Used Nissan Juke (Mk1, 2010-2019) review - What’s it like to drive?

There’s neat handling and a wide range of engines, plus the option of scorching hot Nismo versions

Despite its high-riding stance and SUV styling cues, the Juke drives with the agility and composure of a traditional supermini. There’s loads of different engine options, including a frugal diesel and a high powered turbocharged petrol. All-weather security is provided by an optional four-wheel-drive system; it’s a set-up few rivals can match.

Engines and performance

There are six engines in total, four of them petrol – although three of those have similar power outputs, before the range makes a strangely large power leap to the fourth and fifth.  

The petrols begin with a 1.6-litre non-turbo with 93bhp, which takes 12 seconds to hit 0-62mph but has a major torque deficiency – just 140Nm – so it needs to be worked hard. There’s a 115bhp version of that engine that’s automatic-only, but as that automatic gearbox is the performance-choking X-Tronic CVT, the 0-62mph only improves by half a second and the Juke becomes even louder. 

More refined is the 1.2-litre turbo DIG-T engine, which on paper is not that much quicker – 113bhp and a 10.8-second 62mph time – but better torque (190Nm) and more refinement make it altogether more pleasurable to drive.

Following on there’s a big leap to 187bhp, courtesy of a 1.6-litre DIG-T turbo petrol, which chops the 0-62mph time down to an almost hot hatch-like 7.8 seconds. It’s also available with a CVT and four-wheel drive, but this is an excessive combination that makes the car less involving while reducing performance (0-62mph down to 8.4 seconds) and offering very little additional usable traction.

Finally there's a tuned version of the 1.6-litre DIG-T engine for the Nismo and Nismo RS. In the former it delivers 197bhp, while the latter ups the power to 215bhp, lowering the 0-62mph time fractionally  to seven seconds (8.0 seconds in the four-wheel-drive version). Both are quick, but not as exciting as it promises to be on paper, especially given its engineering links to the Nissan GT-R supercar. 

The standalone diesel is a 1.5-litre dCi unit also found in the Qashqai. It has 108bhp and 260Nm torque, which is only 20Nm short of the torque on offer with the 215bhp turbo petrol in the Juke Nismo RS. This makes the diesel feel very flexible at low revs, but it’s also a coarse engine that’s noisy and not best suited to being worked hard. Given the Juke is not very dynamic in nature, though, this is the one we’d pick.

On the road

The Nissan Juke’s tall SUV stance means it is never going to be able to match the cornering ability of a good supermini such as the Ford Fiesta. Having said that, this Nissan is fine to drive and quite comfortable in most situations. 

Light steering makes it easy to drive the Nissan Juke around town, but out on the open road it lacks the feel to add confidence when exploring B-roads. That taller stance equals some body roll while cornering.

The most focused members of the range are Juke Nismo and Nismo RS versions. The steering is weightier and the sports suspension is stiffer than standard. However, all this stiffness makes the ride twitchy across poor road surfaces. 

It’s worth bearing in mind that front-wheel drive versions of the Nismo RS also got a limited-slip differential. This device helps boost traction out of tight corners, but does require a firm hold of the steering wheel over uneven surfaces when accelerating hard as there’s a fair amount of torque steer.

Compared with the best hot hatches, the Nismo leaves the driver feeling strangely disconnected. If you must have one (the outlandish looks could easily have that effect on you) then we’d recommend going for the six-speed manual version of the Nismo rather than the X-Tronic CVT, which doesn’t work well with this car’s sporty feel.

That rule applies to all versions of the Juke, in fact, a CVT automatic might be the most economical choice because it always keeps the engine in a ‘sweet spot’, but the reality on the road is that it drones loudly under harder acceleration and is very tiresome.

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