Road test: The new Nissan Juke is no joke – in fact, it’s actually pretty good
Alex has been a road tester and motoring writer for more than 10 years, and has written on new, used and classic cars for What Car?, Autocar, The Daily Telegraph and PistonHeads, among many others.
If you live in the UK, you’ll be able to attest to the fact that Nissan Jukes are everywhere. In fact, a quite staggering 25 per cent of European sales of the first-generation Nissan Juke came to Britain; surely, it can be no coincidence that it’s made here, at Nissan’s Sunderland plant.
But the Juke’s popularity is not purely a nationalistic thing; buyers, it turned out, were crying out for a car with small hatchback dimensions, a high driving position and… well, perhaps a diplomatic way to put it would be ‘extremely distinctive’ styling. The Juke flew off the shelves, and spawned a host of imitators, the best of which are currently the Seat Arona and Volkswagen T-Cross.
After nine years, though, a new Juke is due, and its task is not just to continue the success of the old one, but to build on it. How? Well, sorting out the old car’s shortcomings would be a good start. The Juke found favour with buyers in spite of crummy interior plastics, cramped rear seats, a tiddly boot and a harsh ride. It was, in short, not a particularly great car.
There’ll be no diesel version, in the UK at least, and officially, there’s no Nismo model on the cards either (though Nissan’s engineers go very quiet and say things like ‘Yes, that would be nice, wouldn’t it?’ when you suggest one).
You can expect some sort of hybrid to join the range soon, though; most likely a plug-in as per the upcoming Renault Captur, with which the new Juke shares its underpinnings. Until then, the only engine is a 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol turbo that kicks out 115bhp.
It isn’t a particularly sparkling powerplant, this, but it’s adequate for the sort of use the Juke will be put to: bimbling around town and cruising along the motorway in an unhurried fashion. It’s miles better with the standard six-speed manual than with the new dual-clutch seven-speed, though; the latter Juke ’box (sorry) keeps the engine working high in the rev range, where it feels breathless and can’t make use of its respectable lump of low-down torque.
Happily, Nissan’s sorted the ride out; granted – the Spanish roads on which we drove the Juke were mega smooth, but even with the big 19-inch wheels the Juke rode very well, with only a slight background vibration on some road surfaces spoiling the party. Chances are even this will be ironed out with smaller rims and thicker rubber.
It’s quite enjoyable to drive, too, though you’d stop short of calling it sporty. The main culprit is the steering, which doesn’t really deliver any feedback and feels a bit over-assisted, but it is at least progressive, and combined with lots of front-end grip that makes the Juke easy to place in a corner. There’s plenty of lateral grip, too, and there isn’t too much body lean, so guiding it through a set of flowing kinks is satisfying.
Inside, there’s been a welcome improvement in terms of quality, and there’s also way more space than before. Granted, you don’t get as much room as you do in a T-Cross, but the Juke will now seat four adults at once comfortably, where the old one couldn’t. The boot is much bigger, too, and on all but the base model, it comes with a really useful false floor, that hides a space big enough for two or three cabin bags.
Talking of the base model, it’s a little stingy on equipment – you only get steel wheels, for example, which are almost unheard of on this fashion-conscious type of car. Specification improves relative to the Juke’s rivals the further up the ladder you go, though, with the mid-range N-Connecta offering a decent selection of toys.
So while the new Juke doesn’t spring to the top of its class, it’s now a significantly more cohesive proposition than its predecessor. And if you’re in the market for a small, town-friendly SUV like this, it remains a quirky alternative to its rather staid rivals that’s well worth a try. Get ready, therefore, to see an awful lot more Jukes out on the road.