Nissan Juke VS Suzuki Jimny
- Bold new look
- High spec and safety
- Now actually practical!
- Fiddly dual-clutch auto
- Ride can be crashy
- Annoying lane departure feature
- Relatively thirsty
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|
One thing is clear: The Suzuki Jimny does not need this media coverage.
No. The quaint little off-roader is somehow so entrenched in the Australian mindset that for the first year of this fourth-gen model's existence, there has been a waiting list to get one consistently between six and 12 months long.
In fact, reading this review will probably be of little use to you, given every new Jimny from now until some time in 2021 is spoken for despite a 30 per cent increase in production and prices inching up by roughly $2000.
We already know this quirky alternative SUV is as good as it looks off-road, so the question we’re out to answer in this review is: Is the Jimny nostalgic to a fault? That is, is it even remotely practical as a daily driver in an urban centre? Read on to see if we found an answer…
|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 love the Jimny and are in the already excessively long line to buy one, you don’t need me to tell you it’s not the smartest, most advanced, and user-friendly choice to drive around town.
If you’re on the fence about it, just know this little box is retro to a fault, and if you’re not planning on going out of bounds once in a while, it really won’t be living its best life.
And while that might sound a bit negative, it has to be said I loved every moment of driving and looking at this car despite its SUV shortcomings.
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
This whole car is pretty much built around the way it looks. Is it form over function? That depends.
For off-road capability it would seem form and function are in sync. But around town there’s a bit of give and take. We’ll explore that more in the practicality section of this review.
In terms of its retro look though it’s clear the Jimny is almost universally loved. It’s cute but tough, approachable but utilitarian.
The styling elements of the Jimny are intentionally made up of elements from each preceding generation. The rounded-out LED lights with separate indicators and its flat face are in reference to the original LJ10 which hit the market in 1960, the bonnet design harks back to the second-generation (SJ410) in 1981, while the slotted grille and pumped guards are in reference to the third-generation (aka the Sierra) from 1998.
Inside the rugged aesthetic continues, with grab handles and hose-out plastics adorning the dash. You probably shouldn’t actually take a hose to it though, because the modern screen, climate cluster, and multifunction wheel are lifted straight from the Swift, leaving no question this is a Suzuki product.
The seats are literal blocks of foam, the plastics are hard, and everything is manually adjustable – there isn’t even keyless entry or push-start ignition. Some will hate its lack of luxuries, but more than a few will be willing to forgive its commitment to rugged simplicity.
If I could make one change? Give the Jimny it’s own rugged-looking steering wheel! The modern Swift one looks almost out of place.
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.
Put simply: It’s not practical at all on the inside.
Let’s start with the driver’s area. Immediately annoying is no telescopic adjust for the steering, and minimal manual adjustment for the basic seats. Storage is limited to some very small binnacles in the doors, a tiny slot for your phone, as well as two non-adjustable cupholders and another tiny slot (which I put my wallet in for an idea of how big it is) near the transmission.
In terms of connectivity there is a single USB port, auxiliary input, and a 12V power outlet.
The rear seat is even more basic, consisting of a foam bench and some rudimentary seat backers which can fit two occupants. I was genuinely surprised to find dual ISOFIX child-seat mounting points back there, as well as top-tether anchors. Clambering in is easier than it might look thanks to the huge door aperture and I fit with limited room and comfort behind my own driving position.
Was it adequate? Yes. Would I want to spend much time there? Probably not.
Boot space is non-existent with the rear two seats in their upright position, but they do fold flat for a large, open and useful area when operating as a two-seater. Suzuki says this space is 377 litres, but it seems larger. Check out our pics to get an idea of what it looks like with a large luggage case and some extra equipment bags.
One drawback I found is the hard-wearing plastic surface made it impossible to keep loose objects from being thrown around in the corners. Consider investing in a luggage net, perhaps.
One practicality wonder for urban users will be this car’s tiny dimensions. At 3645mm long (including the spare wheel) and 1645mm wide, the Jimny occupies a footprint much smaller than even Hyundai’s new Venue small SUV.
This means you can park pretty much anywhere, although the 1720mm height makes for some sketchy moments in some multi-story carparks.
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.
