Car reviews - Nissan - Juke - range
Sharp looks, interior and tech improvements, more usable cabin space, new Alliance underpinnings
Room for improvement
Doughy throttle response, no powertrain choice, increased size very similar to Qashqai
Nissan’s Juke SUV grows up in second-gen form with improvements across the board
18 Jun 2020
IT WAS 10 years ago that Nissan first revealed its Juke small SUV to the world, providing a truly unique take on the compact crossover and helping to spur the raft of small SUV launches over the coming years.
However a decade is a long time in the automotive industry, and the Juke was one of the most tired-looking models by the time 2020 rolled around.
Enter the all-new, second-gen model. Based on the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance’s CMF-B platform, the new Juke sports major changes inside and out that give it a big lift in what has become a hotly contested segment.
First drive impressions
When it was initially revealed, the Juke featured exterior styling that was genuinely unique for an SUV – or any type of car, for that matter – and immediately branded it as a car for those with design and individuality in mind.
While the design was certainly unique, it was also bold to the point of being divisive, which may have trimmed down its pool of potential buyers.
The good news is the new version features an exterior design that is both sharp and stylish while also having a broader level of appeal, with thin upper LED lights and stylishly sculpted tail-lights.
It is also more immediately identifiable as a Nissan with its prominent signature V-Motion grille, while the large alloy wheels – either 17 or 19 inches in size – add a classy touch.
Arguably the most dated aspect of the old Juke was its interior, which Nissan has made a point to change with wholesale improvements across the cabin.
Gone is the horribly dated 5.8-inch touchscreen infotainment system, replaced by a new 8.0-inch unit across the range that projects the latest version of Nissan’s infotainment system.
The volume-selling ST-L and range-topping Ti also score a 7.0-inch digital cluster display, up from the 4.2-inch unit in the ST and ST+.
The Juke’s new infotainment system is a massive step up from the old one, with hugely improved sat-nav graphics, DAB+ digital radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility and a far better ergonomics.
Its instrument cluster display also allows a good breadth of information to be displayed, making for a huge improvement over the outgoing model’s primitive monochrome readouts.
Nissan has also endeavoured to give the Juke’s interior a more premium feel, with soft touchpoints on the dashboard, doors and centre console, with faux-leather on the ST-L and Alcantara on the top-spec Ti. The ST makes do with soft plastics.
The nicer interior materials match well with the comfortably bolstered seats, which have a premium feel on the ST-L and Ti grades, the latter of which also includes seat-mounted audio speakers.
One drawback of the Juke’s cabin is its curving lines throughout mean that there is not a great deal of usable storage space for smaller items like a phone, wallet and keys.
Now measuring 4210mm long, 1800mm wide and 1595mm tall with a 2636mm wheelbase, the new Juke has grown up considerably, now measuring 75mm longer, 35mm wider and 30mm taller with a wheelbase that is 106mm longer.
This has resulted in a significant increase in interior space, with Nissan’s smallest SUV offering now able to house four full-size adults in comfort.
Boot space has also more than doubled from 207 litres to 422L, only 8L shy of the larger Qashqai and an impressive amount for a vehicle that competes on the diminutive light SUV segment, giving the Juke a level of practicality unmatched by its predecessor.
It also means that the Juke is now very similar in dimensions to the Qashqai, which could result in some sales cannibalisation across the two model lines.
The extra space comes in part from the Juke’s new underpinnings, the Alliance’s CMF-B platform, which helps improve the Juke’s driving experience in a number of ways.
Firstly, the stiffer chassis (13 per cent more rigid, according to Nissan) and longer wheelbase provide a more settled and stable ride feel, with the Juke able to ride around town with an on-road presence that feels commanding for a vehicle of its segment.
The new platform provides a solid build feel, with commendable noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) levels that allow only a small amount of noise intrusion, even on 19-inch wheels standard on ST-L and Ti.
Some wind noise does occur at highway speeds, but the Juke otherwise offers an ambient cabin environment.
The torsion beam rear suspension does cause the car to occasionally skip over bumps and undulations, however it generally feels comfortable and well calibrated.
Handling is solid for a non-performance car with the Juke able to stay relatively flat through corners, while steering is light and well calibrated.
Unlike the outgoing range, the new Juke is offered only with a single engine choice – a 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol three-cylinder engine, tuned to develop 84kW at 5250rpm and 180Nm at 2400rpm.
Power is sent to the front wheels only via a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, with the new Juke platform not compatible with all-wheel drive.
The new engine is actually less powerful than the outgoing 85kW/190Nm 1.2-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine on entry-level Jukes, and well off the pace of the 140kW/240Nm output of the larger 1.6-litre mill.
Nevertheless, the Juke is largely a car for cityscapes and lower-speed driving, and for its application, the modest power outputs are suitable, as is the case for most baby SUVs.
Engine noise is thankfully kept to a low level, which can be increased by opting for sport mode on ST-L and Ti, which also gives the engine a little extra shove when needed.
We were less impressed by the dual-clutch automatic transmission, which provided a particularly doughy and under-responsive pedal feel, which made bursts of acceleration difficult – a particular nuisance in city driving.
When applying generous throttle, the transmission is slow to kick down and will rather hold its gear until revs build enough for meaningful acceleration.
During our drive around Melbourne’s inner suburbs we recorded a fuel consumption figure of between 7-8 litres per 100km, up slightly on the 5.8L/100km official figure.
The new Juke marks a huge step up from the clearly tired and ageing first-gen model, with the new one offering practical interior space, good levels of equipment and technology, and sharp design.
In the last couple of years, the Juke has barely fired a shot in what is now a lucrative segment, and the introduction of the new version should give Nissan’s sales a much-needed shot in the arm in one of the new-car industry’s most trying periods.
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