Still not the SUV for everyone. But better for it.
The Nissan Juke is, without a doubt, one of the whackiest-looking SUV-crossovers you can buy from a forecourt today. It came on the scene just at SUVs in this category began to gain traction, and while it might not be the most popular compact high-rider on the market, it’s certainly one of the most distinctive.
But time has gone by, and the Juke is now not quite the design marvel it once was. The eccentricities and uniqueness has worn off, especially against equally eye-catching competitors like the Toyota C-HR and Citroën C4 Cactus. To that end, the Juke was refreshed in 2015 to keep it fighting fresh, where it also lost the atmo 1.6-litre petrol engine in favour of a 1.2-litre turbo, with the atmo unit moving to the middle of the range, sitting beneath the 1.6-litre turbo. The Juke lineup continues to soldier on in ST, ST N-Tec, Ti-S, and N-Sport trims, designed to appeal as broadly as possible.
So what’s in it then, this Juke? Does it still cut the mustard as the funky choice in this increasingly-funky category?
“Designed as an alternative to more conservative hatchbacks, it’s been a huge success thanks in part to its distinctive looks.” - WhatCar?
While the bigger Qashqai dons a much more mature suit made to appeal to young families, the Juke’s outfit is driven toward even younger empty-nesters, the sort of people who can afford to prioritise looks over practicality. The funky-face of the Juke is certainly the headline, while the sloping roofline and complex surfacing from nose to tail reveals more and more creases and curves the longer you look at it. The willingness to compromise on outright practicality means that the rear of the Juke isn’t as upright as some of the competition either, further emphasising the ‘sport’ in ‘sport utility vehicle.’
The Juke looks good in all variants, with even the base-model ST looking smart with alloy wheels, while higher-end models gain more aesthetic embellishments to further mark it out as a style-conscious runabout. Importantly, the Juke sits noticeably off the ground, so you know that this is a SUV from the get-go.
Engine & Drivetrain
“The Nissan Juke is heavy for a supermini. That means it has to be short-geared to give it the friskiness its design promises, with the inevitable outcome that it’s a busy-sounding motorway cruiser.” - Autocar
While the Juke is offered with a diesel in other markets, Australia makes do with just three petrols. Thankfully, they’re all crackers.
The entry-level engine takes the form of a 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol with 85kW and 190Nm, though this is mated exclusively with a six-speed manual gearbox that sends its power to the front wheels. The lowest buy-in into an automatic gearbox comes in the form of the ST automatic, that comes in at $24,490 and packs the old atmo 1.6-litre engine that used to be employed in the base-model. The ST N-Tec uses the same engine and gearbox combo, while the Ti-S and N-Sport use the 1.6-litre turbo-four pearl engine that’s good for 140kW and 240Nm.
Automatic transmissions are of the continuously-variable (CVT) variety, while the manuals (only the ST and Ti-S) are of the six-speed kind. Power is sent to the front wheels in all but the range-topping Ti-S and N-Sport models, while fuel consumption through the Juke family ranges from 5.6L/100km (front-wheel drive ST) to 6.5L/100km (all-wheel drive N-Sport).
“The Juke is a bit plasticky inside, although Nissan does conceal this rather well with the motorcycle fuel tank style centre console.” - TopGear
When it first arrived, the Juke’s cabin was just as revolutionary as the exterior. Funky lines, splashes of colour, and a central tunnel that was shaped like a motorbike fuel tank… it couldn’t get cooler inside, unless you went with personalisation options that spice things up even further.
However, the novelty has worn off. And like the exterior, the interior suddenly feels a little less cool. The plastics aren’t the most pliant or forgiving (which is particularly grating in the almost-$40k N-Sport), and the location of the drivers’ information display (behind the gear lever on the centre console) is entirely illogical. At least it’s comfy though, with supportive front seats and reasonable pews in the rear, though legroom and headroom come at a bit of a premium.
The style packs that are offered with the Juke continue to add a dash of flair, and are well-worth the money if you want to stand out from the crowd. The accessories for the Juke also help to liven up the cabin and make it less drab.
