Nissan Juke VS Skoda KAROQ
- Whopping 140kW engine
- Still looks edgy
- Plush seats
- Truly tiny boot
- Questionable design choices
- Charming to drive
- Great space utilisation
- Super flexible
- Optional safety gear
- Thirstier than expected
- Gets pricey with all the options
Not much has changed since we originally reviewed the current Nissan Juke Ti-S in November of 2018, with pricing and spec remaining the same.
There has been some news on the Juke's much-anticipated replacement, with an official reveal date of September 3, 2019.
Not much can be told about the new Juke yet, as it has only been spied under camouflage, but it is known to be larger than this current model, as the new car has been photographed alongside the current one.
It will also share roughly the same design theme and styling pillars, while bringing it up-to-date with Nissan's current line-up. Take a look at current versions of the larger US-market Murano for clues as to what it could look like.
It is also known that it will share a platform with the recently-revealed Renault Captur, paving the way for low-capacity turbocharged engines and even the possibility of hybrid tech in the Juke's next iteration.
As originally published September 3, 2018:
The Nissan Juke is straight-up bizarre.
Back in 2011, it was ahead of the small SUV curve, using the now-common trope of lifting up a small hatchback, giving it a slightly different body and calling it an ‘SUV’.
But the Juke didn't arrive locally until late 2013, the hatchback in question is the now-dead-in-Australia Nissan Micra, and despite that initial lead on its main competitors, the Micra-based Juke is hardly ahead on sales.
Despite that, Nissan is powering on with the Juke formula, while refining equipment levels, offering new style options and even introducing an even more performance-focused Nismo variant.
So, in a now-very-crowded small SUV segment are the Juke’s differences enough to set it apart? I spent a week reviewing the second-from-the-top Ti-S all-wheel drive (AWD) turbo to find out.
|Engine Type||1.6L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
The Skoda Karoq is a small SUV, but it has big advantages over some of its rivals.
It's compact, tech-heavy, and has seats that you can remove. How good is that? I mean, if you've ever thought to yourself: "Geez, those back seats are really in the way!", then you'll get my drift.
The Karoq has been on sale in Australia for about 12 months now, and is still available in just one spec. In that time, the smallest Skoda SUV has only amassed the same number of sales as Mitsubishi racks up for the ASX in a single week. Yes, you read that right.
But despite the fact its popularity has been quite limited to this point, there's one thing you need to know - it should be on your shopping list.
|Engine Type||1.5L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
The Juke is nothing if not different, but it is hampered in Australia’s fastest-growing segment with a tall asking price, dated features, sub-par warranty and questionable design choices.
Credit where credit is due: it was one of the first in the wave of small SUVs dominating the market and it has a ripper little turbo engine, but most competitors feel a lot less… elderly.
Does the Juke's wild styling set it apart for you, or would you rather look at more recent entries in the small SUV market? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
The Skoda Karoq is a very worthy alternative to the mainstream players in the market, if your budget can stretch to include some of those options - and you might want to include some, if you plan to have an SUV that keeps up with the Joneses.... but add the lot and it starts to look pretty expensive. We wouldn't be surprised if some of the option-only safety items are made standard at some point in order to keep up with other players in the space.
I’m not sure how the Juke was designed, but it seems to me that a product guy described a 370Z to an engineer, then only gave them Nissan Micra parts to execute their vision.
To say the Juke is unique is an understatement. Up front there’s a lot to take in, including three layers of lighting - 370Z-style DRLs perched on the bonnet, almost Beetle-esque headlights embedded in the grille, and little fog lights nestled below.
Then there's the mess of angles dominating the lower bumper and windscreen, plus the curves just about everywhere else.
Up the back the mish-mash continues, with more echoes of the 370Z in the rear light fittings, a Micra-like boot and an expensive-looking curved rear window.
The side-profile exacerbates the almost comically-exaggerated wheel arches.
It seems the Juke is not afraid to target a niche audience that wants to be seen. Our test car was fitted with a ‘myJUKE personalisation pack’ which consisted of the ‘Energy Orange’ highlights on the wheels, bumpers and wing-mirrors you can see in the pictures.
