Nissan Juke VS Suzuki Vitara
- Bold new look
- High spec and safety
- Now actually practical!
- Fiddly dual-clutch auto
- Ride can be crashy
- Annoying lane departure feature
- Good interior space
- Reasonably priced
- Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
- Lack of advanced safety
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|
Suzuki's much-loved Vitara returned in 2015 and it was a happy day for people over a certain age. Over the years, Suzuki has tweaked and trimmed the range, ditching the diesel (much to the chagrin of towing fans) and leaving us with three Vitaras with the subtly updated 2019 model - the entry-level, the Turbo and the Turbo Allgrip.
The entry-level Vitara is a lot of car for the money but there is a small catch - instead of the excellent 1.4-litre turbo engine of the other two, it ships with a 1.6-litre naturally-aspirated engine that has significantly less power than anything else in the segment.
That doesn't seem to bother the target market, though - the base Vitara is by far the biggest seller in the range.
|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.
It's frustrating that the Vitara is a good car fitted with such a weak engine. It's got great interior space for less money than a Qashqai, a big boot and some nice touches.
The ledger for the base model Vitara is more balanced than the higher grades. While the turbo-engined machines get along very nicely, the ride and handling are great and all the Vitara's strengths are magnified, the entry-level struggles against similarly-priced competition.
The Vitara Turbo is the one to get if you can stretch to it. The Vitara isn't ruined by this engine, but it is compromised.
Is engine power a big deal for you? Or is the Vitara's lack of pace and refinement secondary to its undeniable charms? Let us know in the comments 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.
Not everyone is a fan of the new Vitara's looks, but I am. Most of the colours are fairly vivid and everyone seems to buy it in metallic green, so it was nice to have it in this grey/silver (optional) colour.
The chrome grille can be a little bit much, but I really like the purposeful, chunky profile. Wasn't sure about the new rear lights at first, but as I said in the Allgrip review, they had already grown on me.
The Vitara's interior isn't going to win any materials quality awards, but it seems like it will last a long time. There's nothing amazing about it apart from the fact it's roomy and everything looks and feels honest.
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.
Passenger space in the Vitara is excellent for a compact SUV. Part of the reason back seat occupants do so well is because the roof is high, the doors aren't very thick and the seat is a long way off the floor, meaning the distance between the front and rear seats isn't made smaller by angled legs. It's comfortable, too.
Which is lucky because you won't have anywhere to put your drinks or phones or your inboard elbows, which is a shame.
Front seat passengers have somewhere to put their elbows and there are two cupholders. All four doors have a bottle holder.
The boot has a false floor under which you can hide a decent amount of stuff, including small bags. Its volume starts at a decent 375 litres (beaten only by Honda's HR-V and Nissan's Qashqai). Drop the rear seats and space increases to 1120 litres.
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.
Engine aside, there is much to like about the base model Vitara - in fact any Vitara - and this one is a pretty decent $24,990.
That lands you, all the way from (somewhat unexpectedly) Hungary, 17-inch alloys, climate control, reversing camera, keyless entry and start, sat nav, leather steering wheel, cloth trim, power windows, four-speaker stereo and a space-saver spare.
That four-speaker stereo is run from the same touchscreen found in pretty much every Suzuki. The basic software is okay but the hardware itself is a bit iffy. Cleverly (and unlike Toyota), Suzuki knew an easy fix for that is to throw in Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Sorted.
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 1.6-litre naturally-aspirated engine in the base Vitara wheezes up just 86kW and 156Nm, easily the least-powerful in its class, and by some margin.
I often joke that it's almost like there is legislation about how much power a compact SUV must have. The Vitara is proof there isn't. The $29,990 Turbo has 102kW/220Nm, for comparison.
As with the turbo cars, the 1.6 has a proper six-speed automatic driving the front wheels. You can also get a five-speed manual for $23,990. Luckily it weighs bugger-all at 1180kg.
The Vitara offers 1200kg towing for braked trailers and 400kg unbraked.
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 non-turbo Vitara clocks up an official combined cycle fuel consumption rating of 6.0L/100km, 0.1L/100km worse than the Turbo.
My week with the car saw an indicated 9.2L/100km which is almost a litre worse than the Turbo Allgrip I last tested, and a whole lot less fun.
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.
As has been the case since the Vitara's re-emergence a few years ago, it's a good car to drive. Light steering, supple ride and good body control mean progress is smooth and, if you're going downhill, fun.
For a modern car, it's a featherweight, but without the bounciness of some other cars of this weight. It's also quite maneuverable and is unexpectedly slim, meaning you can thread it around easily and it's not a bother in car parks or tight city streets.
It's good on urban streets, too, because it soaks up bumps and lumps very well.
I've said it before and I'll say it again - the Vitara is a good car. But in this spec, it's a good car with a deeply ordinary engine.
It's noisy, which wouldn't matter except to get anything like decent movement, you have to rev it. If you use anything more than quarter throttle - and you really have to - the transmission kicks down to try and find the scraps of torque on offer. It might be light, but the torque figure just isn't enough to move the Vitara with any urgency.
The base Vitara is slow and noisy and from that perspective is no match for its similarly-priced competition. Compounded by a lack of refinement from both engine and transmission, it highlights what a good engine is the 1.4-litre turbo.
The Vitara is slow and noisy, and from that perspective is no match for its similarly-priced competition.
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.
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 a three year/100,000km warranty, but there's a small catch. If you continue to service it at Suzuki dealer every six months/10,000km, you're extended to five years/100,000km. That seems like a decent deal.
Somehow, the 1.6 costs more to service than the more complex 1.4-litre turbo, working out at an average $516 per year over the first 60 months.