Nissan Juke review
Distinctive styling, decent equipment and strong economy mean the Juke is a tempting compact crossover, but it's getting on a bit
The Nissan Juke was a sensation when it launched in 2010, changing up the crossover sector with quirky styling at an affordable price. Refreshed in 2014 to bring the design up to date, add even more equipment and improve practicality (one of the original Juke’s major drawbacks), the Nissan’s current supermini SUV is an appealing choice for those looking for a fashion-led compact crossover.
Its an alternative to regular superminis like the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo, but the Juke has forced other manufacturers to catch up, creating a growing group of similar small SUVs including the Renault Captur, Peugeot 2008 and the Vauxhall Mokka.
The Juke range is made up of five models: Visia, Acenta, a higher-spec Acenta Premium version, the range-topping Tekna variant and the sporty Juke Nismo RS.
Equipment levels are fair, with the Juke majoring on safety thanks to some clever tech. The entry-level Visia version starts at £13,620 and gets 16-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning and all-round electric windows as standard. The £15,320 Acenta model adds bigger alloys, Bluetooth, USB connectivity and cruise control.
Tekna and Nismo RS cars are the only ones to get Nissan’s Safety Shield as standard, which features cameras around the car to give you a 360-degree view, lane departure warning, blind spot assist and moving object detection. There are also various options packs buyers can add to the Juke to improve its equipment specification and design features.
It’s the hot Nismo RS that heads the engine range, with a 215bhp 1.6-litre petrol turbo (although slightly less if you opt for the automatic gearbox). Below this there are a range of petrol and diesels. We’d steer clear of the naturally aspirated 93bhp 1.6 and go for the new, more powerful and more efficient 1.2 turbo. There’s also a non-turbo 1.6 and a 187bhp DIG-T 1.6 turbo for those who want extra performance but don’t quite fancy the stretch to the more hardcore Juke Nismo RS.
There’s only one turbodiesel model on offer – a 108bhp 1.5-litre – while four-wheel drive is only available on the higher-powered DIG-T 190 and Nismo RS. However, don’t expect Land Rover levels of off-road capability from the compact Juke. Nissan also offers the Juke with a CVT automatic transmission.
The Juke is a small car with a big personality, helped by its attractively low starting price. However, even though the facelifted model adds extra practicality thanks to a bigger boot, the cabin still feels cramped and claustrophobic, with limited head and legroom in the rear.
Our choice: Juke 1.5 dCi Tekna
When it launched in 2010, the Juke was a breath of fresh air in a contracting car market bored with conventional superminis. Its divisive design meant you were either a fan of the quirky five-door crossover or you weren’t – but over the years, the car’s appearance has become more familiar. Now, following a spot of gentle cosmetic surgery in the middle of 2014, the Juke looks sharper than ever.
It was actually the 10th-best-selling car in the UK in 2014, so the Nissan’s styling is still proving popular. The car’s trademark wide grille, big spotlights and more angular light clusters higher up on the front wings mean it rivals the Mazda CX-3 for visual appeal.
You can also specifiy the Juke with the optional Exterior + Pack, which adds plenty of contrasting plastic inserts that bring with them a splash of extra style – these include dark headlamp surrounds, inserts for the front and rear bumpers in the same colour and plastic blades that give the 18-inch alloys (also part of the pack) a sharper look. This particular Juke’s extra styling details are more subtle compared to some of the bolder colours on offer, but the option is there to make the car as garish or as restrained as you like.
At the rear, the Nissan is just as distinctive as at the front. The tail-lights are similar to those on its 370Z coupé and help give the Juke a sporty stance along with the raked hatch, while the revised rear bumper houses the central foglight. Inside, the funky theme continues, with a coloured transmission tunnel that Nissan says was inspired by the shape of a high-performance motorcycle’s fuel tank. There’s also a gloss-black plastic surround to the sat-nav and climate controls, but, unfortunately, this is where the Juke’s interior highlights stop.
The steering wheel doesn’t adjust for reach and it’s difficult to find a comfortable driving position as a result. It’s actually a longer car than the Captur, but a shorter wheelbase means there’s much less room; and with unforgiving plastics covering the dash and doors, it feels cheap.
The interior of the standard Nissan Juke from the entry level Visia to range-topping Tekna is more functional than upmarket. However, higher spec models do add some more premium features.
