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8 Oct, 2019 6:00pm James Brodie
The new Nissan Juke has finally arrived, but how does it perform on the road?
Nissan has taken its time with the second-generation Juke – but that doesn’t seem to have harmed sales. Despite a nine-year run, the previous version of this segment defining small SUV still left showrooms in big numbers right up to its demise – over 60,000 were sold globally last year, with well over a million finding homes since it launched in 2010.
Sitting on a new platform called CMF-B, shared with the latest Renault Clio, the underpinnings are tasked primarily with supporting a car that needs to be better to drive than its predecessor. Nissan has also targeted improvements in fuel economy and practicality, as well as improved on-board technology.
From a design perspective there’s a clear bloodline to the original car, retaining the old car’s split headlights (now powered by LED technology), strong shoulders and squat, sporty profile. It holds a spot of its own in Nissan’s line-up, but it’s clearly a larger and more conventionally-styled thing than before. Against the tape measure it’s bigger in every way too; the wheelbase swells to 2,636mm.
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That’s a good length for the class, and it’s evident in the back. Headroom is a little tight, it’s quite dark due to the tall window line, and there’s a transmission tunnel hampering the middle seat. But overall legroom and kneeroom are quite good, placing the latest Juke among more conventional rivals for space. The boot expands to a competitive 422 litres and the opening is now much wider than before, with an adjustable boot floor as well.
While the exterior changes with evolution in mind, the interior is a total overhaul from the previous car. Alongside the new cabin design, Nissan says fresh emphasis has been placed on quality, too. On range topping cars like our Tekna+ example that means Alcantara trim dotted around the cabin, and seats finished in part leather. But all this is present alongside some slightly hard, unpleasant plastics at hand height. The driving position improves massively though, and there’s a lot more adjustment than before thanks to a telescopic steering column.
We’ll leave it up to you to decide if you like the way the dashboard looks, but it feels well put together, and while not all the plastics are brilliant, some little touches – like the real metal for the swiveling vents – are pleasant and feel well placed in the Juke.
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The new eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system represents a sizeable step change over the display in the last car, and will be a welcome upgrade for buyers coming from Nissan’s original. But it’s a par-for-the-course system rather than a class benchmark, especially compared with the set-ups you’ll find in the Volkswagen T-Cross, SEAT Arona or Skoda Kamiq.
Despite the increase in size, the fresh platform means that the new Juke is 23kg lighter than its smaller, older sibling, while Nissan claims the structure under the bodywork is 13 per cent stiffer too.
A hybrid powertrain looks set to appear later down the line, but for now a turbocharged 1.0-litre petrol option is all buyers are presented with. Two gearboxes – a six-speed manual and a new seven-speed dual-clutch automatic (replacing the CVT from the last car) – are offered.
The engine produces 115bhp and 180Nm torque, with up to 200Nm available for a short time on overboost. Performance isn’t outstanding, and no Juke will do 0-62mph in less than ten seconds – something many SUVs similar in size are capable of. It’s more than enough to propel the Juke along though, and it’s decently economical, too. Nissan claims 45.6mpg, and that’s a figure we actually eclipsed during our test drive, according to the trip computer. An Eco drive mode can be selected via a switch beneath the gearstick; select it and your fuel economy will improve, but performance tails off quite significantly.
By and large it’s an inoffensive, quiet and economical powertrain few will fault, but not without one or two minor drawbacks. The six-speed manual gearbox it’s linked to is one of them; while a massive improvement on the previous Juke it’s a little notchy and unappealing to shift. It’s also prone to a bit of transmission whine, noticeable when maintaining a steady motorway cruise. It’s a shame, as without the constant high-pitched chirp seeping in, this would be one very refined small SUV indeed.
The steering and body control are good though. The wheel fails to transmit any feedback from the road surface, but Nissan has done a good job of mixing weight and speed to give a sense of sportiness and agility without compromising how easygoing the Juke is to drive. The wheel itself feels a little old-hat and is button heavy, but in range Topping Tekna+ grade this is an SUV with plenty in the way of driver assistance features that need to be at hand.
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Nissan’s latest ProPilot semi-autonomous driver assistance technology means that you’ll find plenty of big car technology on Nissan’s smallest SUV. Most of it is optional on mid-spec N-Connecta grade cars, but standard on Tekna cars upwards.
Manual models like ours forego the traffic jam assist function that can bring the car to a complete stop, but setting the cruise control and then tapping the blue ProPilot button found on the steering wheel means it’s capable of maintaining cruising speed, distance from other cars, and its position in lane on motorways – something few Juke rivals can do quite so completely.
The ride is on the firm side of things, but not overwhelmingly so. The Juke is a crossover with a sporty look and character to play up to, and while the suspension does pick-up the odd vibration and frequency at mid-speed where, say, a T-Cross wouldn’t, it never crashes and clatters harshly over imperfections. Speed-bumps at a slower pace do unearth the damping’s tough edge though.
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Rearward visibility isn’t hampered too badly by the squat shape, but the view over the shoulder seems a little restricted by the tall beltline and the large headrests found on the standard sports seats. Blind spot warning seems like a sensible box to tick in this regard – especially as it’s now capable of guiding the car back into its lane if the driver begins to drift towards another vehicle.
Overall, the new Juke is definitely a more sensible B-segment crossover than before, joining a flock of similar cars for a sensible price. The new, Sunderland-built Juke starts from £17,395 and extends to £25,395 for a special, fully loaded ‘Premiere Edition’ model available from launch only.
Most buyers will be steered towards a mid-spec, £20,995 N-Connecta car, though, available with a £500 dealer deposit contribution if you opt for a PCP deal. Stick down £1,500 and Nissan says you’ll pay £316 a month over 36 months.
4 While the first Nissan Juke was a maverick, the second-generation model ruffles fewer feathers. It’s ceded to convention in many ways, and yet it remains a design-led car many will buy solely on how it looks. It steps up with far better driving dynamics, and an engine that balances useful performance with good fuel economy. It’s more practical too. But this is now a very crowded market, and one that’s harder than ever to stand out in.
- Model: Nissan Juke Tekna+ 1.0 DIG-T 117PS
- Price: £23,895
- Engine: 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol
- Power/torque: 115bhp/200Nm
- Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel-drive
- 0-62mph: 10.4 seconds
- Top speed: 112mph
- Economy/CO2: 45.6mpg/118g/km
- On sale: Now