Nissan Juke VS MG ZS
- Bold new look
- High spec and safety
- Now actually practical!
- Fiddly dual-clutch auto
- Ride can be crashy
- Annoying lane departure feature
- Looks good
- First impressions of interior are good...
- Good value
- Four-star ANCAP
- No AEB
- Drives poorly
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|
We first published this story on 5 April 2018, and since then we have requested press loan cars to update our coverage - but to no avail.
However, there have been changes to the ZS range, and here’s what you need to know.
The brand has since revised its range line-up to kick off with the entry-level Excite (replacing the Soul trim) which retains the same 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with a four-speed automatic. This version is priced at $22,990 drive-away.
A new mid-range variant has been added, called the Excite Plus, which gets the more high-tech 1.0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engine with a six-speed automatic. It costs $24,990 drive-away.
The range-topping variant remains the Essence, and it still has the same drivetrain as before (the 1.0L turbo three-pot with six-speed auto). It is $26,990 drive-away, and has seen the addition of built-in sat nav as part of the 2019 range update.
There have been no additions made to the safety equipment, and the MG ZS still has a four-star ANCAP crash test rating. No changes have been made to the way it drives, either.
As originally published, 5 April 2018:
If ever there was a brand that has evolved to a point of being beyond recognition, MG could be it.
The British brand - Morris Garages - is now owned by a Chinese mega-company called SAIC Motor Corporation Limited, a business that managed almost seven million sales in 2017.
Where does MG fit into the portfolio? Well it’s a small player, by market standards, with 'just' 134,000 sales… which, if it sold that many in Australia, would make it the second-best selling brand here, behind only Toyota.
A while ago an SUV with an MG badge would have been the stuff of daydreams. But this is, in fact, the second SUV from the maker, slotting below the larger and more expensive MG GS.
If you have a good memory, you may remember that another MG wearing the ZS badge has been sold in Australia before… that was the remarkably unremarkable MG Rover ZS mid-sized sedan, and it didn’t sell in big numbers. In fact, only 31 units of the ZS sedan were sold - this more desirable small SUV is set to smash that.
As the starting point in the MG SUV range, it certainly stands out as quite a looker. But is there more to it than cosmetic charm?
|Engine Type||1.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
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.
If you’re the sort of person who wants a nice looking small SUV that doesn’t cost too much and is more practical than some of its competitors, the MG ZS might be an option for you.
But there are many better alternatives, so it’s pretty hard to justify, especially with its unfortunate road manners and lack of safety equipment. The brand may have evolved, but the vehicles require some further development before they're good enough to compete against mainstream players.
Do you care about how your car drives, or is appearance more important? Let us know in the comments section below.
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.
The model featured below is the 2020 Nissan Juke Ti
I think it’s one of the best looking small SUVs on the market. Do you agree with me?
There are bits of it that could be better; the 17-inch wheels appear too small, because there’s a decent amount of bulk above the wheelarches front and back. They could be a size bigger, and also considerably wider: the tyres fitted are just 215mm across - a set of 18s with 235mm rubber would definitely fill the arches more.
But other than that, it’s a nice looking vehicle.
I mean, you could confuse it for something from Mazda’s stable. There’s no doubt about that. The LED daytime running lights may well have been stolen straight from Mazda’s design department in Hiroshima, it’s that unmistakable. MG, however, being so obviously British (by way of China) labels the DRLs as 'London Eye'.
There are other elements that aren’t so much direct reinterpretations as generally good design cues: the wide grille, sculpted bumper, angular glasshouse, and slimline tail-lights combine to give it a conventionally attractive look.
The interior offers good perceived quality - meaning that when you look at it for the first time, you’re pretty impressed by what you see. But there are some actual quality questions raised, as you’ll read in the next section.
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.
As mentioned, you don’t feel as though you’re sitting in a ‘cheap’ SUV when you first slide into the cabin of the ZS, but the closer you look - or, perhaps more correctly, the more you use the car - the more you realise it isn’t at the same standard of quality as most competitors.
Little things, like the fact the door grab moves in your hand when you go to close the door (that’s the opposite of reassuring), and the USB port in our test car moved when I tried to insert my phone’s cable into it - not the panel at the front, but the actual bit behind it. It’s also really hard for anyone with normal-human-sized hands to slot the USB cable in.
