Nissan Juke review
The Nissan Juke has distinctive styling, good specs and mpg and a low price – a worthy MINI Countryman rival. Juke Nismo provides thrills
While Nissan can’t quite lay claim to the invention of the crossover, it can take pride in bringing the niche to the masses. Arriving in 2010, the Nissan Juke followed in the footsteps of the hugely popular Nissan Qashqai, giving buyers a smart and stylish alternative to conventional superminis like the Ford Fiesta. The Juke’s arrival kickstarted a clutch of supermini-based SUVs such as the Renault Captur and Vauxhall Mokka, while even MINI now makes a small 4x4 – the big-selling Countryman.
The range is made up of a decent choice of petrol and diesel engines, and is available with two or four-wheel drive. Although the latter offers some off-road ability, you shouldn’t don’t expect to wade rivers or cross mountains, this is a supermini-SUV after all. What’s more, the complicated mechanicals and added weight mean it is less fuel efficient and more expensive to run.
The dramatic looks are matched by loads of on-board technology and a temptingly low starting price. With its high driving position, it's a great choice for drivers looking for a small car with a big personality. However, the Juke isn’t the most practical of cars thanks to that sleek sloping roofline that eats into head room and reduces boot space, limiting the Juke’s load-lugging ability.
In 2011, Nissan decided to fit the 520bhp 3.8-litre twin-turbo V6 from the GT-R into the Juke, and a year later, the Juke-R was put into limited production. However, a more sensible Nismo version is now available with a tuned 1.6-litre turbocharged engine packing 197bhp – 10bhp more than the previous range-topper. It gets an aggressive body kit, stiffer springs and some extra Alcantara throughout the cabin.
Our choice remains the 1.5-litre dCi diesel, though, for its mix of performance and decent real world economy. Avoid the CVT automatic gearbox unless completely necessary as it whines under hard acceleration and doesn’t feel nearly as smooth as the more efficient manual.
Our choice: Juke 1.5 dCi Tekna
The Nissan Juke was originally inspired by the Qazana Concept and while it's unlikely to appeal to the shy and retiring, the Nissan Juke has already proved hugely popular with buyers. The frog-eyed front end and wide grille give it a purposeful stance, while at the rear the lights are inspired by the brand’s 370Z sports car. But the Juke isn’t all show and no go – you can now buy a hot Nismo version, which gets a tuned engine and all the styling gubbins to go with it. That includes an aggressive body kit, lowered suspensions, big black alloys and red wing mirrors. Inside, there are a sprinkling of Nismo badges and lots of soft-touch Alcantara details, while the standard car gets a functional, rather than upmarket cabin.
The wide range of specifications includes Visia, Acenta, Acenta Sport and Acenta Premium trims, though the most popular will most likely be the well-equipped n-tec version. Entry-level Visia cars come with all-round electric windows, air conditioning and split-folding rear seats. Acenta adds 17-inch alloy wheels, climate control, front fog lights, cruise control and Bluetooth. Tekna was previously the range-topping trim, but an all-new n-tec trim was introduced at the top of the range at the beginning of 2013. These models come with new 18-inch black and silver alloys, gloss black for the B-pillars and a 5.8-inch infotainment screen, as well as the latest version of Nissan Connect, featuring Google’s Send-To-Car technology, allowing users to plan a route before they leave their home or office and send it directly to the car.
The Nissan Juke is reasonably fun to drive, but remains more SUV than sports car in terms of handling. It can't match traditional hatchbacks like the Ford Fiesta for cornering ability but it is quite comfortable on the open road. The light steering that makes town driving a doddle provides very little feedback on a twisty road, and the taller body means it does tend to roll in the corners. The Nismo version does add some much-needed weight to the steering, as well as 10 per cent stiffer suspension – but it does tend to twitch and fidget over poor surfaces as a result.
We’ve no complaints about straight-line performance, though, with enough pace to rival a hot hatch – Nissan claims a 0-62mph sprint of 7.8 seconds. However, our pick of the range is the efficient but noisy 1.5-litre diesel, as it’s a better all-round bet. We would recommend you avoid the CVT automatic gearbox as it’s slow-witted and jerky, and damages fuel consumption. This is even more true with the Nismo version, where the CVT really spoils the car’s sporty credentials.
The Nissan Juke took quite a tumble in the 2013 Driver Power Survey, dropping from 13th to 62nd, with an overall score of 85.84%. While it rated highly for its technology, and reliability is reasonable, poor scores for running costs and build quality mark it down.
High-spec versions get an advanced dashboard-mounted screen showing a range of information such as cornering G-force, but unfortunately most of this kit is redundant on a humble family crossover. Some of the interior plastics look a little cheap and lack the upmarket fit and finish of some rivals, but they should be sturdy enough to stand up to daily wear and tear. The entire engine line-up has been tried and tested in other Nissan and Renault branded products and all units have proved to be very reliable. Safety is first rate, too, and the Juke has a five star Euro NCAP rating. Safety kit includes ESP, ABS and six airbags.
Practicality is not the Juke’s strong point. Both boot space and rear seat space suffer thanks to the car’s stylish sloping roofline, and even with the rear seats folded flat you could hardly claim it practical. The standard two-wheel drive model gets 251 litres of load lugging ability – smaller than it’s hatchback rivals and actually identical in size to the compact Volkswagen up!, while the four-wheel drive model is smaller still, at 207 litres. There are plenty of cubby holes dotted around the interior as well as a deep glove box and extra storage beneath the boot floor. However, one thing that broadens its appeal over more conventional superminis is the fact that you can specify four-wheel-drive, which helps with towing and gives you the ability to venture slightly off the beaten track.
The Nissan Juke is available with a decent range of petrol and diesel engines as well as the choice of two and four-wheel drive. The 1.5 dCi diesel is a little noisy, but it’s by far the cheapest to run, with an official fuel consumption figure of 67.3mpg and CO2 emissions of 109g/km. There's a naturally aspirated 1.6-litre petrol and a turbocharged version of the same motor for a bit of extra punch – both feeling smooth and quiet compared to the diesel. However, official consumption figures of 47.1mpg and 40.9mpg respectively, and CO2 emissions of 139g/km and 159g/km mean they’re slightly more costly to run. Despite an extra 10bhp and 10Nm of torque, the Nismo version returns identical fuel economy to the 187bhp 1.6 DIG-T, and is much more fun to drive. The four-wheel-drive version of the Nismo model can only manage 38.2mpg and 169g/km but that’s best avoided as it can only be specified with the noisy CVT auto ‘box. All in, the Juke's strong residual values should help to keep lifetime running costs low.