Sat-nav, a reversing camera, DAB radio and Nissan Connect, which features Google’s Send-To-Car technology (allowing drivers to send sat-nav destinations from their smartphone to their car) come as standard on the Accenta Premium model, while Tekna grade cars get leather seats and Nissan’s Safety Shield.
The Nismo RS version of the Nissan Juke is even more striking than any of the standard models, as it gets an aggressive body kit, lowered suspension, big black alloys and Nissan’s sports division’s traditional red highlights, including in-your-face red wing mirrors.
The interior differs slightly from regular models too, as the hot Juke gets a splash of Nismo badging and lots of soft-touch Alcantara trimmings for the steering wheel and sports seats.
The Nissan Juke can't match a traditional hatchback like the Ford Fiesta for cornering ability, but while its more SUV than anything in terms of handling, it's still pretty decent to drive and is quite comfortable on the open road.
Around town, the Nissan Juke's light steering makes driving straightforward but it provides very little feel on a twisty B-road. Factor in the taller SUV style body, and the Juke tends to suffer from some body roll while cornering.
Along with the visual updates the facelift brought to the Juke, a new 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol engine was also introduced. It was borrowed from the larger Qashqai range but the lighter weight and smaller size of the Juke means it's a much better fit in the compact crossover and feels much more eager.
There's urgent power delivery from the engine despite the small capacity and it's much more refined around town and at speed than the diesel Juke.
Nissan’s Juke Nismo RS is much more focused than the rest of the range. The steering is weightier and the sports suspension is stiffer than standard. However, this increase makes the ride twitchy across poor road services. We’d recommend going for the six-speed manual version rather than the CVT automatic, however, as this really spoils the car's sporty edge.
Nissan claims a 0-62mph time of 7.8 seconds, making the Juke Nismo RS just under a second slower than a Volkswagen Golf GTI in a straight line, which is strong performance.
Our pick of the Nissan Juke range, though, would be the efficient 1.5-litre dCi diesel despite a few refinement issues.
In our 2014 Driver Power Survey, Nissan recorded a respectable 14th place for reliability. However, finishing in 23rd spot for build quality, there’s room for improvement.
Higher end cars get an advanced dashboard-mounted screen, which shows a range of information such as cornering G-force. Unfortunately, where the Nissan Juke is essentially a hatchback-based family crossover, it all seems a bit pointless.
What's more, some of the plastics Nissan has used inside the Juke are a bit cheap, and lack the upmarket feel found on something like a Volkswagen Polo. However, they should be sturdy enough to stand up to daily wear and tear.
All of the engines that Nissan shares with Renault are extremely reliable, and thanks to its five-star Euro NCAP rating, the Juke is also one of the safest cars around – the latest Safety Shield kit adding to an already impressive list of features. Nissan also gives the Juke ESP, ABS and six-airbags as standard safety kit.
The Nissan Juke's stylish appearance comes at a compromise, with boot space and rear seat space suffering as a result of its sloping roofline. A lack of reach adjustment for the steering wheel means the driving position feels awkward, too.
Prior to the facelift the Juke really suffered when it came to boot space compared to its rivals. Happily, the facelifted model has improved things as the reshaped rear end has allowed Nissan to increase boot space by 40 per cent in front-wheel drive models up to 354 litres. There’s also a false boot floor that reduces the Juke’s loading lip and gives a handy space out of sight to store valuables.
Be aware that if you go for four-wheel drive you’ll have to make do with just 205 litres. Fortunately, though, Nissan has placed plenty of useful cubby holes around the interior, plus a deep glovebox and extra storage under the boot floor.
While it can't match its more traditional supermini rivals for in terms of practicality, the Nissan Juke's availability in four-wheel drive means it capable of towing, and should you want to, the system will allow you to venture (slightly) off the beaten track.
Being a Nissan, the Juke's strong residual values should help keep lifetime running costs low and across the Juke range, Nissan offers a wide selection of petrol and diesel engines.
Although the 1.5 dCi is a little noisy, Nissan claims it returns combined fuel economy of 61.4mpg and CO2 emissions of 104g/km, which is why it’s our pick of the range. The new 1.2-litre petrol is more refined but can't match the efficiency levels of the diesel, with a claimed 47.1mpg and 129g/km.
As we mentioned, the only Jukes available with four-wheel-drive are the turbocharged 1.6 DIG-T Tekna and Nismo RS spec cars. This hurts efficiency, with the 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol in the DIG-T and Nismo RS models emitting 149 and 139g/km CO2 respectively. Go for the CVT auto and this rises to 153 and 165g/km for each model.