But when you do, it connects up to the 8.0-inch touchscreen media system and will mirror your phone through Apple CarPlay, if you have an iPhone. There’s no Android Auto.
You’ll need to use your iPhone for sat nav or maps, because the built-in system doesn’t have it. It’s a bright and colourful screen to run AM/FM radio or your Bluetooth connected smartphone, though, and there’s a six-speaker sound system - apparently with Yamaha 3D sound. It didn’t offer anything mind-blowing in terms of an audio experience, however.
The seats are comfortable, offering a decent driving position, but there’s no reach adjustment to the steering, only height adjustment - that’s really annoying if you have long legs but short arms. And while you get a digital driver info display, there’s no digital speedometer.
There’s no covered centre storage between the front seats (bad) but there are two cupholders and the front door pockets are big enough for bottles (good).
The back seat lacks any form of cupholders (bad), and there’s no fold down armrest, either (bad). And while there are rear door pockets, they’re too small to fit a bottle (bad). At least it has twin map pockets (good).
And the other (good) thing about the back seat is the amount of passenger space. With the driver’s seat set for my 183cm frame, I was easily able to sit behind with enough legroom to keep me comfortable for a while.
Headroom is good, too, even with the very large glass roof in this spec of the ZS. The sunroof isn’t just for show, the front part opens up, too. But on the downside, there are no rear lights, which makes it really hard to see what you’re doing at nighttime.
If your passengers are smaller, there are dual ISOFIX child-seat anchor points and three top-tether attachments.
The boot of the MG ZS is decent, with 359 litres of cargo capacity to the cargo cover when the rear seats are in place, or 1166L with the 60/40 back seats folded down (measured to the window line) - though they don’t fold flat. The boot itself is deep, but the load lip is a touch higher than some others - and the VW-like boot badge opener is a nice piece of copycatsmanship, too. I guess it’s okay because the brands both have two letters.
Those cargo space figures are good for the class. The best seller in the segment, the Mazda CX-3, has just 264L with the seats up (1174L seats down).
The MG ZS is one of the larger small SUVs out there, spanning 4314mm long, 1809mm wide and 1611mm tall. Ground clearance is 164mm.
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 MG ZS range has two models to choose from - both of which are competitively priced in order to gain some traction in the tough-fought small SUV market.
There’s the entry-level ZS Soul model, which lists at $20,990 plus on-road costs.
Standard equipment for the ZS Soul includes an 8.0-inch touchscreen media system with Apple CarPlay as standard, as well as Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, USB connectivity, a reversing camera, rear parking sensors (with a centimetre distance measurement display, which is very nice), and 17-inch alloy wheels.
Leather trim, a leather steering wheel and leather gear selector are standard, too, as well as auto headlights, front fog-lights and there are roof rails (perfect to fit roof racks to).
The next model up the range is the one you see in the images here - it’s the Essence, which lists at $23,990 plus on-road costs.
The Essence adds desirable bits like a ‘Stargazer’ panoramic glass roof with sunshade, and keyless entry with push-button start.
If you’re shopping in this segment, some other options you could consider at this sub-$25k price point include the Mazda CX-3, Suzuki Vitara, Honda HR-V, Hyundai Kona, Ford EcoSport, Holden Trax, Mitsubishi ASX or Renault Captur. You’re spoilt for choice, in other words, though none have niceties like leather trim and a big sunroof at this price point.
You’ll have to check out the safety section for the main omissions from the MG ZS range.
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.
The MG ZS is available with two different drivetrains.
The entry-level Soul model comes with a 1.5-litre non-turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine with 84kW of power (at 6000rpm) and 150Nm of torque (at 4500rpm). It has a four-speed auto and is front-wheel drive.
The high-spec Essence model we had is powered by a 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine with a little less power, 82kW (at 5200rpm), but a touch more torque, with 160Nm (from 1800-4700rpm).
Those outputs are close to what’s expected in the scheme of small SUVs: the Ford EcoSport, probably the most direct rival to the ZS in terms of size, has a 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo with 92kW and 170Nm in the top two specs, or an entry-grade 1.5-litre three-cylinder non-turbo with 90KW and 150Nm. Another three-pot competitor is the Peugeot 2008, which has a 1.2-litre turbo engine in all models, and zesty outputs of 81kW and 205Nm.
In operation, the drivetrain leaves a bit to be desired. Read the driving section below for more.
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.
