.2-litre was a nice piece of kit. Fuel-miserly at 5.6l/100kms (combined-cycle) but with more than sufficient grunt to handle the 1163kgs of the Nissan Juke ST.
And with 190Nm from 2,000rpm our Nissan Juke wasn’t recalcitrant when we asked it to climb some steep hills even in fourth gear – and that’s the payback with the engineering smarts of these new small capacity turbocharged engines. Of course smart ratios in the six-speeder were part of that story.
Sure the Juke we were driving was no Juke NISMO (Nissan’s ‘Baby GT-R) but nevertheless there was a distinctly sporty feel about things when we pressed on through some pacey corners. The Nissan Juke turned-in nicely and quickly took a nice ‘set’ mid-turn.
The flipside to those sporty dynamics was a degree of firmness particularly felt in the front end when you encountered some road imperfections.
In the urban environment, the Nissan Juke was easy to live with. That’s the payback of good driveability from the turbo 1.2-litre, a light clutch and gearshift and surprisingly good all-round visibility (you’d think the Juke’s design would restrict visibility but in practice it doesn’t).
That said, for $23,490 the Nissan Juke ST really should have a reversing camera as standard (it is standard Ti-S models included in the excellent four-camera 360⁰ ‘Around View Monitor’).
Nissan Juke Issues
We found the Juke’s front-end was a bit harsh when encountering potholes or less than smooth road surfaces. And we can’t fathom why Nissan reckons there isn’t sufficient need for a diesel-powered model.
Nissan Juke Verdict
We like the Nissan Juke – always have. It’s a compact SUV for individualists and we applaud Nissan for letting its stylists ‘push out the boat’ and then green light it for production – a bold move from a traditionally conservative company.
Styling changes - while relatively minor – have sharpened Juke’s look even more and the turbo 1.2-litre petrol engine is a winner. Of course all buyers will appreciate the significant extra cargo space in 2WD models.
Go-on buy one. You certainly won’t easily lose your Juke in the shopping mall carpark and every time you see it parked in your driveway it will bring a smile to your face
Nissan Juke The Competition
Competition in the compact SUV segment is more intense than an NRL or AFL grand final approaching full-time. Nissan sold 2,812 Jukes last year but the pressure to beat that number in 2015 is intense.
Everyone is talking about the all-new Mazda CX-3. Gorgeously styled, sharply priced from $19,990, bursting with features and showcasing Mazda’s groundbreaking SkyActiv technology, the CX-3 has Mazda dealers in a sweat keeping-up with orders. The CX-3 drives great and offers petrol or diesel engines but of course doesn’t have the head-turning ‘wow’ factor of the Nissan Juke’s radical looks.
Our other favourite in this segment, and definitely worth a look if head-turning looks are a priority is the all-new Renault Captur from Nissan’s parent company Renault. Priced from $22,990 to $27,990 the Renault Captur has arguably the best interior in this segment and lots of technology under the bonnet (including a super 0.9-litre three-cylinder petrol engine).
Ford’s made-in-India the Ford EcoSport must be on your shopping list priced from $20,790 to $27,790. Go the three-cylinder 1.0-litre engine if you can (starting at $22,290). EcoSport delights with excellent ride and handling but loses points for the externally-mounted spare wheel (although it is much easier to access should you need to change a flat tyre) and the interior doesn’t match the Juke.
Honda’s all-new Honda HR-V is also worth a look. We like the styling, we like the driving dynamics and there’s lots of car for your coin with the HR-V – starting from $24,990.