The pack adds $800 to the price, alongside our car’s premium ‘Platinum’ paint ($500) for an as-tested MSRP of $34,790.
Inside the Juke, it all looks a little dated. There’s an abundance of large, nasty plastic panels, made all the more obvious through the orange highlights strewn throughout.
It seems at odds with the nice, comfortable leather seats, and great little leather-bound steering wheel.
For some reason there are two screens embedded in the centre of the dash. The main 5.8-inch screen isn’t the worst I’ve used, but the design is lagging behind the standard set by brands like Volkswagen and Hyundai. The built in nav is satisfactory, but I was wishing for Apple CarPlay to remove the sub-par interface.
The second screen, embedded between two dials, controls the air-conditioning and driving modes. The buttons surrounding it change depending on which mode you turn the screen to.
It’s neat, if a little unnecessary. The screen can show everything from a boost gauge in ‘Sport’ mode, to fuel efficiency graphs in the ‘Eco’ setting. But sadly, both screens were frequently subject to glare on sunny days.
Our test car had excessive panel gaps where the front doors connect to the A-pillar, as well as around the boot lid and bonnet. Inside, there were trim pieces that didn’t quite meet up, or flexed a bit too far when pushed on.
There was also a rattle emanating from the boot during my test. Despite attempts to take all the boot pieces out and put them back carefully, I could not find the source.
The Juke is built in the UK. Go figure.
It launched about a year ago here, and it still looks more modern than some its competitors. It isn't rugged like a Subaru XV, nor is it as aggressive as a Hyundai Kona. No, it's a bit more like a Nissan Qashqai - inoffensively attractive. That's if you consider it in the same part of the market as those cars.
Skoda pitches the Karoq as its mid-sized SUV - so it should actually be up against the likes of the Hyundai Tucson, Subaru Forester and Nissan X-Trail. Based on its dimensions, that's not really the case - it's 4382mm long, 1841mm wide and 1603mm tall - and that makes it smaller than any of the models in this paragraph, and indeed closer to the ones in the paragraph above. But on price, it's definitely in the upper bracket; we'll get to that soon.
It's a smart and very European design outside, arguably understated - even with optional 18-inch wheels as featured on our car. The LED headlights on our car are optional, but LED daytime running lights are standard. And how about that colour? How good is it to see green again? It's Emerald Green, officially, and it'll cost you $700.
Inside there are new options for the version we're driving, as opposed to the previous version, including the availability to option of the Virtual Cockpit 12.3-inch information display for the driver (which costs $700). Check out the interior images in the next section.
The Juke’s over-commitment to styling compromises its practicality, which is especially true for our AWD Ti-S.
The multi-link rear suspension hampers available boot space by bringing the boot floor up to almost level with the rear hatch opening.
On offer is just 207 litres, which makes the CX-3’s already small 264 litres look huge.
You could fit maybe two duffle bags stacked on top of one another in the space, but any hard cases larger than carry-on size is asking for trouble.
With the seats down, it’s a better story, as the space is, if nothing else, level.
Expect small hatchback amounts of space in the rear. Back-seaters don’t get any air conditioning vents, but there’s a small bucket-shaped area for storage on the back of the front centre console.
There’s not much else back there in terms of amenities, although the plush leather seats continue, and headroom was not as limited as my 182cm self expected. Two ISOFIX child seat mounting points are present on the outer two seats.
Up front there are decent cupholders in the centre console and bottle holders in the doors, although nothing that’ll hold anything bigger than a 600ml bottle.
Aside from that there are precious few stowage spaces for items in the cockpit. There’s a strange rubberised pad underneath the air conditioning controls. It barely fit my phone, and the lack of sidewalls made it hardly suitable for loose objects. I’m not really sure what it was for.
There’s also a massive glove box that seems to go forever under the dash.
The only other car that offers up this sort of practicality in such a compact footprint is the Honda HR-V. And we get why that mightn't appeal to you - the shape of that car is more hatchback (or hunchback, according to some!) than SUV.
So if you want that (slightly more) rugged look, the Karoq might be your next best option. It has a really clever interior, with three rear seats that can be slid, folded or even removed individually. That's right - you can essentially turn this in to a van, if you need to.
