NISSAN JUKE’S BOLD NEW FACE

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Nissan Juke arguably has the boldest shape its class, arguably of any vehicle currently on sale in Australia. Now it’s even more radical thanks to a major makeover front and rear.

Juke is all about funky style. The front and rear wheel arches bulge up and out to give it a muscular stance. The disguised rear door handles make it look as though it’s a coupe-like three-door, but the handles are there and provide the convenience of four-door entry that most are demanding these day.

What appear to be large headlights are actually foglights, whereas the headlights sit high on the bonnet. The turn signal repeaters previously sat on the top of the headlights. Some drivers found this distracting, particularly at night, so Nissan has moved them to a more conventional position on the door mirrors.

In its Series 2 iteration the Juke’s forward area is based on the Nissan V-Motion front with strong curves a big lower area setting off a slimmer upper section. Nissan advises the headlights now have boomerang shape, but we must admit we are able to see any resemblance to the Aussie icon.

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The rear bumper is bigger and the taillights, again, have what Nissan calls a boomerang design.

New colours have added, including Bumblebee Yellow, Magnetic Red and Ink Blue – which makes a pleasant change from the endless greys and silvers that are dulling down our roads these days.

Inside, Juke’s styling isn’t quite as radical as the body’s, but the big instruments, large centre console and gear lever housing continue the circular theme.

There are changes to the engine lineup, a 1.2-litre turbo-petrol is used in the entry level 2WD Juke ST. With 85 kW of power and 190 Nm of torque, the latter from just 2000 rpm it sits beside a six-speed manual gearbox. We found this combination performed well in the relatively light 2WD Juke.

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The previous 1.6-litre non-turbo powerplant is still offered in the 2WD Juke ST and has had some upgrades. It produces 86 kW, and 140 Nm at a highish 4000 revs and drives through a CVT automatic transmission. We have yet to test drive this variant.

The topline Juke Ti-S has a turbocharged 1.6-litre petrol. Shared with the Pulsar SSS it has a very handy 140 kW and 240 Newton metres of torque, the latter running over a huge range – giving you maximum grunt all the way from 1600 to 5200 rpm. Most people will be driving in this range virtually all of the time. We loved it.

With 2WD the 1.6 turbo comes with a six-speed manual, the AWD uses the CVT auto.

DRIVING
Interior space is pretty good for a small SUV though taller rear seat occupants could find their heads close to the roof.

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 for some drivers.

For some strange reason the original Nissan Juke two-wheel-drive used the same rear underbody as the all-wheel-drive. Meaning there was a big empty space where the rear differential wasn’t fitted. That situation has been sorted out, so Juke’s AWD with 2WD have gained a whopping 40 per cent more luggage space, at 354 litres. Obviously the AWD Juke still has the smaller 251-litre boot of the first model.

Folding rear seatbacks, with a 60/40 split, add versatility in both drivetrains.

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 anchorages; and a reversing camera.

The comfort / ride balance is nicely sorted out, though not really in as sporting manner. Nissan Juke grips in corners and it will take a ham footed driver to upset it. In which case the electronic aids will step in and help save them.

Nissan Juke joins stylish small SUVs like Ford Kuga, Holden Trax and Renault Captur in a hard fought market segment.

All these compact SUVs have plenty of style, but the Juke dares to be really different and many buyers, especially younger ones, love them. Interestingly, retirees who were once part of the sex, drugs and rock and roll generation see Juke as bringing back memories.

Not only that, but the oldies are finding the accessibility of the high set seats and large boot, at least in the Juke 2WD, make it kinder on their ageing bones.

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