Nissan Juke VS Hyundai Kona
- Bold new look
- High spec and safety
- Now actually practical!
- Fiddly dual-clutch auto
- Ride can be crashy
- Annoying lane departure feature
- Range and efficiency
- Relative value
- Balanced drive experience
- Held back by ICE underpinnings
- 7.2kW AC charging
- Cramped back seat
The original Nissan Juke was the wrong car at the right time.
A small SUV before the trend really kicked off, the Juke which arrived in 2013 was controversially styled, tiny on the inside, and powered by a wacky range of confusing and occasionally infuriating drivetrains.
It was very… Japanese. Not something which always gels well with Australia’s populace.
Enter the new Nissan Juke. This car is critically important to Nissan, because it heralds a crucial new era for the brand, one where it actually shares much of its product development with its alliance partners, Renault and Mitsubishi, but also one which could be make-or-break for the brand.
As such, the new Juke is quite the opposite of its predecessor – a truly global car built for the widest possible audience, designed to appeal to the diverse tastes of Australia, Europe, and Japan. Can it really do all those things and be a stronger competitor in this critical small SUV market segment? I excitedly took the keys to a mid-spec ST-L for a week to find out.
Read More:Nissan Juke 2020 review
|Engine Type||1.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
I was a huge fan of the original Hyundai Kona electric. When I first drove it in 2019, I considered it the best EV on sale in Australia.
And it wasn't just because it was relatively good value and offered the right amount of range for Australian commuters. It also offered the feedback early adopters would be after, with the convenience first-time EV owners would need.
Now that this entirely new-look facelift has arrived, will those factors still ring true in a rapidly expanding electric car landscape? We’ve driven a top-spec Highlander to find out.
Forget everything you know about the Nissan Juke. The new one is a different beast entirely. It’s more globally appealing and ready to take on now-established opponents in the emerging small coupe SUV segment.
Despite some flaws, the Juke is now a fantastic, great looking, and practical little SUV.
The lack of hybrid and all-wheel drive will still make Toyota’s C-HR a tough opponent though, so watch this space for more on how these two compare.
I’m pleased to say this update of the Kona Electric confirms my initial thoughts about it. This is still my favourite electric car on sale in Australia. It’s the most approachable for first-time EV buyers while also offering enough of a futuristic touch and all-important feedback for keen early adopters.
It faces tough competition, however, from Tesla’s very good entry-level Model 3, which is an impressive but perhaps less approachable package - which also offers slightly less range, at a slightly higher price.
We hope to bring these head-to-head at some point, so stay tuned. For now, Hyundai’s Kona Electric updates have served to make an already-good EV even better.
The new Juke looks fantastic. Better in the metal than it ever looks in pictures, the referential-but-futuristic front fascia is a sight to behold with its unorthodox lighting and abundance of striking lines.
Other angles of this car grab the eye too, with the dramatic descending roofline finished nicely with a contrast black spoiler, leading to the sculpted rear, which is much more subtly treated than its bulbous front. There is no doubt – in terms of this car’s design, dimensions, and highlights – that it is out to get the C-HR and its youthful target audience.
Still, although it has such a head-turning futuristic look, all the elements which made the previous Juke eye-catching are still there. Things like the giant concept-car-esque wheels, feature fog lights, raised bonnet, and convex windscreen are all still present and ready to win over any fans of the last-generation car.
Inside has a cool vibe with bucket-style front seats clad in comfy padded trim (a Nissan strong point), and a funky dash with lots of contouring. There’s no lack of attitude with the awesome round air vents, and there are plenty of references to the Juke’s predecessor with the raised plastic-clad centre console.
Thankfully, comfort hasn’t been forgotten in the pursuit of design, with soft claddings working their way down the door trims to your elbow, and a top box finished in padded leather, too. Pride of place in the dash is the new multimedia screen in today’s tablet-style with ergonomic controls and the slick, fast software bringing it all together.
It’s great the Juke can maintain its funky design signatures while bringing the technology and look of 2020 to fans and newcomers alike.
Explore the Nissan Juke Ti in 3D
One look at the EV, and the Kona’s most recent facelift starts to make a lot more sense. While the petrol variants come across as a bit wacky and divisive, the sleek and pared back look of the electric version has me thinking Hyundai designed this facelift for the EV alone.
The front three-quarter is eye-grabbing, with its distinct lack of facial features, and the look pairs nicely with the new hero 'Surfy Blue' colour. Some may consider the EV's eco-look 17-inch alloys a bit dorky, and again, it’s a shame Halogen headlights take away from the Elite's futuristic design points.