With the seats in their most passenger-friendly setting, you'll still have 479 litres of cargo capacity to play with. While if you slide them all the way forward, you'll see the boot expand to 588L. Fold them down, and that jumps to 1605L. Remove them and you've got a staggering 1810L available. All that, and you still get a space-saver spare wheel, too.
This is clearly a family-friendly boot, with enough room to store our umbrella pram quite easily. It also coped with three suitcases. It even managed to fit the largest case and the pram in together. Unprecedented!
In the cabin there is enough room for someone my size (six feet tall, or 182cm) to sit behind a driver of the same size. Knee room is a little tight, but headroom, toe room and shoulder room is surprisingly good.
The back seat includes dual map pockets, good door pockets and rear seat air-vents, too. And if you need cup holders in between the seats, you can fold down the centre seat backrest. A nice note for parents - there are three top-tether points, and ISOFIX attachments for the two outside rear seats. Plus there are standard tablet holders for rear seat occupants that buckle on to the front headrests.
Up front there are big door pockets and a few decent loose item storage pockets, but the cupholders are smaller than average. The controls all fall to hand logically, and the materials are mostly pretty good, though there is quite a bit of hard plastic throughout (easy to wipe down if you have youngsters, I guess).
The media screen in our test car is the optional one, a 9.2-inch display with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, sat nav, Bluetooth - all the stuff you'd want, excluding a volume knob. Instead you've got to use the 'button' elements on the screen, which is annoying (yes, there is a steering-wheel mounted scroller, but what if the passenger wants to turn something up or down?!).
It's a crisp and lovely display, it's easy to learn, and it links well with the (also optional) Virtual Cockpit screen in front of the driver. Both add to the 'almost an Audi' feeling you get in the Karoq, but at a price.
Price and features
There's no two ways about this – the Juke Ti-S is very expensive. In its segment, the $33,490 (before on-road costs) asking price is enough to make the Mazda CX-3 look cheap, and that's saying something. Hell, you can get a really very good mid-size SUV for that price.
Not a great start for an SUV that has remained largely unchanged while fresh competitors continue to pop up all around it.
Given the Juke's diminutive dimensions, its main competition is the Mazda CX-3 sTouring (petrol, AWD) at $31,790, Renault Captur Intens (petrol, FWD) at $28,990 and maybe the Toyota C-HR Koba (petrol, AWD) at $35,290.
The Koba, and a lot other small SUVs are arguably a size-up from the Juke, but price-wise it's hard to pitch it against something closer to its size like the Suzuki Ignis GLX which is far, far cheaper at $18,990.
As you can see, the Juke hardly fits in to the current small SUV landscape… but do you at least get good equipment for the price?
Yes and no.
The Ti-S gets some nice features, like the surprisingly plush heated leather seats, push-start ignition, 360 degree surround-view reversing camera, LED DRLs, auto-folding wing-mirrors, rain-sensing wipers and a particular boon for the Ti-S – multi-link rear suspension.
It also gets some okay features, like the 5.8-inch multimedia touchscreen which has DAB+ support and built-in nav, xenon headlights (not halogen, but also not LED), single-zone climate control, 17-inch alloy wheels, and a tyre pressure monitoring system.
Then there’s the bad. No Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, no electrically-adjustable seats, no digital dashboard, no head-up display and, while some modern safety features arrive at this price, there are some major omissions.
As a value proposition then, the Juke is lacking for its tall list price.
You know what would be really great? If Skoda Australia put a Karoq on fleet that wasn't laden with optional equipment. We get it - the company is trying to showcase everything you can get in a Karoq.
But with a list price of $32,290 plus on-road costs, and an as-tested price of $41,590 (plus on-roads) for the model we're testing, it's a little difficult to judge it on its actual merits. I mean, there's almost 30 per cent additional cost on our test car.
First, we'll have a look at what you would get if you bought a standard car, then we'll go through what's optionally fitted to our test vehicle.
The Karoq's standard gear list includes: an 8.0-inch touchscreen media system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a reversing camera, USB input (only one, though...), Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, an eight-speaker sound system, dual-zone climate control air conditioning, keyless entry and push-button start, and adaptive cruise control.
