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
Nissan has a reputation for creating new niches and, following the colossal success of the Qashqai with UK buyers, came the Juke. It arrived back in 2010 and since then a string of manufacturers have followed in its footsteps, with all-new models of their own, including the MINI Countryman and Vauxhall Mokka. The dramatic, concept car looks are matched by tonnes 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. Both front and four-wheel-drive versions are available, although while the latter offers some off-road ability, it is less fuel efficient and more expensive to run. However, the Juke isn’t the most practical of family cars - the rear seats offer decent legroom but the plunging roofline means tall passengers just won't fit, while the boot is more befitting of a tiny city car. 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. A slightly more sensible Nismo version joined the line-up in 2012 and gets 197bhp, firmer suspension and significantly restyled bodywork, although while it's fast in a straight line, it can't match the best hot hatch superminis in the corners.
Our choice: Juke 1.5 dCi Tekna
The Nissan Juke features styling borrowed from the Qazana Concept and while it's unlikely to appeal to the shy and retiring, the Nissan Juke has already proved itself to be popular with buyers. The frog-eyed front lights and wide grille give it a bold stance, while the curved rear tail-lights are inspired by the 370Z sports car. The Nismo version ditches the five circles in the front bumper for a deeper spoiler with LED lights. Contrasting side-skirts, red wing mirrors and bigger alloys also mark the Nismo out. Unfortunately the design of the interior is much more down to earth, and save for a centre console shaped like a motorcycle fuel tank, there's not much to get excited about. The Nismo improves matters with grippy Alcantara sports seats, an Alcantara-wrapped steering wheel and a sprinkling of Nismo badges. The wide range of specifications includes Visia, Acenta, Acenta Sport and Acenta Premium trims, though the most popular will be n-tec. 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. n-tec cars 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 fun to drive and a reasonably comfortable cruiser if you’re on smooth, open roads. It resists body roll well, too, although it can't match traditional hatchbacks for cornering ability. What's more, the steering feels totally numb. The Nismo version does add some much-needed weight to the steering, as well as 10 per cent stiffer suspension - it's still forgiving enough to be used every day if you can put up with the bobbing motion over poor surfaces. However, we have no complaints about straight-line performance, especially with the Nismo version, which has the pace to rival a hot hatch - Nissan claims a 0-62mph sprint of 7.8 seconds. 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. The Nismo model is offered in front or four-wheel-drive forms, but the latter comes with a CVT auto that spoils its sporty credentials.
The Nissan Juke dropped from 13th to 62nd in the 2013 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, 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, making it a gadget junkie’s dream. Some of the interior plastics look a little cheap compared to rivals, but they should be sturdy enough to stand up to daily wear and tear. Unlike the interior design, which has already become dated as a wide variety of new crossovers have entered the market. One addition is the new 5.8-inch sat-nav system, which does improve things. The entire engine line-up has been tried and tested in other Nissan 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. With its 251-litre boot and cramped rear seats, the Juke isn't what we would describe as the perfect family car. The boot is much smaller than that of most superminis and is actually identical in size to the Volkswagen up!’s. It goes down to just 207 litres if you have a four-wheel-drive version, too. The rear seats do fold flat, though, to create a 550-litre load area, while there’s also plenty of cubby holes dotted around the cabin in which you can store 350ml drinks bottles. One thing that broadens its appeal, especially for those who live in the country, is the fact that you can buy four-wheel-drive versions. The Juke is also a reasonably good tow car, as it's capable of dragging around a 1,250kg braked load.
The Nissan Juke is available with petrol and diesel engines. 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 58.9mpg and CO2 emissions of 124g/km. There's a naturally aspirated 1.6-litre petrol and a turbocharged version of the same motor. They are smooth and quiet, and deliver official consumption figures of 47.1mpg and 40.9mpg respectively, and CO2 emissions of 139g/km and 159g/km. Despite an extra 10bhp and 10Nm of torque, the Nismo version returns identical fuel economy to the 187bhp 1.6 DIG-T. The four-wheel-drive version of the Nismo model can only manage 38.2mpg and 169g/km. The Juke's strong residual values should help to keep lifetime running costs low.