By Wayne Gorrett
Variant tested: Tekna trim with 1.2-litre DIG-T 115 bhp turbo petrol.
➤ Improved engine choices, more boot space.
➤ Cramped rear, external looks continue to divide opinion.
➤ What is it?
The Nissan Juke was designed at Nissan Design Europe in London and honed with slightly sharper pencils at Nissan’s Design Centre in Japan. Launched here in late 2010, the Juke is built at Nissan’s Sunderland plant alongside the Note, Qashqai and the all-electric Leaf.
Just as it did with the Qashqai, Nissan dissolved segment barriers when it introduced the uninhibited Juke, which aimed to repeat the success of the Qashqai, but on a smaller scale. Three years on, it has been subtly revised with an improved engine choice and greater scope for personalisation.
The Nissan Juke remains a head-turner as the high-rise hatchback profile boasts a clever blend of supermini and SUV styling cues, but the styling changes on the refreshed Juke are quite subtle.
It receives a slimmer front grille which underscores new LED daytime running lights incorporated into the upper headlights that now have new Xenon bulbs. There’s an enlarged lower air intake while the rear fascia has been redesigned with a bold new bumper and mesh trim. The door mirrors now house LED turn indicators and the rear tail light clusters continue the new LED trend.
The redesign of the Juke’s hindquarters has yielded a 40 per cent increase (to 354 litres) in boot space for front-drive models. However, all-wheel-drive variants take a significant knock with only 207 litres capacity, due to the AWD machinations underneath.
Personalisation is the buzzword with the refreshed Juke. Beyond the new colour palette, buyers can now choose from different coloured mirror caps, alloy wheel inserts and coloured interior trim.
➤ The Interior
There are very minor changes inside the cabin. On the dashboard, the two main dials are clear enough to read at a glance and there are two central colour screens; one for the climate control readout and a larger one for the satellite navigation and media interface.
Most crossovers try to blend the practicality of an SUV with the running costs of a hatchback. The Juke dances to a different tune, having sacrificed some elements of practicality at the altar of the style gods. The sweeping roof line looks great from the outside, but it does impinge rear headroom and rear leg room is adequate when compared to the best of the small hatch class.
However, in front-wheel-drive guise, the boot is now big enough to cope with a family’s weekly shopping, while under floor storage and rear seats that fold flat help with larger loads. For the driver, there’s lots of adjustment available to achieve the right driving position.
Nissan pitches the Juke as a lifestyle car, but it will happily double as a vehicle for small families. There’s enough room in the rear for children and the boot space (on the front-wheel-drive variants) is much better than before to make stowing pushchairs and larger items a more practical option.
➤ The Toy Box
The refreshed Juke is available in four trim grades – Visia, Acenta, Acenta Premium and Tekna (as tested).
Equipment on the entry-level Visia is refreshingly generous and includes 16-inch alloys, LED daytime running lights, height-adjustable driver’s seat, air-conditioning, all-round electric windows, CD/tuner, tyre pressure indicator, six air bags, ESP, ABS with EBD and brake assist.
Acenta adds more goodies like fog lights, 17-inch ‘Sport’ alloys, rear privacy glass, leather steering wheel, climate control, Bluetooth, cruise control with speed limiter. Acenta Premium gains sports seats up front, a NissanConnect system with 5.8″ touch screen navigation, reversing camera and DAB radio.
Top spec Tekna enjoys 17-inch ‘Urban’ alloys, leather furniture, heated front seats, Nissan’s Safety Shield (incorporating around view monitor, lane departure warning and blind spot alert), keyless entry with start/stop button and auto lights and wipers.
The big news here is that the 115bhp version of the thirsty 1.6-litre petrol engine has been discontinued. Instead, I tested the new DIG-T 115bhp 1.2-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine which is only offered with front-wheel drive here in the UK. It’s also available on the Qashqai where its excellent performance in a larger car is testament to its superb flexibility.
This engine is outstanding. It is responsive, free of cabin vibration and relatively quiet, with an accurate, lightweight gearshift from the six-speed manual with which it’s paired. The new 1.2-litre makes this crossover nimble, imminently chuckable in the twisty bits and fun and its 190Nm of torque is more than the 157Nm from the ageing 1.6-litre it replaced – and that torque arrives at 2,000 rpm, not 4,000 rpm like before.
➤ The Drive
The new DIG-T 1.2 engine helps the Juke drive more like a hatch and not a London cab. From the raised driving position, the Juke impresses with its stability and agility through the twisty bits. The UK suspension setup means the ride is a tad firmer than some would like, but it keeps body lean under control and makes the Juke much more engaging to drive than most crossovers. The steering also enjoys a directness which helps the Juke feel poised, keen and agile, whether it’s tackling a rural B-road or parking in town.
The Juke is one of Nissan’s success stories and this mid-cycle refresh continues to play to its strengths of style and price, while negating the previous weaknesses of boot size and fuel economy. The new 1.2-litre DIG-T is remarkable and is one of the best 1200’s I’ve driven in some time. The customisation offerings also mean that the new Juke won’t look like the other half a million Jukes sold since 2011. While it’s not the most sophisticated in its class, the Juke cleverly combines it looks, price and surprisingly good drivability like no other.
➤ Fast facts: Nissan Juke, Tekna 1.2 DIG-T 115bhp turbo
Juke price range: £13,420 – £21,300 * Price as driven: £17,670 * Engine: 1.2-litre, 4-cylinder turbo-petrol * Power: 115bhp * Torque: 190Nm @ 2,000 rpm * 0-62 mph in 10.8 secs * Top speed: 111 mph * Economy: 50.4 mpg claimed combined * Fuel tank capacity: 46 litres * CO²: 129 g/km * Gearbox: 6-speed manual * Servicing: 12 months or 12,500 miles * Warranty: 3 years / 60,000 miles.