The standard wheel setup is a 17-inch pack with a space-saver spare, and there are roof rails, LED daytime running lights and LED tail-lights (but not LED main beams), auto headlights and wipers, a reversing camera, rear parking sensors with auto-stop (to avoid back-up bumps). More on that in the safety section below.
The cabin is usually trimmed with fabric seats, but you still get a leather-lined steering wheel and gear selector, plus a reversible floor mat for the boot.
Now, the option packs. Our car has the Premium Tech & Travel Pack, which is a combined dealio with a $7900 price tag.
It includes adaptive LED headlights, front parking sensors, 18-inch alloy wheels, an electric tailgate, leather seat trim, electric driver's seat adjustment with memory settings, heated front seats, auto-dimming side mirrors with auto folding, stainless steel pedals, drive mode select, a 9.2-inch media screen with DAB digital radio and gesture control, wireless phone charging, a 10-speaker Canton sound system, semi-automated parking, and extra safety gear in the form of blind spot monitoring, 'Emergency Assist' which can pull the car over if it thinks you're unresponsive, and Traffic Jam assist that can take over most of the driving at speeds below 60km/h.
Sure, it's expensive, but you get a lot for the money. The other options on our car include the Virtual Cockpit digital instrument cluster, which is new, and costs $700. Plus metallic paint, at $700.
Engine & trans
The Juke stands out here, too. It’s powered by a 140kW/240Nm 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine. That’s plenty of power. Peak torque arrives reasonably early, too, and lasts throughout the rev range from 1600–5600rpm.
It stands up well to competitors like the CX-3 with its 110kW 2.0-litre petrol engine, and the sub-90kW turbocharged engines in both the Renault Captur and Toyota C-HR.
The Ti-S can be had with a manual if you opt for the front-wheel drive (FWD) version, AWD ones like the one we tested here can only be had as a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) auto.
The AWD set-up has torque vectoring and is an opt-in system activated by a button to the right of the steering wheel. Our Juke spent most of the week as a FWD.
This grade of Karoq is called the 110TSI, and it has a 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol engine, and it produces 110kW of power (from 5000-6000rpm) and 250Nm of torque (from 1500-3500rpm). That's plenty for this size of car, and indeed more torque than plenty of the Karoq's rivals.
We've heard from Skoda that a Karoq 140TDI 4x4 diesel variant is coming in 2020, if that interests you.
Nissan claims the Juke Ti-S will consume 6.5L/100km of (minimum) 95 RON premium unleaded petrol. Over my week of mixed freeway and urban traffic usage it returned 10.0L/100km. A solid miss.
I’m not entirely sure why this number was so high given I only activated the AWD system for a few short expeditions on the weekend. Most competitors claim less than 7.0L/100km and I’ve found a reasonable number to expect is 8.0-ish, so 10.0 was a let-down.
Official combined cycle fuel consumption for the Karoq 110TSI is listed at 5.8 litres per 100 kilometres, and you might see that if you do a lot of country driving... but we didn't, so we didn't.
Instead, our test - which incorporated plenty of city running and a couple of highway stints - returned 9.6L/100km.
It's interesting to note that relatively high number (well, it is 65 per cent over the claim!) was despite the fact the Karoq's cylinder deactivation technology - which allows it to run on two cylinders under light loads - was in use quite a bit. There's an 'eco' display on the dash and an almost imperceptible rumble from the engine when its running in this mode.
In a way, the Juke lives up to its sporty looks. The 140kW engine is, without a doubt, one of the most powerful in the segment, and to be completely honest, the CVT was fine, if a little uninspiring.
Once you’ve dispatched the small amount of lag, the little turbo engine surges into the power-band, where the steering wheel will simply be torn out of your hands thanks to 'torque-steer' in FWD mode.
AWD mode is decidedly more stable, but makes the Juke feel significantly heavier. I don’t doubt it will increase fuel usage if you remain in this mode.
The suspension is stiff. Perhaps harsher than it needs to be. While this didn’t result in too much discomfort, thanks to the plush seats, it combined with the large alloy wheels to create a lot of road noise. It also revealed some less than impressive rattles and creaks in the cabin.
