"The Juke looks like nothing else on the road... if only it could be a little more exciting to drive."
The SUV-style looks and high driving position of the Nissan Juke offer a quirky alternative to the MINI Countryman and Ford Fiesta especially, at the current price. Don’t be fooled, however, the chunky SUV looks of the Juke mask a car that is more of a supermini. Engines are a 1.5-litre diesel and two 1.6-litre petrols (with or without a turbocharger) but only one car in the range is an actual 4x4 and that comes with an automatic gearbox only. Even the bootspace is more MINI than Range Rover. New to the range is the 1.6-litre Nissan Juke Nismo which adds a little bit of brawn to go along with the chunky looks.
The Juke matches its funky looks with a decent driving experience. Steering is a little light in feel but it makes up for that by being accurate and easy to use around town, where it will spend most of its life. On the bends, the SUV-like shape means it rolls a little more than a Ford Fiesta, but in everyday use it's comfortable and good over bumps. If a sporty drive is your thing, then the Juke Nismo is Nissan's addition to the range that adds faster straight line speed, heavier steering and stiffer suspension to the mix - at the expense of a slight bobbing motion over some roads. Nissan's Dynamic Control System (standard on Acenta models up) offers sport and eco modes, but there isn’t much difference between them. Engine choices are a 80bhp 1.5-litre diesel, a 187bhp 1.6-litre petrol turbo and a 115bhp 1.6-litre petrol without a turbo, while the Juke Nismo has a 197bhp version of the 1.6-litre turbo. Our choice would be the 1.5-litre diesel, which offers a good combination of power and efficiency. Unless you really need it, we'd avoid the four-wheel drive as it adds to running costs, and give the jerky CVT gearbox a miss, too.
The Juke has been fitted with relatively soft suspension, which normally translates into a smooth ride. Unfortunately, the Juke doesn't seem to have traded some of its road holding for road comfort by doing this, and the car can still feel a little firm over bumpy roads and suffers some body roll in the corners. The good news is that inside the car is well-insulated, with road and wind noise kept to a minimum, even at motorway speeds. Usually with superminis the engine noise will intrude into the cabin when it's pushed and the Juke is no exception, but it's quieter than many of its rivals and impressive as a result.
Nissan's reputation for building reliable cars is very good and the Juke is no exception. In the 2012 Driver Power survey it came in at a very impressive 13th place, helping Nissan to a remarkable 4th place overall. The interior is smart but functional, lacking some of the character that makes the exterior stand out and showing up in some of the materials being a little downmarket. They seem to be tough enough to last the lifetime of the car, however. The list of safety equipment is reassuringly long, even on the lowest spec Visia models and includes six airbags, anti-lock brakes, active head restraints that help prevent whiplash and ISOFIX child seat anchor points. The Juke was awarded the full five stars in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests.
The front of the Nissan Juke is a comfortable, supportive place for a person of any height to sit, despite its supermini origins. The rear, however, suffers for its stylishly designed sloping roof, making it difficult for many tall passengers to find a decent position to get comfortable in. It's even a bit of a tight fit through the rear doors, suddenly feeling much more like a small car. If the passengers have given up trying to squeeze into that rear bench, then you can fold the 60:40 split rear seats flat and liberate 550 litres of boot space - useful, because with the seats up the boot only holds 251 litres, which is just about reasonable for this class. There's also an underfloor compartment to for hiding away valuables. Making up for these limitations, the interior has been decked out with plenty of cubby holes and drinks holders that will keep families happy, including two large cup holders in the centre console and a deep glovebox.
Value for money
The Juke comes in six specification levels - Visia , Acenta, Acenta Sport Acenta premium, Tekna and Nismo. All add useful extras to an already decent list of standard equipment, with the Nismo offering a performance advantage, too. All specs are good value and come with desirable alloy wheels and air-conditioning, while the top-spec Tekna adds leather upholstery, keyless start and a reversing camera. The mid-range Acenta model offers a hands-free telephone connection, a USB port for music, plus climate and cruise control, all as standard. Nissan Jukes should also hold their value well when it comes time to make a good used car deal.
None of the Juke's engines provide great fuel efficiency. Even the 1.5-litre diesel returns only 55.4mpg and emits 124 g/km of CO2, with no engine qualifying for tax free status. If fuel efficiency is what you're looking for in a car, there are other places to look, especially in the supermini segment. However, the fact that the resale values of the car look to be strong over three years colud mean that you'll make up for the lack of efficiency when it comes to resale time.