Car reviews - Nissan - Juke - range
Manual availability, 1.6T’s gutsy performance, agile steering, fun to drive, quirky looks
Room for improvement
Small boot, tight rear seat, poor vision, no camera on base car, no 1.2 turbo auto option, expensive base model
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23 Apr 2015
By TUNG NGUYEN
BYRON MATHOUDAKIS24/04/2015WHY has the Juke been such a success internationally?Spawning a raft of clones, the five-year old Nissan compact (or, rather, B-segment) SUV hit a real nerve. Was it the brash design with pan-gender appeal? The handily small dimensions? Or was the Juke simply the right car at the right place at the right time in GFC-ravaged Europe?Now there’s been a facelift, restyled to take on the soaring Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-3 and Holden Trax. The question of looks is paramount, because unless you line up old and new side-by-side, picking the changes won’t be easy. Perhaps the easiest way is by the boomerang-style headlights and bright colour additions.
It’s a similar story inside – there’s a lift in material quality apparently, a different audio fascia, maybe some revised trim… and that’s about it. Only when in the boot area, with a 40 per cent larger luggage capacity (in front-drive cars only), does any meaningful change register. Why mess with such a massively popular formula?The British-built Juke, of course, hasn’t set the Australian market alight, partly because the compact/baby SUV segment is still a fledgling one, as buyers can – and do – choose larger crossovers for not a lot more money.
But here, we feel, is where Nissan can make hay with the facelift, by dint of offering something that most other SUVs cannot… a manual gearbox with a turbo engine.
Yes, the base Renault Captur can, but – as fond as we are of its TCe 90 0.9L turbo petrol triple – it struggles a bit on hills and/or with a full load.
Luckily for the Captur, it has stacks more to lure customers in, such as great design, clever interior packaging and sharp dynamics.
The base Juke ST 1.2 turbo manual has a handy four cylinders to bank on, so it is no slouch. Apparently. Unfortunately for us, none were allocated to GoAuto to drive at the Melbourne launch, and so we had to make do with the Ti-S 1.6-litre turbo six-speed manual model instead.
Happily, that variant is no hardship its engine and gearbox combo is an especially sweet yet strong combo. Prod the pedal and the front wheels dig in deep as the Juke launches enthusiastically off the mark, building momentum quickly and smoothly. Backed up by a surprisingly sharp helm for agile handling and very manageable body control, the car-like Ti-S involves the driver like few SUVs in this class can.
And all that was in Normal mode. Switch the (messy) dash-sited button over to Sport, and the performance is even more eager, adding an almost warm-hatch attitude to the Juke’s capabilities. Flipside? The ride is a bit on the firm side, and there’s some noise drone to contend with, but considering how much fun is on offer, we’re inclined to overlook these.
In other areas, however, the Juke is starting to date, from the overly plasticky and quite garish dash, to the tight rear seat. The latter comment, though, is relative: if you don’t need adults to be comfy back there – and let’s face it, most buyers would probably be either youngsters or empty nesters – then the Nissan’s pert proportions are probably a boon, not a bust.
With the circa-$30K, well (but not spectacularly) equipped Ti-S manual turning out to be more of a driver’s vehicle than we were expecting, the Juke certainly has a place in the ever-increasing number of dull, derivative and predominantly all-automatic SUVs on the Australian market.
Throw in its bolshie looks and typical-brand ease and dependability, and the facelifted Juke deserves a place on local compact SUV short lists.
Other than the fact that Nissan needs to keep an eye on that base price - $23,490 for the ST manual is $3500 more than the nearly as-well equipped CX-3 – and it’s understandable why the world has gone gaga over it.
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