My test car had a consistent rattle emanating from the boot, which despite my investigations (I took the cargo cover, boot floor and spare out, and carefully placed them all back in their properly secured position), I couldn’t find the source of, and turning it into corners or over inclines caused creaks from the B- and C-pillars.
The steering was also somewhat inconsistent and ambiguous. Nissan says the Juke has ‘speed sensitive power steering’ although, at speeds of 70-90km/h it lacked feel and feedback. I wasn’t really confident I could feel where the front wheels were at any given moment.
Aside from the steering issue, the Juke felt okay in the corners, likely due to the multi-link rear suspension. Pushing it any harder than conservative speeds introduced a bit too much tilt to make it truly ‘fun’, however.
That's because it's built on the same platform as the likes of the Audi A3, Q2 and Q3, and the VW Golf and Tiguan, among others. And the overarching goodness of those models spreads across to the Karoq, because it's a really nice car to drive.
The ride is quite well sorted, with only a bit of sharp-edge thump because of those larger-than-standard alloy wheels. Around town over speed humps and roads riddled with pockmarks and lumps it was very nicely controlled and comfortable, while on the open road it felt like a bigger vehicle, with a really secure feel to it.
The steering is accurate and easy to judge, not too heavy when you're trying to park it, and not to light when you're on the open road.
And the drivetrain is mostly pretty good, too. There is some hesitation when you initially apply throttle, which is a common complaint for cars with dual-clutch automatic transmissions like this one. It does take some getting used to - and if you think you'll be able to just jump in and gun it away from the traffic lights without any lag, then you'll be disappointed because there is lag to contend with.
But I honestly found it fine, and accustomed my driving to suit. The benefits of that transmission are evident in other situations, because it offers really crisp and clever shifts at speeds from 10km/h to 110km/h.
At this price, the Juke scores some significant safety additions over the rest of the range. On the active front the Ti-S scores Lane Departure Warning (LDW) and Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM) as well as the aforementioned 360-degree parking camera and standard reversing camera.
These are also paired with something that Nissan calls ‘Moving Object Detection’ which seems to be equivalent to rear cross traffic alert, only it works around the front of the car as well.
Missing is the all-important AEB. This feature is becoming standard (or at least an affordable option) on most competitors. While FWD versions of the Juke carry maximum five-star ANCAP safety ratings, this rating was from 2011 and not to the most recent and stringent testing process.
The Juke benefits from the regular electronic stability enhancements as well as six airbags.
The standard safety spec of the Karoq is good, but not class-leading.
You get a reversing camera, rear parking sensors, auto emergency braking (AEB), driver fatigue monitoring, tyre pressure monitoring, multi-collision braking (to stop you careening into other road users in the event of an accident).
You'll need to option advanced safety gear like blind spot monitoring and lane keeping assistance. But while it lacks traditional rear cross-traffic alert, it does have Manoeuvre Assist, which can auto-brake the car when reversing if an obstacle is detected at speeds below 10km/h.
The Karoq has seven airbags (dual front, front side, full-length curtain and driver's knee), and there are three top-tether and two ISOFIX child-seat anchor points.
Nissan is one of the few remaining mainstream manufacturers still offering a distance-limited three-year warranty. The major competitors – Mazda, Hyundai and Honda are offering five-year/unlimited kilometre promises.
The Juke requires servicing once a year or 12,000km. Nissan has a scheduled servicing plan that covers the Juke for up to 12 years, with the cost changing every year. It averages out to a not particularly cheap $378.58 a year if you were to carry out the whole plan.
Skoda offers a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty for all of its models, which is bang-on par with the rest of the mainstream makers, but not as good as you'll get at Kia or Toyota, which offer seven years warranty (Kia as standard, Toyota if you service your car on time).
The brand offers the choice of pre-purchasing your maintenance, or paying as you go, with intervals set every 12 months or 15,000km, whichever occurs first. The PAYG option will set you back an average of $447 per visit, before additional items.
If you pre-pay, you can choose either a three-year pack ($790, or about $263 per year) or a five-year plan ($1650, or $330 per year). So pre-purchase. Do it. It's totally worth it. And you can roll it in to your finance plan, so you'll barely even notice it.