Claimed fuel consumption for the entry-level model is rated at 7.1 litres per 100 kilometres, which is thirsty for the segment.
The turbo version we had is a little better on paper, with a claim of 6.7L/100km. If you’re interested, Peugeot claims 4.8L/100km for its 2008 models - but Ford claims 6.9L/100km for its turbo three-cylinder EcoSports.
After our time testing the MG ZS we saw a return of 8.0L/100km, which is not terrific for a car of this size.
Both versions of the MG ZS require 95RON premium unleaded fuel, adding cost at the pump.
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.
There was so much promise to this car, but driving it was the least enjoyable thing about it.
If you don’t care about how a car drives, you might be able to overlook the criticisms I’m about to level at the MG. But it’s my job to tell you how it stacks up in the segment, and I’m comfortably suggesting it’s in the bottom three in terms of road manners, drivetrain capability, and refinement. Remember, this is a segment with about 20 vehicles in it, and I’ve driven all of them.
Let’s start with, er, starting the engine. The push-button system works fine, but the engine on my test vehicle hummed and shook itself to life while also letting out quite a noise (it’s a bit alarming when you’re standing outside the car). I know, three-cylinder engines aren’t the most loveable sounds to all ears, and they’re prone to vibration, but the lack of refinement from this vehicle is notable.
Then, when I reversed out of my driveway on a 12-degree-Celsius morning (so, not extremely cold), the engine acted in a way that I could only describe as dangerously sluggish. There was very little progress on offer for a good 10-15 seconds after I drove off. If you live on a busy street, then you really ought to prepare yourself.
Once things are warm you’ll notice the engine is actually relatively hushed from in the cabin, but it also really likes to rev.
From a standstill it will take a blink or two before the turbocharger gets huffing, and then it’ll happily rev out to 5500rpm - and that’s not even when you’re wringing its neck, just when you’re driving it normally.
In fact, the transmission does a reasonable job of changing gears to make the most of the outputs of the engine, despite the drivetrain’s apparent preference to hold on to first gear like a kid with a candy cane.
I found the brake pedal to be squishy underfoot, not overly reassuring in its action, with sub-par response on offer from its disc brakes.
Plus the underdone braking is exacerbated by the softness of the suspension - the body isn’t as controlled as most other vehicles in the segment, meaning it can wobble and shift its weight in an ungainly way. Its softly set chassis (MacPherson style front suspension, torsion beam rear suspension) can make for stumbles over bumpy sections of road, and you can feel the springs and dampers compress so much at high speeds that there’s a ‘bottoming out’ sensation.
The steering doesn’t do it any favours, either: it’s as aloof as Tom Cruise’s real personality - very hard to judge at high and low speeds, with odd weighting and inconsistency to the way it reacts. The tyres are too narrow to fully explore its handling capability - not that you’d really want to.
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.
The MG ZS was submitted for an ANCAP crash-test score in 2017, and it managed four stars. According to the crash testers, the ZS exhibited “sub-par” performance in the head-on crash test. That’s not good enough, really, and it’s below the standard set by the larger MG GS, which was the first Chinese vehicle to score five stars locally.
The ZS comes with an array of safety kit that we appreciate, though, like six airbags (dual front, front side, full-length curtain), a reversing camera, rear parking sensors, a torque-vectoring by braking system (that helps in corners).
But further emphasising the safety score we’ve given it, the ZS isn’t available with auto emergency braking (AEB), even as an option, and there’s no lane-keeping assist or other smart tech like blind-spot monitoring or rear cross-traffic alert, either.
Where is the MG ZS built? Not the UK, as the Morris Garages badge may lead you to believe. Nah, it’s built in China - and a low crash test rating, plus a low standard of safety kit, does little to push the case for Chinese-built models in Australia.
It’s a fail on the safety front, then.
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.
There’s one thing that can be said of MG’s effort in Australia - they’re giving it a go when it comes to ownership.
The company backs the SUV models in its range with a seven-year/unlimited kilometre warranty and the same cover for roadside assistance. That’s as good as you’ll get at Kia, straight off the bat.
Actually finding an MG dealership might be the next big challenge. There are just a dozen showrooms for the company at the time of writing, which means getting it serviced could be a pain if you’re away on holidays or if you move house.
And all the good work of the warranty is undone by very short service intervals - it needs maintenance every six months or 10,000km, whichever occurs first.