Given the Jimny's unique character, it’s hard to argue with its budget price-point. At an MSRP of $27,990 for the priciest automatic version (as tested here), it’s not even really expensive for its size-bracket. To get something which looks and feels like this, your next port of call is the Jeep Wrangler at a whopping $59,450.
Makes sense the Jimny is flying off the shelves, then.
Standard fitment isn’t too bad. Almost everything from the Swift hatchback is not only included but looks about the same, with familiar gear appearing in the form of a 7.0-inch multimedia touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, as well as built-in navigation.
Other notable features include single-zone climate control, privacy glass, a small function screen nestled in the instrument cluster, a reversing camera, and of course, a low-range transfer case with H4 and L4 modes.
Options are limited to premium paints at $500 which can also be two-tone with a contrast roof for $1250.
There are some active safety features, although the Jimny misses out on a high score. More on that later.
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 Jimny has a 1.5-litre non-turbo four-cylinder petrol engine producing 75kW/130Nm. There’s no getting around the fact this SUV is low on power and you’ll need to really kick it to the firewall at times to extract close to peak power (which arrives at a distant 6000rpm).
For this test, we had the automatic Jimny which comes with a four-speed torque converter automatic.
You read that right, four speeds. It even has an overdrive button. Very ‘90s.
The Jimny also has a real transfer case with low-gearing however, so it makes up for its low-tech drivetrain by having some real ability behind its tough looks.
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.
The Jimny’s official combined fuel usage figure when fitted with the automatic transmission is 6.9L/100km. Sounds fine, although our weekly test which mainly kept to urban streets produced a dash-reported 8.5L/100km.
Fine for a capable off-roader, I suppose, but less impressive in the context of the Jimny’s size and relatively lean 1090kg kerb weight.
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 Jimny drives how it looks, for better or worse. The good includes visibility thanks to its big upright windows and generous rear vision mirrors, the ride which is so beyond capable for urban use it’ll have you driving over roundabouts and mounting kerbs for fun, and your distance from the ground makes the cabin surprisingly quiet despite thin sheet metal.
You’ll probably never tire of its fun interior fittings and touch-points which blend the modern feel of the Swift’s steering wheel and multimedia screen with the distinctly military-look dial cluster, manual handbrake and transfer case shifter.
There are some quirks of the Jimny though, which you will tire of over time. The steering is fine at most urban speeds, but gets vague above 80km/h and annoyingly heavy at or near a standstill, making parking more of a chore than it should be.
The little box’s centre of gravity is notably high, too, and you feel disconnected from corners and the road generally thanks to its ladder frame and capable suspension. You’ll find yourself slowing down for bends, which at best are tipsy and at worst uncomfortable.
The 1.5-litre engine and old-school four-speed auto combine to make a less-than-enthusiastic package. You’ll really need to kick the Jimny in the guts to get it up to speed, leaving you very little power in reserve for overtaking.
What’s more, the transmission is noisy and incredibly transparent about what it’s doing, lurching between gears in an acceleration experience which is a little too reflective of cars from 20 years ago.
At this point, I know what you’re thinking: “So, you didn’t like it very much?” Actually, quite the opposite. The Jimny possesses an honest old-world charm few vehicles on the market today come anywhere close to. There is something genuinely appealing about how it wears its flaws on its sleeve, so I subjectively enjoyed the drive experience quite a lot, bouncing around in the driver’s seat with a smile on my face every trip. Potential owners deserve to know it is nostalgic to a fault, however.
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 Jimny’s less-than-impressive three-star ANCAP rating was widely publicized near its release, and one look at the photos from the offset crash tests are enough to make you a little uncomfortable behind the wheel.
Still Suzuki has put effort in to include active safety refinements, like auto emergency braking (works from 15-100km/h, detects pedestrians but not cyclists, limited function at night), and lane departure warning. There is no lane keep assist, blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, or more advanced items like traffic sign recognition.
Six airbags are standard along with electronic brake, traction, and stability controls.
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.
Suzuki offers all of its vehicles with an updated five-year unlimited kilometre warranty (on par with other mainstream automakers) and requires servicing once every 12 months or 15,000km whichever comes first.
Service pricing is fixed for the first six visits and costs between $239 and $519 per appointment and comes out to a yearly average of $362.33. Not bad.