Behind the Wheel
“The Nissan Juke can't match a traditional small hatchback like the Ford Fiesta for cornering ability – it’s definitely more in the SUV camp in terms of handling. That said, it's not bad to drive and is quite comfortable in most situations.” - AutoExpress
If you think the raised ride height will afford you a more forgiving and pliant ride, think again. It’s safe to say that the Juke’s ride puts the ‘sport’ back in SUV, with a relatively firm tune adopted for our market. While that means you might be fidgeting about more than usual (which you won’t mind if you’re of the younger demographic Nissan is targeting), it also means you’ll enjoy driving agility and dynamics that you don’t expect from something in this category. It’s a properly fun drive, the Juke. Fun enough to consider the six-speed manual.
If you go for an automatic though, you won’t be missing out much. Though it might be a CVT transmission, Nissan’s ‘XTronic’ kind are some of the best in the business. It’s pretty quiet and very linear, though it does lack the snappy response you’d get from a double-clutch or conventional torque-converter automatic. The 1.6-litre atmo engine isn’t bad, but it’s definitely the two turbo powerplants that really take the cake. The 1.2-litre is best kept within city limits though, but the bigger unit enjoys a range of ability that means it never feels out of its depth.
Safety & Technology
“Thanks to its five-star Euro NCAP rating, the Juke is also one of the safest cars around.” - AutoExpress
With the Juke getting long in the tooth, it comes to no surprise that its standard safety tech isn’t particularly impressive. It’s not the Juke’s fault though, as active safety technology has improved leaps and bounds in recent years. And it’s not like it’s unsafe: The Juke earned a commendable 5-star EuroNCAP rating when it was first released, a rating that ANCAP honours entirely and continues to uphold. Active safety technology includes things like lane-departure warning and blind-spot monitoring, which is standard on all models.
As for standard tech, it’s not too shabby. The boomerang LED daytime running lights up front look sharp, while even the base model gets a 5.8-inch touchscreen infotainment display. Ti-S models gain xenon headlights and DAB digital radio, along with Google-connected satellite navigation and apps. Also standard across the board is a 360º around-view monitor, which is great for those tight urban manoeuvres.
While the Juke is considered to be responsible for kickstarting the compact crossover craze in both Europe and North America, the funky little Nissan continues to remain something of an outlier in Australia, which is both a good and bad thing. The good thing about it being left-field is that if you like the Juke’s stand-out looks, you won’t find a sea of them in the supermarket carpark. The bad news is only to Nissan, who can’t revel in the same sort of sales figures that Honda, Toyota, and Citroën can tout with their HR-V, C-HR, and C4 Cactus respectively.
And while it might feel its age somewhat, it’s by no means a bad car. Predictably for a Nissan, as a package, it sits squarely in the middle of the field. It offers a degree of fun, a degree of practicality, a degree of reliability, and a degree of safety. It’s actually a middling sort of car, once you get past how it looks. Certainly worth a gander, the Juke, if only to add a little more colour to the neighbourhood.
We’d suggest avoiding the naturally-aspirated 1.6-litre engine, and go with the two turbocharged mills that bookend the range. The smaller engine is perfectly adequate for the urban environment, though the bigger unit will be the one to go for if you need a little more poke or the convenience of an automatic. Same goes with the all-wheel drive powertrain as it adds weight and decreases efficiency, so think long and hard about all-paw traction before you take the plunge.
WhatCar? – 2.0/5.0 – “The Nissan Juke blends individual looks with plenty of equipment, but it’s let down by its poor practicality and jittery ride.”
Autocar – 4.5/5.0 – “It’s good to see a volume car maker daring to be different, and making it work.”
TopGear – 6.0/10 – “Woeful boot space, but the Juke remains an oddity we struggle to understand.”
AutoExpress – 3.0/5.0 – “The Juke was the first small crossover on sale, but it has fallen behind newer rivals for space and efficiency.”
CarAdvice – 7.0/10 – “The Nissan Juke remains a polarising option, but the landscape would be duller without it.”
CarsGuide – 4.5/5.0 – “Nissan Juke dares to be different – really different – so polarises opinions. We like it like that, vehicles in which no one has any real opinion one way or the other are usually sensible but boring; two words you are unlikely to see in any review on the Juke.”
Evo UK – 3.5/5.0 – “Nissan has gone on to repeat the success of its Qashqai crossover with the Juke - albeit on a smaller scale. It remains one of the best junior crossovers on the market, carving out a niche for itself below the likes of the Mazda CX-3 and outgoing Skoda Yeti and making for a far more interesting proposition than most superminis it's priced on a par with. Saying all that, we're not convinced by the gaudy personalisation options and it really should be more efficient than it is.”