Nissan Juke 2020 review
The new Nissan Juke is nothing like the previous version, and in many ways that's a good thing
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All cars should have animal names, rather than something with a jumble of silly letters or just numbers. I’ve always felt this way. Think about it. Would you rather drive something called a Honda HR-V or the Honda Penguin? See? A BMW X1 or a BMW Gibbon? You want a Gibbon now, don’t you?
So, what is a Puma? That I can tell you in this review, because three Pumas came to stay at my place over the course of a week. But here’s a hint – maybe it should have been called the Ford Kitten.
There are three grades in the Puma line-up: the entry-grade is simply called the Puma and lists $29,990; above this is the ST-Line for $32,340 and at the top of the range is the ST-Line V for $35,540.
Coming standard on the entry-grade Puma are 17-inch alloy wheels, a rooftop spoiler, 8.0-inch display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, sat nav, wireless phone charger, an embedded modem, climate control, push-button start, lumbar massage seats, 180-degree split-view reversing camera and digital radio.
The ST-Line grade gets fitted with the Ford equivalent of a superhero outfit which you can read about below in the design section, but it also has a 12.3-inch instrument cluster, paddle shifters, metal pedals and an ST-Line flat-bottomed steering wheel with red stitching.
The ST-Line V grade adds 18-inch alloy wheels, a chrome-studded grille and chrome window surround, privacy glass, keyless entry, leather upholstery, a B&O 10-speaker stereo and a power tailgate.
The Puma is not the most affordable small SUV – the Nissan Juke undercuts it by about $2000. But you’re getting plenty of features for your money. The base grade Puma has the type of equipment not normally found on entry-point cars such as sat nav, push button start and a wireless charger.
There’s something going on. Have you noticed it? Little SUVs are looking pretty quirky these days. There’s the amphibian-like Nissan Juke (which arguably started the trend years ago), the Hyundai Kona which looks like a spider but without all the legs, and the Toyota C-HR that probably looks better as the robot it’s clearly designed to transform into.
Now the Puma is here, and while it too is quirky, it’s not quite as ‘anti-social quirky’ as the others might be. No, the Puma is cute and stylish with hints of a Porsche SUV from the front, thanks to those large headlights, the pontoon-like wheel guards which bulge up into the bonnet and that smiley grille.
By the way, the French designer who styled the Puma wants you to know that the running lights are modeled to resemble the ones on the Ford GT supercar – and they do, it’s hard to make out in the images and video, but they look great.
Back to the grille. Have a look at the images and check out the difference between the grilles on entry Puma and the ST-Line cars. They have completely different shapes. Do you know how rare that is within a model range? Very rare. To see how Chrissy Teigen is connected to all of this, watch the video above.
From the rear the Puma looks tiny, because well, it is. See at 4207mm (4186mm for the entry grade) end-to-end, 1930mm wide and 1548mm (1550mm for entry grade) tall the Puma is about the same size as a Nissan Juke but about 180mm shorter in length than a Toyota C-HR.
Apart from the ST-Line having a different face to the entry Puma it comes with the car equivalent of a superhero outfit made up of tough looking ST-Line body enhancements. There’s the ST-Line matt black grille, ST-line front and rear aprons, the side skirts, integrated rear spoiler and those ST-Line 17-inch wheels. That’s all cosmetic, apart from the wheels, but actually improving performance is the sports suspension which is also standard on the ST-Line.
The top-of-the-range ST-Line V doesn’t get the tough body kit. Instead, it has more premium looking enhancements such as the grille studded with chrome buttons, chrome surrounds to the fog lights and windows and chrome bumper inlays. Pssst… none of it is real chrome.
It’s inside that the ST-Line feels a step above the rest with its leather upholstery and B&O stereo. The ST-Line below it has a more athletic looking interior with cloth sports seats with red stitching that’s also found on the steering wheel, shifter and door trims.
