"The Nissan Juke looks like nothing else on the road... if only it was a little more exciting to drive."
The Nissan Juke's funky dimensions have certainly proved a hit with buyers looking for an SUV-like supermini. A chunky choice for people who might otherwise go for the Ford Fiesta or MINI Cooper, the 4x4-styled Juke has a sense of personality that comes at a lower price point than other compact SUVs. Just remember that its high driving position doesn’t change its supermini nature – this is not a practical estate car.
The Juke is offered in five main specifications – entry-level Visia, Acenta, Acenta Premium, n-tec and top-of-the-range Tekna – but only comes with a choice of three engines, including the performance-focused Nissan Juke Nismo. So there's a 1.5-litre diesel and three 1.6-litre petrols (with or without a turbocharger). Only one specification level actually comes fitted with four-wheel drive, however, and even then you can only specify it with a CVT automatic gearbox.
The Juke's supermini origins are more fully revealed by the small amount of boot space, while taller passengers will find it cramped when they finally manage to squeeze into the back. Having said all that, equipment and accessories are generous, and the 197bhp 1.6-litre Nissan Juke Nismo offers some genuinely good performance, plus an even more distinctive exterior with big bumpers and larger alloy wheels.
MPG, running costs & CO2 emissions
The one SUV characteristic that the Juke does deliver on is a lack of efficiency. Even the 1.5-litre diesel only manages to return 55.4mpg and emit 124g/km of CO2, and none of the models in the range qualify for the all-important tax-free status. Basically, if fuel economy is important to you, look elsewhere in the supermini segment where there are lots of super-efficient choices. The Juke really is a case of style over substance, but it's that style that makes the resale value of the car strong over three years, so you at least you'll make some money back on a good second-hand deal at the end.
Interior & comfort
In most cars, soft suspension equals a comfortable ride. Oddly, not in the Juke – bumpy roads remain bumpy, and there's a lot of the body roll when driving through corners. It's almost like Nissan thought the way to match the rugged exterior to the driving experience was to make it feel off-roady when on-road, which is a shame, really. However, the interior is good, with hardly any wind or road noise getting through the effective insulation when you’re on the motorway.
Practicality & boot space
Anyone sat in the front of the Juke will be fine in the supportive and comfy seats. However, anyone unlucky enough to ride in the back will find the sloping roof putting a crick in their neck and their knees round their ears – and that's even if you haven’t dislocated your hip trying to get through the tight back doors. This is the real lightbulb moment – despite how it looks, the Juke is a small car. So the boot offers only 251 litres of space with the standard-fit 60:40 split-folding rear seats still in place. Drop them down flat, and that increases to a reasonable if not breathtaking 550 litres of luggage capacity – hardly what the SUV exterior promises. There are extra storage compartments beneath the boot floor, though, and the interior is decked out with lots of storage cubbies and drinks holders to keep families happy, including two large cup holders in the centre console and a big glove compartment for bits and bobs.
Reliability & safety
Nissan took a bit of a tumble in the 2013 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey's manufacturers rankings, dropping eight spots to finish 12th. It's mainly disappointing because it looked like Nissan might actually threaten the dominance of the top three – Jaguar, Lexus and Skoda. Likewise, the Juke dropped a hefty 49 places down the lost of top 100 cars, ranking 62nd, which is quite a fall from grace seeing as it was the top ranked supermini in the 2012 survey. Lacklustre interior quality and low practicality were what most let it down. There's no denying that the interior is fairly functional, but it is still well laid out and reasonably smart. Yet, you can’t ignore that a lot of the plastics are a bit cheap looking, even if they’re probably strong enough to withstand heavy use. Thankfully, the list of safety equipment is reassuringly long, with even the lowest spec Visia models coming fitted with six airbags, anti-lock brakes, active head restraints that help prevent whiplash and ISOFIX child seat anchor points as standard equipment. No wonder then that the Juke secured the maximum five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests.
Engines, drive & performance
The Juke's quirky looks are somewhat deceptive, because it isn’t as fun to drive as it is to look at. It is very easy to drive around town, thanks to light steering – too light though to be rewarding for keen drivers. Annoyingly though, that higher driving position produces a lot more body roll when driving through corners, especially when compared to the Ford Fiesta. The 197bhp Nismo is better, fitted with heavier steering and firmer suspension to create a sportier drive – which includes the ability to accelerate from 0-62mph in 7.8 seconds. But it does bob about a bit on uneven roads, so it's not perfect. Of the engines that are available - an 108bhp 1.5-litre diesel, a 187bhp 1.6-litre petrol turbo and 115bhp 1.6-litre petrol without a turbo – we’d recommend the 1.5-litre diesel, because of its good mix of efficiency and performance, but we’d give the jerky CVT automatic gearbox a very wide steer. There's also a low-power 93bhp 1.6-litre petrol engine available on the basic Visia specification but this is slow and doesn't even benefit from lower running costs. If you’re thinking about going for the four-wheel drive, be aware that it significantly dents mpg and emissions, so is only worth it if you absolutely need it. Mid-range Acenta models and above also get Nissan's Dynamic Control System, which offers Sport and Eco modes – not that we could actually tell either mode apart.
Price, value for money & options
As you ascend the specifications, every Juke model adds more optional extras to the already excellent standard equipment, while the Nismo adds that little bit of extra sporty appeal, too. The whole range is good value, all specs coming fitted with alloy wheels and air-conditioning, and the top-spec Tekna adding leather seats, keyless start and a reversing camera as well. The mid-range Acenta model includes a hands-free Bluetooth connectivity, a USB port for music, plus climate and cruise control, all as standard. Resale values on the used car market should also be strong, thanks to the Juke's popularity and desirability,