No car company has attacked the booming SUV market with more gusto than Nissan. With five SUV vehicles (Juke, Dualis, X-Trail, Murano and Pathfinder) as well as its big 4WD Patrol, Nissan can cater for the needs of everyone from the inner-city café cruiser through to the most demanding of bush bashers.
The newest and smallest of the Nissan SUV range is the Juke which arrived here in October 2013, although it had been on sale globally since mid-2010. Juke joins vehicles such as Holden Trax, Peugeot 2008, Fiat Panda and Ford EcoSport in the fledgling Compact SUV category, each of which is built on the same platform as small hatchbacks from within their respective brands.
Nissan Juke is based on the Micra hatchback whose quirky appearance has tended to polarise opinion and so it’s proving with Juke’s bubbly body attracting plenty of attention. Both front and rear wheel arches bulge out to give Juke a Popeye-like muscular stance while ‘hidden’ rear doors handles provide five-door convenience with three-door styling.
Carrying over the theme from Micra where the headlights extend over the top of the wheel arches the turn indicators on the Juke sit on top of wheel arches and are visible from within the car. Some find this distracting so try and test the car at night if you have any concerns.
ENGINES / TRANSMISSIONS
Nissan Juke comes with two 1.6-litre petrol engine. One is naturally aspirated with peak power of 86kW and 158Nm of torque; the other a turbocharged, direct injection (DIG) unit that puts out 140kW and 240Nm and which is shared with the Pulsar SSS.
The entry level Juke ST comes with the 86kW engine mated to either a five-speed manual gearbox or CVT automatic. The higher-specced ST-S and Ti-S each get turbo power; the ST-S only with a six-speed manual and the Ti-S with CVT. Each of the CVTs have preset ratios when a manual override is needed.
All Juke models have Nissan’s Dynamic Control System with a choice of three drive modes, Normal for everyday driving, Eco for maximum efficiency and Sport for extra performance.
Inside the Juke styling is less adventurous than outside although the large centre console and gear lever housing continue the circular theme. Interior space is limited but well-managed although taller rear seat occupants could find their head scraping on the ceiling. Rear legroom is better but is offset by a small (251-litre) boot meaning that the 60/40 folding rear seatback is likely to come into play quite frequently for transporting even moderate amounts of cargo.
There’s good front headroom and the driver’s seat is comfortable and supportive although the absence of telescopic steering wheel adjustment does dictate seat positioning more than we’d like.
All Juke models get front, side and curtain airbags; stability and traction control; ABS brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist; ISOFIX child seat anchorage; ST-S and Ti-S add a reversing camera, automatic headlights with twilight detection, and rain sensing variable windscreen wipers.
All models come with Bluetooth hands-free telephone but only the ST-S and Ti-S models include audio streaming, quickly becoming a must-have feature with tech-savvy buyers. The upper-specced variants also get a 5-inch LCD monitor that displays satellite navigation as well as audio, phone and driver data. There are also six speakers (two more than the ST).
We were able to test both the lowered-powered 2WD ST and turbocharged AWD ST-S during our recent Juke road test. For day-to-day commuting the ST’s combination of 88 kilowatts, 158 Newton metres and two-wheel drive will be quite acceptable to most. The more enthusiastic driver will be attracted to the extra power and torque from the turbo engine although if they don’t want to do their own gear changing then they’ll need to pay the extra near-$4000 and step up to the AWD Ti-S.
The DIG Turbo engine does add a different dimension to the Juke with the sort of driving enjoyment that you wouldn’t expect from an SUV. It would be a stretch to call it a hot hatch but there’s still plenty of fun to be had. The comfort / ride balance is just right and Juke gripped corners with reassurance and little body roll.
Nissan has a long history with CVT and has made significant improvements in recent models so it was disappointing to find the Juke’s system a bit noisy. A reminder that, although it’s new in Australia, this is car that’s nearly four years old and due for an upgrade next year.
For what it’s worth we love the quirky looks of the Juke as well as its SUV qualities of extra driving height and functionality. Engine performance, especially from the DIG Turbo, is excellent and pricing is comparable to its competitors in this all-new category.
Like its Micra sibling Nissan Juke is a car that dares to be different and there’s no doubt that many buyers, especially younger ones, will jump into Nissan Juke on looks alone. On the other hand there will be those are attracted to features such as the turbocharged engine may well be turned off by the bubbly appearance.
Nissan Juke models and pricing
ST 2WD: $21,990 (manual), $24,390 (automatic)
ST-S 2WD: $28,390 (manual)
Ti-S AWD: $32,190 (CVT automatic)
Warranty: 3 years/100,000km
Resale: 50-54 per cent
Service intervals: 6 months/10,000km
Capped servicing: Yes
Safety: 5-stars (ST)
Engines: 1.6L 4-cylinder, 86kW/158Nm; 1.6L turbo 4-cylinder, 140kW/240Nm
Transmissions: 5-speed manual (ST), 6-speed manual (ST-S), CVT (ST, Ti-S)
Thirst: 6.0L-7.4L/100km (95 RON), 139-169g/km CO2
Dimensions: 4.14m (L), 1.77m (W), 1.57m (H)