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Nissan Juke 2020 review: ST-L

Forget everything you know about the Nissan Juke. This is a new and truly global small SUV.

Daily driver score

3.8/5

Urban score

3.8/5

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.

The Juke heralds a crucial new era for Nissan. The Juke heralds a crucial new era for Nissan.

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.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

It’s clear immediately the Juke is no longer overpriced and undercooked, meaning serious competitive business in an emerging coupe small SUV segment alongside the Toyota C-HR and Mazda CX-30.

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.

The Juke boasts a very good set of equipment. The Juke boasts a very good set of equipment.

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.

Nissan’s multimedia suite exceeds expectations. Nissan’s multimedia suite exceeds expectations.

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.

Showcasing concept-car style 19-inch alloys. Showcasing concept-car style 19-inch alloys.

Is there anything interesting about its design?

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.

The juke features unorthodox lighting and an abundance of striking lines. The juke features unorthodox lighting and an 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.

The dramatic descending roofline is finished nicely with a contrast black spoiler. The dramatic descending roofline is finished nicely with a contrast black spoiler.

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.

All the eye-catching elements of the previous Juke are still there. All the eye-catching elements of the previous Juke are still there.

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.

How practical is the space inside?

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.

Up front feels much more spacious than its predecessor. Up front feels much more spacious than its predecessor.

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.

Rear passengers have improved usability, too. Rear passengers have improved usability, too.

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.

A whopping 422 litres of boot space is available. A whopping 422 litres of boot space is available.

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.

The boot space is on par with some SUVs in the segment above. The boot space is on par with some SUVs in the segment above.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

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.

The Juke comes with a single new powerplant. The Juke comes with a single new powerplant.

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.
 

How much fuel does it consume?

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.

Our (mostly urban) test returned a computer-reported fuel figure of 7.2L/100km. Our (mostly urban) test returned a computer-reported fuel figure of 7.2L/100km.

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.

Emissions are the reason the Juke needs all of its whiz-bang dual-clutch transmission and stop-start system. Emissions are the reason the Juke needs all of its whiz-bang dual-clutch transmission and stop-start system.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

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.

Nissan’s big technology jump has been more than just in the cabin. Nissan’s big technology jump has been more than just in the cabin.

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.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

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.

Nissan offers a five-year and unlimited kilometre warranty promise. Nissan offers a five-year and unlimited kilometre warranty promise.

What's it like to drive around town?

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.

The new drivetrain presents some annoying issues which stop the drive from being truly excellent. The new drivetrain presents some annoying issues which stop the drive from being truly excellent.

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.

The Juke’s ride is now well balanced across the front and rear. The Juke’s ride is now well balanced across the front and rear.

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.
 

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.

$33,940

Based on new car retail price

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Daily driver score

3.8/5

Urban score

3.8/5