Toyota RAV4 VS Nissan Juke
- Massively practical
- Impressive standard inclusions
- Ultra-comfort ride
- Manual not great
- Thrashy engine
- Might be too big for some
- Whopping 140kW engine
- Still looks edgy
- Plush seats
- Truly tiny boot
- Questionable design choices
It speaks to the wide-ranging, seemingly infinite appeal of the Toyota RAV4 that a manual version of it even exists.
Sure, only the base car can be fitted with it, and we’re confident it will impress those vocal few people in every single comment section who demand it, but is it actually any good? Or does a manual gearbox tarnish the rather excellent package that is CarsGuide's Car of the Year 2019 overall winner?
While we’re at it, we’ll also give you the low-down on what the cheapest RAV4 is like. Read on to see what we thought.
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
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|
When Toyota launched the new RAV4 it couldn’t afford to get it wrong.
It didn’t. Even this absolute base car is incredibly well equipped, superb when it comes to comfort, and offers the largest cabin in the mid-size segment.
I’m as surprised as you possibly are that Toyota even sells it as a manual, but honestly, it’s this car’s worst attribute. It only serves to tarnish the drive experience. Pay the extra and get the auto.
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 RAV4 has come far in its design and aesthetic since the previous generation. It’s much better at grabbing your eye as it cruises past, and although it borrows a lot from the Kluger which has been on the market for a while now, it still strikes the eye as modern and angular.
The double-barreled snout, air dams and chunky wheelarches add a sense of capability to its contemporary guise. Even this base car gets chunky alloys and is covered in contrast black plastic cladding, adding to its look over base-model competitors. The blue tinge of LED headlights rather than the dull tones of halogens seal the deal.
Around at the rear it modernizes the dated Kluger formula with squared-off light fittings and a roof spoiler. The wholly unnecessary dual-exhaust is nice, too.
The interior is where the most base model tells are. You’re greeted by a sea of grey plastics, although to Toyota’s credit, many of them are soft to the touch. It’s all too easy to notice the blanked-out buttons, covered over climate control dials and six-speed gearshifter that looks like it was dropped out of a last-generation Corolla.
While the big screen nestles in the dash, 8.0-inch multimedia touchscreen and silver highlights help counteract the base-model blues, there’s no escaping a nasty plastic steering wheel.
The overall visual aesthetic of the RAV4 is still cool, though. On the inside there are great textures hidden everywhere. There’s a triangular pattern in all the storage areas designed to help stop objects from moving, stripped rubbery textures on the inside of the door handles and rubbery turbine patterns on the air-con and volume knobs. Nice touches.
The seats are in a plain pattern but nice to the touch and should be fairly easy to clean as they are comprised of a rugged synthetic material.
All that adds up for a cabin ambiance that easily outclasses most price-competitors, and even higher-spec cars from rival brands.
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.
I parked this RAV4 next to a last-generation Toyota Kluger and really shouldn’t have been surprised how close they were in size. Still, bracket creep means the RAV4 is now truly gigantic compared to its forebears and that means family practicality all over.
It’s things as simple as the fact that both doors are massive and open very wide, allowing for super easy access to any seat for less mobile passengers, those lifting cargo up into the cabin, and those who might need to fit child seats.
Leg and headroom for the front two passengers is stellar, and the driver’s position is very adjustable, even with the base manual-adjust seats. Visibility is up with segment leaders like the Subaru Forester, as the RAV4 is essentially a glasshouse with massive windows and wing-mirrors.
Even the dial cluster is huge and legible, and there are big dials for operating the air conditioning and multimedia while you keep your eyes on the road.
You’ll find storage areas everywhere with that triangle pattern for holding objects in. All the bottleholders (two in the doors, two in the centre console) are massive, and there’s a huge trench in front of the shift-knob suitable for even the largest phones.
There’s even a long trench above the glove box for… aesthetic purposes? It has the no-slip surface, but objects would hurtle towards passengers under heavy acceleration, so I fail to see the point of it.
There's one USB port, one 'aux' jack, and one 12-volt socket for front passengers.
In terms of rear legroom, your second-row passengers will hardly be flying economy. I had a abundance of legroom behind my own driving position. Arm and headroom were also plentiful.
All doors have a soft strip across them for elbows. There’s a drop-down arm rest even in the base car, and the same chunky, grippy doorcards with a big bottle holder.
Rear passengers get a set of air vents on the back of the centre console, too.
The boot is ridiculous with a class-leading 580-litres (VDA) of space. It’s wide and unimpeded by styling bits, and you can even stow the roller cover under the floor paneling when not in use.
The GX ships with a space-saver spare, but you can upgrade to a full-size alloy spare for $300. If you do so you’ll remove the false-floor paneling.
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.
Price and features
That’s right. The GX manual is the cheapest way to get into a Toyota RAV4 today. Starting at $30,640 (MSRP – before on-road costs) we’d even consider it great value despite the manual 'box.
To understand why you just have to take one look at its specification sheet. Remember, this mid-sizer competes against the (also surprisingly still manual) Nissan X-Trail ST ($29,890), Honda CR-V Vi (auto - $28,290), and Mitsubishi Outlander ES ADAS (auto - $33,290).
