Review

Nissan Juke SUV

£13,620 - £21,400

Nothing else looks quite like the Nissan Juke. The compact five-door SUV has quirky styling and – just like its bigger brother the Qashqai – it's blazed a trail that others (including the Renault Captur, Vauxhall Mokka and Ford EcoSport) have since followed.

The Juke's high driving position and radical styling appeal to buyers seeking something a lot more interesting than a run-of-the mill hatchback. Such people have little need of four-wheel drive, so despite its chunky looks, most versions of the Juke are offered with front-wheel drive only.

The Juke is powered by a range of petrol and diesel engines. The most economical is the 1.5-litre diesel. It's powerful, but a little noisy and rattly when stretched. Representing the petrols is an efficient 1.2-litre turbo. It's our pick for its smooth, powerful and economical nature, plus it suits the Juke's playful personality well. The other petrol engines are a 1.6-litre with a turbocharger (there's a more powerful version in the sporty, range-topping Juke Nismo) and two without. The turbocharged 1.6-lites are the only engines available with four-wheel drive, an arrangement that boosts the car's grip and on-road performance rather than enhance its meagre off-road abilities.

Disappointingly, and despite its radical looks, the Juke is an unrewarding car to drive. with overly light steering and a crashy ride. Automatic versions use a CVT gearbox, but this only makes the car noisier while strangling performance.

At least the Juke is well equipped. Even basic Visia spec features alloy wheels, body-coloured mirrors and electric windows. In addition, there's air-conditioning and driver's seat height adjustment. However, Acenta (the next trim level up) is our pick for its larger wheels, more upmarket finish and climate and cruise control. Top-spec Tekna introduces irrelevant and expensive touches including leather sports seats.

The Juke is quite cramped inside, especially in the rear, where even children may feel uncomfortable over long distances. The boot is small, too. It's safe, though, as demonstrated by its five-star performance in Euro NCAP crash tests. It packs an impressive roster of standard safety kit, too, including rear ISOFIX child-seat mounts, tyre-pressure monitoring, anti-lock brakes and (for an extra £400 on Acenta Premium versions) a safety pack featuring blind-spot and lane-departure warning plus a 360-degree surround-view camera. Reliability isn't as impressive, with the Juke trailing in 101st place in our Driver Power 2014 customer satisfaction survey.