On the topic of futuristic design, the Kona electric’s interior is almost unrecognisable from the petrol variants. This is good news given the price discrepancy, with the brand not only adopting the floating ‘bridge’ console design, adorned with fly-by-wire controls from its more upmarket models, but also upgrading the materials throughout to make for a much nicer cabin environment.
Door cards and dash inserts are clad in soft-touch materials, while many of the finishes have improved or been switched for a satin silver to lift cabin ambiance, and the heavily digitised cockpit makes it feel as cutting-edge as any electric car should.
That said, it doesn’t have the over-the-top minimalism of the Tesla Model 3, and is perhaps better for it, especially when it comes to appealing to someone coming out of a combustion vehicle. The layout and feel of the Kona is futuristic, yet familiar.
I know the previous Nissan Juke was a practicality disaster, with a small claustrophobic cabin, tiny boot and sub-par ergonomics. Thankfully, this time around the global focus has helped Nissan design the Juke to be a much better companion.
Up front feels much more spacious than its predecessor, with more light entering the cabin, a lower seating position (relative to the shape of the car), and generally much more room for your arms and legs. The positioning is also fully adjustable with a telescopic steering column and more room for adjustability when it comes to seating.
It’s not all good news though. Front passengers still don’t have heaps of storage to work with, the Juke offering only the standard set of centre cupholders, a tiny binnacle under the climate controls barely suitable for a wallet or phone, as well as a truly tiny glovebox, tiny centre console box, and small bottle-holders in the doors.
There’s also no advanced connectivity in the Juke – no wireless Apple CarPlay, wireless phone-charging, or USB-C to be found in the cabin. In fact, the Juke only has a single USB port for front passengers, and at the ST-L grade, the addition of a second USB port for rear passengers.
On the topic of rear passengers, the Juke has improved out of sight when it comes to usability for more than just front-seaters. There’s far more headroom, legroom and arm-room than before. Even I fit pretty comfortably behind my own seating position, and the seat trim now matches the front. I’m not going to pretend it isn’t a little claustrophobic still, with the descending roofline evident and abundance of dark trim closing it in a little. Such complaints are standard fare in this particular corner of the market, however, and the point is the Juke has gone from being no good for four adults to more than competitive with the C-HR.
Boot space is again a very good story. The previous Juke had embarrassing city-car levels of space. But now with a whopping 422 litres (VDA – seats up, 1305L seats down) on offer it’s a real winner. It’s on par, if not bigger than some SUVs in the segment above.
Hyundai has done its best to lean into the benefits of the Kona’s electric underpinnings. The front seats are where this is most felt, as the brand’s new bridge console allows for a huge new storage area underneath, complete with a 12V socket and USB outlet.
Above, the usual storage areas remain present, including a small centre console armrest box, decent size dual cupholders, and a small stowage bay below the climate unit with the primary USB outlet and a wireless charging bay.
In each door there is a large bottle holder with a small trench for objects. I found the cabin very adjustable in the Highlander, although one thing worth noting is the light seat trim in our test car was wearing dark from jeans and the like on the door side of the base. I’d be picking the darker interior trim for practicality purposes.
The back seat is a less positive story. The rear seat of the Kona was already pretty tight for an SUV, but it’s worse here because the floor level has been lifted up to facilitate the huge battery pack beneath.
This means instead of having a small gap for my knees, they are lifted to a position hard-up against the driver’s seat, when set to my own (182cm/6'0"tall) driving position.
Thankfully, the width is okay, and the improved soft-touch trims continue into the rear doors and drop-down centre armrest. There are also small bottle holders in the doors which just fit our large 500ml test bottle, flimsy nets on the backs of the front seats, and an odd little tray and USB outlet on the back of the centre console.
Rear passengers don’t get adjustable air vents, but in the Highlander the outboard seats are heated, a rare feature usually saved for high-end luxury vehicles. Like all Kona variants, the Electric has two ISOFIX child-seat mounting points on these seats, with three top tethers across the rear row.
Boot space is 332L (VDA) which is not great, but not bad. Smaller cars in this segment (petrol or otherwise) will land a bit over 250L, while really impressive examples will sit above 400L. Take it as a win that it’s only around 40L down on the petrol variant. It still fit our three-piece CarsGuide demo luggage set, with parcel shelf removed.
The boot floor comes with a convenient net for when you need to carry around a public charging cable as we did, and under the floor there is a tyre repair kit and a tidy storage case for the (included) wall socket charging cable.