The entry-grade Puma’s cabin doesn’t feel as special as the grades above it, but the styling is the same and while there are more hard plastics (those back doors!) as with almost all Ford products which are sourced from Europe the fit and finish appears to be of a high standard.
That reminds me, the Puma is made in Romania.
Shifting gears is a seven-speed dual-clutch auto. There’s no manual available.
All Pumas are front-wheel drive.
The engine is great. I’ve met this three-cylinder many times in other Ford cars such as the Fiesta and loved it when teamed up with manual gearbox. The problem is the Puma only comes with an automatic, and it’s a dual-clutch auto, and the pairing results in a less than smooth driving experience which, I’ll go into below.
This is why the score is low(ish) here.
The Puma is a small even by small SUV sizes but space inside and storage is good.
There are five seats, and obviously the front two are the best and offered me even at 191cm (6'3") tall plenty of head-, shoulder-, elbow- and legroom.
The second row was cramped for me. I could sit behind my driving position, but my knees were up against the seat back. Still, not bad for a little SUV.
As for cabin storage there are giant front door pockets (small ones in the back), a deep centre console bin and a large hidey hole in front of the shifter which also houses the wireless phone charger which is standard on all Pumas.
There’s also a USB port for media in the dash and a fast-charging mini USB port in that centre console bin.
There are no directional air vents in the second row, which is pretty normal for little, affordable SUVs, but not much fun for kids or people having to ride back there in the height of summer.
Boot space is excellent. The cargo capacity is 410 litres and under the boot floor is another level large enough for me to hide. Seriously, check out the video where I disappear beneath the boot floor like some kind of bad Las Vegas magic trick.
The Puma has a comfortable ride and good handling, especially in the ST-Line with its sports suspension. That’s the good news.
The not good news is the Puma isn’t the easiest small SUV to drive, and that’s down to three aspects – the steering, the visibility, and the engine and transmission combination.
First the steering, while accurate and light, it doesn’t provide much feeling of connection to the road.
Next, the visibility out of the car could be better. Much work has gone into the exterior design to create a cute, small SUV, but the view from the inside looking out is hampered by a tall dashboard, high window sills and the curvy shape of the bonnet.
I found myself peering over the bonnet to see properly and the lack of front parking sensors made parking and piloting it around tight car parks harder than it should be.
Finally, that engine, while impressively grunty for a 1.0-litre three cylinder, has been paired with a dual-clutch automatic and they seem to bring out the worst in each other. Combine the turbo from the engine and not-so smooth shifts from the transmission and the result is a lurching slingshot effect during city driving at slower speeds. On the motorway at higher speeds the lurching is almost non-existent.
Advanced safety technology onboard includes AEB, lane keeping assistance and traffic sign recognition. It’s a little disappointing that some safety features such as adaptive cruise control and blind spot warning need to be optioned as part of a package.
A reversing camera with a 180-degree split view is also standard, so too are rear parking sensors.
For child seats you’ll find three top tether points and two ISOFIX mounts across the second row.
Under the boot floor is a space saver spare wheel.
Ford says that after a combination of open and urban roads the Puma will have used 5.3L/100km. I drove 177.3km and needed 10.71 litres of petrol to top the tank back up to full. That works out to be 6.0L/100km.
That’s outstanding fuel economy.
The Puma is covered by Ford’s five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty.
Service intervals are every 12 months or 15,000km and capped at $299 for the first four services.
The Ford Puma looks cute and high-end; it’s loaded with good features such as wireless charging on all grades and its practical with good space and storage considering its little dimensions and finally the fuel economy is outstanding. That's lots of boxes ticked and it may be enough for you to forgive the Puma for having a driving feel that could take you time to get used to, but if you can there are many other good things to gain from owning one.
For once the sweetspot in the range is the entry-grade car. Yup, the base-grade Puma is loaded with kit including a wireless charger and sat nav at $29,990. You don't need an auto tailgate, nor a B&O stereo.
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