If you’re happy milling your own gears, you get better kit than the auto entry-level CR-V, the manual X-Trail ST and even significantly undercut the entry-level Outlander (if you include the fact that the Mitsubishi requires the ADAS pack to even compete on safety).
Included spec on this absolute base car includes not-so-budget stuff like 17-inch alloys, an 8.0-inch multimedia touchscreen (which will ship have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto imminently, but if you buy a current-stock car you will have to return to the dealer for a software upgrade), DAB+ digital radio, built-in sat-nav, manual air conditioning (this base grade strips the cool little screens out of the dials), auto LED headlights, a 4.2-inch display in the dash, front and rear parking sensors, and heated auto-folding wing mirrors.
Other regular sort of spec items include six speakers and a reversing camera.
That’s the best kit at this price in the mid-size SUV world by a solid margin. That’s not all though, even this manual RAV4 features the full 'Toyota Safety Sense' suite. More on that in the safety section of this review (spoiler: It’s good).
Among the few giveaways that the GX manual is the cheapest one is the turn-key ignition, cloth seat trim, and urethane steering wheel. Still… are you really going to complain against its unprecedented list of inclusions at this price?
Options are limited to premium paint (every colour except for ‘Glacier White’ - $600).
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.
Engine & trans
The six-speed manual version of the GX as tested here can only be had with a 127kW/203Nm 2.0-litre non-turbo petrol engine.
Those power figures are so-so and you’ll need to push up the rev-range (and compromise your fuel economy while doing so) to make the most out of them because there’s no turbo.
There are more sophisticated powertrains available in this segment with superior outputs, although not many at this price.
The manual transmission does let you wrangle the most out of this engine, although I was less impressed with the way it feels. More on that in the driving segment.
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.
The manual version of the RAV4 wears a claimed/combined fuel consumption rating of 6.8 litres per 100km on the combined cycle. That’s pretty low, although nowhere near as low as the Hybrid auto’s amazing 4.7L/100km combined rating.
Over a week of driving in conditions I would consider true to combined freeway/urban driving, I scored 8.0L/100km which is not bad at all considering the RAV4’s size.
The RAV4 drinks base grade 91RON unleaded petrol and a 55L fuel tank. There’s no diesel version this time around.
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.
The idea of a six-speed manual with rev-matching technology (complete with three modes) sounds fantastic on paper. Comment section pundits will be overjoyed. The bad news is it’s simply not that great.
It seems to be geared quite tall, and there’s a long throw between each cog. There’s not much feel to it locking in, nor is there any feel through the extremely light clutch pedal, so I admittedly ground the gears on more than one occasion.
As much as I hate to admit it, I prefer the CVT auto in this SUV for the same reasons I believe all SUVs this size should have spongy suspension.
It’s not meant to be a driver’s car. This is a practicality appliance for families that just so happens to have wheels. It should be comfortable and easy to use.
Thankfully, the rest of the RAV4’s drive experience is exactly that. The suspension has a lovely soft comfort-focused tune, and the combination of soft springs and small wheels (shod with relatively high profile rubber) makes for a quiet and refined cabin.
Of course, the trade off is that the RAV4 is hardly a corner carving sport machine, but ask yourself – do you need that?
The steering is very light, making the big body easy to swing around city streets, but it does lose a little feeling at speed.
As already mentioned, the visibility is excellent out of this car, the amenities are easy to use without becoming distractions, and it’s reassuring that the safety stuff is all really rather good.
A riveting drive the RAV4 is perhaps not, but it nails the brief as an easy-to-use family machine.
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.
Even though this is a rare manual, it doesn’t miss out on much of the RAV4’s impressive standard active safety suite.
Included is auto emergency braking (AEB – with pedestrian and cyclist detection day and night), active cruise control (yes, even on the manual), lane departure warning (with lane keep assist), but no ‘lane trace alert’ available on the auto, traffic sign recognition, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross traffic alert.
That’s among the best active safety in the entire mid-size SUV category, and it’s all on the manual base model. Toyota’s here to win.
The RAV4 also has an above-average seven airbags, hill start assist, front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera (pretty good), and ISOFIX child seat mounting points on the outer two rear seats.
It also has the expected stability, traction, and brake controls.
Somewhat unsurprisingly once you’ve digested all that, the RAV4 wears a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating (with excellent scores across the four new categories) as of May 2019.
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 RAV4 is covered by a five year/unlimited kilometre warranty that Toyota thankfully upgraded to earlier in 2019.
But that’s not quite the whole story. If you keep your service record genuine and up-to-date Toyota will cover the engine for an extra two years, and you’ll also be covered by seven years of roadside assist and a 60-day money-back guarantee (if your car should suffer an issue which renders it ‘undrivable’ inside that period).
The five-year base coverage also includes panel work and any genuine accessory you might have fitted.
The RAV4 requires servicing once a year or every 15,000km whichever occurs first, and is covered by a capped price of just $210 (incredibly cheap) for the first four years.
The RAV4 is built in Japan.
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.