Price and features
Our ST-L wears an MSRP of $33,940 and comes packed with massive concept-car style 19-inch alloys, an 8.0-inch multimedia screen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, built-in navigation, and voice recognition, LED head, tail, and fog lights, single-zone climate control, heated front seats with leather accents, leather-trimmed wheel and gear-knob, a 7.0-inch driver display in the instrument cluster, ambient lighting, 360-degree parking camera, electric parking brake, and an extra two drive modes over lower-spec cars.
A very good set of equipment even without mentioning the excellent safety suite, and at this point I must go out of my way to say: finally Nissan’s multimedia suite exceeds expectations, being fast, good looking, and easy to use! This one will be critical for winning the youth vote, and one which some competitors are yet to master.
The overall spec also bodes well for the Juke, keeping in mind you would have paid the same for a high-spec version of the previous car, which didn’t have anywhere near this level of equipment and space. At this ST-L level it is also brilliantly priced between the entry level and top-spec Toyota C-HR, which it most resembles. You’ll pay a little more for an equivalent-spec CX-30 though (G20 Touring - $34,990).
In terms of the other Juke variants, you can get most of the important equipment on a lower spec ST or ST+, but the ST-L here is where it really starts to get impressive. On that alone I’d probably say this one is the pick of the range.
The Kona Electric is still expensive, don’t get me wrong. There’s no denying small SUV buyers will be turning their collective noses up when the electric version costs literally twice as much as its combustion equivalent.
When it comes to electric vehicles, though, the value equation is quite different. When you place the balance of range, features, size, and price against its rivals, the Kona actually comes out a lot better than you might think.
Look at it this way, the Kona is significantly more expensive than the base Nissan Leaf and MG ZS EV, but also significantly cheaper than rivals which offer more range, like the Teslas, Audis, and Mercedes-Benz models now sitting within Australia’s broadening EV landscape.
And range is the key. Able to make use of a whopping 484km range (on the WLTP test cycle), the Kona is one of the few EVs actually capable of matching a petrol car between ‘refills’, essentially removing the idea of range anxiety for suburban commuters.
The Kona electric is also much more than just another variant, with some significant changes to its specification and interior to at least partially make up for the massive price delta between it and the petrol version.
Leather seat trim is standard on the base Elite, as is a fully digital instrument cluster, 10.25-inch multimedia touchscreen with EV-specific function screens, an overhauled bridge centre console design with fly-by-wire controls, a wireless charging bay, extended soft-touch materials throughout the cabin, halogen headlights with LED DRLs, acoustic glass (to deal with the lack of ambient noise), as well as rear parking sensors and a reversing camera.
The top-spec Highlander gains LED headlights (with adaptive high beams), LED indicators and tail-lights, front parking sensors, power adjustable front seats, heated and cooled front seats and outboard heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel, the option of either a glass sunroof or contrast roof colour, auto-dimming rear vision mirror, and a holographic head-up display.
A full suite of active safety functions, which we’ll explore later in this review, is standard across both variants, and each is motivated by the same motor, so no differences there.
It’s disappointing to see the Elite, or any electric car in 2021, with halogen light fittings, and the plethora of heating functions for the seats and wheel are interesting as we’re told they’re a more battery efficient way of heating the vehicles occupants, and therefore maximise range. You have to keep some things for the top-spec car, but again, it’s a shame Elite buyers won’t be able to benefit from these range-saving measures.
Engine & trans
The Juke comes with a single new powerplant. A 1.0-litre three cylinder turbocharged unit, which produces a so-so sounding 84kW/180Nm, about on par with its C-HR rival.
There’s a little more to the story though, much of which is brought about by the Nissan’s seven-speed dual clutch automatic transmission which grants it both good and bad characteristics. More on that in the driving section.
You can’t have the Juke as a hybrid like its Toyota rival, and there’s no option for all-wheel drive either.
No matter which Kona electric variant you choose, it is motivated by the same permanent magnet synchronous motor producing 150kW/395Nm, which drives the front wheels via a single-speed ‘reduction gear’ transmission.
This outpunches many lesser electric cars, as well as most small SUVs generally, although it falls short of the kind of performance offered by Tesla’s Model 3.
Three levels of regenerative braking are available through this car’s paddle-shift system, and the motor and associated components sit in the Kona’s usual engine bay, so there’s no extra storage up front.
The sticker most cars will wear claims the Juke will consume 5.8L/100km on the combined cycle. Pretty good compared to rivals.
Our (mostly urban) test returned a computer-reported figure of 7.2L/100km, which is a fair bit more than the claim, but not outrageous for the segment.
