No car company has attacked the booming SUV market with more gusto than Nissan. With five SUV vehicles (Juke, Dualis, X-Trail, Murano and Pathfinder) as well as its big 4WD Patrol, Nissan can cater for the needs of everyone from the inner-city café cruiser through to the most demanding of bush bashers.
The newest and smallest of the Nissan SUV range is the Juke which arrived here in October 2013, although it had been on sale globally since mid-2010. Juke joins vehicles such as Holden Trax, Peugeot 2008, Fiat Panda and Ford EcoSport in the fledgling Compact SUV category, each of which is built on the same platform as small hatchbacks from within their respective brands.
Nissan Juke is based on the Micra hatchback whose quirky appearance has tended to polarise opinion and so it’s proving with Juke’s bubbly body attracting plenty of attention. Carrying over the theme from Micra where the headlights extend over the top of the wheel arches the turn indicators on the Juke sit on top of wheel arches and are visible from within the car. Some find this distracting so try and test the car at night if you have any concerns.
Both front and rear wheel arches bulge out to give Juke a Popeye-like muscular stance while ‘hidden’ rear doors handles provide five-door convenience with three-door styling.
ENGINES / TRANSMISSIONS
Nissan Juke comes with two 1.6-litre petrol engine. One is naturally aspirated with peak power of 86 kW and 158 Nm of torque; the other a turbocharged, direct injection (DIG) unit that puts out 140 kW and 240 Nm and which is shared with the Pulsar SSS.
The entry level Juke ST comes with the 86 kW engine mated to either a five-speed manual gearbox or CVT automatic. The higher-specced ST-S and Ti-S each get turbo power; the ST-S only with a six-speed manual and the Ti-S with CVT. Each of the CVTs have preset ratios when a manual override is needed.
All Juke models have Nissan’s Dynamic Control System with a choice of three drive modes, Normal for everyday driving, Eco for maximum efficiency and Sport for extra performance.
Inside the Juke stying is less adventurous than outside although the large centre console and gear lever housing continue the circular theme.
Interior space is limited but well-managed although taller rear seat occupants could find their head scraping on the ceiling. Rear legroom is better but is offset by a small (251-litre) boot meaning that the 60/40 folding rear seatback is likely to come into play quite frequently for transporting even moderate amounts of cargo.
There’s good front headroom and the driver’s seat is comfortable and supportive although the absence of telescopic steering wheel adjustment does dictate seat positioning more than we’d like.
All Juke models get front, side and curtain airbags; stability and traction control; ABS brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist; ISOFIX child seat anchorage; ST-S and Ti-S add a reversing camera, automatic headlights with twilight detection, and rain sensing variable windscreen wipers.
All models come with Bluetooth hands-free telephone but only the ST-S and Ti-S models include audio streaming, quickly becoming a must-have feature with tech-savvy buyers. The upper-specced variants also get a 5-inch LCD monitor that displays satellite navigation as well as audio, phone and driver data. There are also six speakers (two more than the ST).
We were able to test both the lowered-powered 2WD ST and turbocharged AWD ST-S during our recent Juke road test. For day-to-day commuting the ST’s combination of 88 kilowatts, 158 Newton metres and two-wheel drive will be quite acceptable to most. The more enthusiastic driver will be attracted to the extra power and torque from the turbo engine although if they don’t want to do their own gear changing then they’ll need to pay the extra near-$4000 and step up to the AWD Ti-S.
The DIG Turbo engine does add a different dimension to the Juke with the sort of driving enjoyment that you wouldn’t expect from an SUV. It would be a stretch to call it a hot hatch but there’s still plenty of fun to be had.
The comfort / ride balance is just right and Juke gripped corners with reassurance and little body roll.
Nissan has a long history with CVT and has made significant improvements in recent models so it was disappointing to find the Juke’s system a bit noisy. A reminder that, although it’s new in Australia, this is car that’s nearly four years old and due for an upgrade next year.
Like its Micra sibling Nissan Juke is a car that dares to be different and there’s no doubt that many buyers, especially younger ones, will jump into Nissan Juke on looks alone. On the other hand there will be those are attracted to features such as the turbocharged engine may well be turned off by the bubbly appearance.
For what it’s worth we love the quirky looks of the Juke as well as its SUV qualities of extra driving height and functionality. Engine performance, especially from the DIG Turbo, is excellent and pricing is comparable to its competitors in this all-new category.
AT A GLANCE
ST 1.6-litre 86 kW petrol 2WD five-door wagon: $21,990 (manual), $24,390 (CVT automatic)
ST-S 1.6-litre 140 kW turbo-petrol 2WD five-door wagon: $28,390 (manual)
Ti-S 1.6-litre 140 kW turbo-petrol AWD five-door wagon: $32,190 (CVT automatic)
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Nissan dealer for driveaway prices.
FEATURES ABS Brakes: Standard in all models
Automatic Transmission: Optional in ST; not offered in ST-S; standard in Ti-S
Cruise Control: Standard in all models
Dual Front Airbags: Standard in all models
Front Side Airbags: Standard in all models
Electronic Stability Program: Standard in all models Rear Parking Sensors: Not offered Reversing Camera: Not offered in ST, standard in ST-S and Ti-S
USB/Auxiliary Audio Inputs: Standard in all models
Satellite Navigation: Not offered in ST, standard in ST-S and Ti-S
Bluetooth: Standard in all models
Steering Wheel Mounted Controls: Standard in all models
SPECIFICATIONS (Nissan Juke ST 1.6-litre petrol five-door wagon)
Capacity: 1.598 litres
Configuration: Four cylinders in line
Head Design: DOHC, four valves per cylinder
Compression Ratio: 10.7:1
Bore/Stroke: 78.0 x 83.6 mm
Maximum Power: 86 kW @ 6000 rpm
Maximum Torque: 158 Nm @ 4000 rpm
Driven Wheels: Front
Manual Transmission: Five-speed
Automatic Transmission: Continuously variable
Final Drive Ratio: 4.214:1
DIMENSIONS, WEIGHT AND CAPACITIES:
Length: 4135 mm
Wheelbase: 2530 mm
Width: 1765 mm
Height: 1565 mm
Turning Circle: 10.7 metres
Kerb Mass: 1166 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 46 litres
Towing Capacity: 608 kg (1250 kg with braked trailer)
SUSPENSION AND BRAKES:
Front Suspension: McPherson struts
Rear Suspension: Multi-link, torsion beam
Front Brakes: Ventilated disc
Rear Brakes: Ventilated disc
Type: Petrol 95RON
Consumption – Combined Cycle (ADR 81/02): 6.0 L /100km
GREEN VEHICLE GUIDE RATINGS:
Green Vehicle Guide Greenhouse Rating: 8/10
Green Vehicle Guide Air Pollution Rating: 6.5/10