Annoyingly, larger naturally aspirated 2.0-litre engines mated to CVTs or torque converter autos can produce figures not much more than that, which leads us to the real reason the Juke needs all of its whiz-bang dual-clutch transmission and stop-start system – emissions.
If all the tiny turbocharged engine and dual-clutch automatic was sounding very European it’s because the Juke uses it to get under the EU’s strict emissions protocols in order to give it economies of scale across a global market.
Now the interesting stuff. A few weeks before this review I tested the updated Hyundai Ioniq Electric, which impressed me with how efficient it was. In fact, at that time, the Ioniq was the most efficient electric car by kWh I'd ever driven.
I didn’t think the Kona would best it, but after a week of testing in mainly urban conditions, the Kona returned a stellar figure of 11.8kWh/100km against its large 64kWh battery pack.
Alarmingly good, especially since this car’s official/combined test figure is 14.7kWh/100km, which would normally grant 484km of range. With our as-tested figure, you’ll note it could return well over 500km of range.
Important to remember that electric cars are significantly more efficient around town (thanks to the constant use of regenerative braking), and note the stark difference the new ‘low rolling resistance’ tyres have made to this car’s range and consumption.
The Kona’s battery pack is a Lithium-ion type and is charged through a single European-standard Type 2 CCS port located prominently at the front. On DC combo charging, the Kona can power up at a max rate of 100kW, allowing for a 10 – 80 per cent charge time of 47 minutes. Most chargers around Australia’s capital cities, however, are 50kW locations, which will do the same in around 64 minutes.
Frustratingly, on AC charging, the Kona’s max rate is just 7.2kW, charging from 10 – 100 per cent in nine hours. It would be nice to see at least the option of an 11kW inverter in the future, allowing you to add much more range in an hour or two at convenient AC spots which are popping up around local supermarkets.
Still, the Kona has excellent range and the best efficiency for the money you’re paying.
Well, the Juke is much better than its predecessor in every way. Let’s get that out of the way immediately. Sadly though, the whiz-bang new drivetrain presents some annoying issues which stop it from being truly excellent.
While the new three-cylinder turbo sounds like it’s about on par with the C-HR’s disappointing 1.2-litre engine, it’s far from it. Like a lot of three-cylinder engines, it’s a little bit exciting with lots of gruff mechanical noises and the peak torque arriving with a massive punch at 2400rpm that makes you question what you read on the spec sheet.
Power then, is not the issue. No, this car’s fundamental problem is its seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. I hear some of you say, “at least it’s not a CVT” and that’s true. It’s quite the opposite. While a CVT is typically dull and lifeless, this dual-clutch has, let’s say, a bit too much life.
It’s busy, at times incoherent when it comes to selecting the correct ratio, and spends a lot of time between, or out of, gears at low speeds.
This means a lot of lurching between first, second, and third gears off-the line and moments of frustration exacerbated by turbo-lag where pushing the pedal further will simply mean you’ll be punished a full second later with a dollop of wheelspin.
This is all quite frustrating because once you’re up at cruising speeds above 60km/h there are no problems at all. This experience is reminiscent of the early days of Volkswagen dual-clutch automatics, and it’s perhaps telling how some VW Group products are now reverting to more traditional torque converter automatics on some of their lower-torque engines.
The rest of the drive experience is very good, mind you, with the Juke’s ride now being well balanced across the front and rear, making it far more fun and definitely more confident than its predecessor in the corners.
While it deals with smaller corrugations and coarse-chip surfaces reasonably well it is on the firm side, a characteristic which conspires with the giant wheels to make for an occasionally harsh and crashy experience over more abrupt bumps.
Dimensionally, the Juke is quite perfect for city-slickers. It's in that Goldilocks zone between too-small-to-be-practical and too big to fit in spaces marked "small car only". As always a 360-degree parking suite and (unlike the previous car) good visibility tips the odds in your favour when it comes to running into ill-placed shopping trolleys or bollards.
The Kona EV drive experience matches its familiar-yet-futuristic looks. From behind the wheel everything will be instantly familiar for anyone coming out of a combustion vehicle. Aside from the lack of a shift lever, everything feels more or less the same, although there are plenty of areas where the Kona electric will delight and surprise.
For a start, there's the ease of using its electric features. The car offers three levels of regenerative braking, and while I prefer diving it with the maximum setting. In this mode it's essentially a single-pedal vehicle, as the regen is so aggressive it will bring the vehicle to a halt quickly after letting your foot of the accelerator.
It also has a familiar zero setting for those not wanting any braking from the motor, and an excellent default automatic mode, which will only max out the regen when the car thinks you’re pulling to a halt.
The steering is nicely weighted, feeling assisted but not overly so, and allowing you to position this heavy little SUV with ease. I say heavy because the Kona electric feels it in every sense of the word. A 64kWh battery pack is a lot of weight, with the Electric tipping the scales at around 1700kg.
It’s a testament to Hyundai’s focus on suspension tuning, globally and locally, that it still feels so under control. While it can be abrupt at times, the ride is generally great, balanced over both axles with an edge of sportiness in the corners.
It’s easy to take this for granted, as I learned the week prior in my test of the MG ZS EV. Unlike the Kona Electric, this small SUV newcomer struggles to deal with the weight of its batteries and tall ride height, serving up a spongy, uneven ride.
Points for taming gravity, then. Push the Kona too hard and the tyres will struggle to keep up, with dabs of wheelspin and understeer when pushed, perhaps related to the fact that this vehicle started life as a petrol car.
It doesn’t quite have the surreal grip of, say, a Tesla Model 3. Nor does it have the raw power and acceleration the Teslas provide. At least the motor feels like it has a little too much power rather than not quite enough as can be the case with the tame-but-smooth Nissan Leaf. Either way, the Kona’s ride and demeanor is a pleasure around town.
Key to this car’s success for early adopters, though, is not just its balance of ride and performance, but its powertrain feedback. Those who are looking for how their driving behaviours are directly affecting efficiency and range will love this car’s numerous screens and functions, tied in with the nav system which will point you to the nearest charging bays and give you a top-down view of your max range on the map as you drive.
Again, it’s not as sleek and internet-era ready as the impressive Tesla operating system, but it’s familiar and accessible for someone looking for an EV which is a bit more approachable.
On a final note, this car makes a cool sci-fi noise. It’s a pleasant choral ringing sound it generates at low speeds to alert pedestrians of its presence (who are often puzzled by the note it emits). It also makes a quiet bonging noise in reverse.
Sounds like a small thing, but in my recent Tesla Model 3 review I found its silence annoying and potentially dangerous when there are pedestrians around.
Nissan’s big technology jump has been more than just in the cabin, with every Juke sporting a formidable actve safety suite.
By the time you get to the ST-L spec, this includes auto emergency braking (up to freeway speed and includes pedestrians and cyclists) with forward collision warning, lane departure warning with lane keep assist, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, and traffic sign recognition.
Lane departure warning was off when I picked my car up – and I soon found out why. The Juke’s version of the technology vibrates the steering wheel (with alarming vigour) whenever you commit even the thought crime of straying from the very centre of your lane. It became annoying so quickly I had turned it back off within an hour of using it.
Unsurprisingly with all the included tech, the new Juke has hit the Australian market wearing a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating. It’s regular suite of items includes six airbags, as well as the expected electronic brake, stability, and traction controls.
There are also dual ISOFIX and three top-tether child seat mounting points across the rear row.
There’s no compromise on safety in these highly specified electric variants, with both getting the full Hyundai ‘SmartSense’ treatment.
Active items include freeway-speed auto emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane keep assist with lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring with collision assist, rear cross-traffic alert and rear auto braking, adaptive cruise control with stop and go function, driver attention alert, safe exit warning, and rear occupant alert.
The Highlander grade scores the addition of auto high-beam assist to go with its LED headlights and head-up display.
On the expected front, the Kona has stability management, brake support functions, traction control, and the standard suite of six airbags. A bonus is tyre pressure monitoring, rear parking sensors with a distance display, as well as front parking sensors on the Highlander.
It’s an impressive suite which is up there with the best in the small SUV segment, although we should expect this on a $60K+ electric vehicle. As this Kona is a facelift, it will carry over its maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating it was awarded back in 2017.
Nissan offers the Juke with the standard expected of Japanese manufacturers – a five-year and unlimited kilometre warranty promise.
The Juke needs to be serviced once a year or every 20,000km whichever occurs first, and the first six years are capped at between $287 and $477 for a yearly average cost of $382.67. Not bad – especially given its complex Euro-style drivetrain.
The Kona is covered by the brand’s industry competitive five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, with its lithium battery components covered by a separate eight-year/160,000km promise that appears to be emerging as the industry standard. While this promise is competitive, it is now challenged by its Kia Niro cousin which carries a seven year/unlimited kilometre warranty.
At the time of writing Hyundai had not yet locked in its usual capped price servicing program for the updated Kona EV, but the pre-update model was outstandingly cheap to service at just $165 per yearly visit for the first five years. And why shouldn’t it be? There aren’t as many moving parts.