At the risk of giving you a reason not to read the rest of this review, I’ll give you the vital info straight up on the new 2020 Nissan Juke. It’s smarter, more mature, bigger and better equipped than the old model. It’s also a hell of a lot better, too.
There, you can go straight to the comments section below now. There’s still some of the story left to tell, though.
Unlike many of my colleagues, I didn’t dislike the old Nissan Juke. It wasn’t a ‘great’ compact SUV by any means, but it was in many ways a trailblazer. Its styling polarised, but style is a personal view anyway, and in what was at the time a fledgling segment, the old Juke showcased the value of bold styling. Why run with the crowd when you can stand out from it? It dared to be different, when the regular two-box styling was getting suffocatingly boring.
Fast-forward to 2020, and the compact-SUV segment isn’t fledgling anymore – not by a long shot.
Moreover, it’s a segment that every manufacturer wants a piece of. It’s the new pathway into a brand, where a hatchback once played that role, and it targets what the manufacturers call ‘conquest sales’. That is, buyers new to the brand.
In such a competitive market, repeat business and loyalty alone won’t cut it. Therefore, any new compact SUV has a pretty serious job to do.
You can read our pricing and specification guide for the finer details, but much has changed since we last reviewed the old model. Styling, what’s under the bonnet, standard equipment and drivability are among the big moves. This is a very different SUV to the model it replaces, then.
A quick look at the range reveals that four model grades are all powered by the same 84kW/180Nm, 1.0-litre, three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine, and cover ST, ST+, ST-L and the range-topping Ti. Pricing starts from $27,990 before on-road costs and rounds out at $36,490 before on-roads for the flagship variant.
Official fuel consumption is claimed at 5.8L/100km, and while a launch drive is not the ideal conditions for testing this figure, we achieved around 6.8L/100km in our first drive.
The new Juke is bigger, too – 75mm longer, 35mm wider and 30mm taller – but there’s also a change to the standard equipment offering, with smartphone-mirroring infotainment and a full suite of safety equipment delivering a five-star ANCAP safety rating.
First, though, let’s take a look at the styling. I like what Nissan has done with the exterior – it’s been redesigned and softened, but it’s still unmistakably a Juke.
The old model really did divide opinion, and while there are elements here that might cause a similar reaction, there’s no doubt the new Juke is more appealing.
The high-set rear, sharp lines and curves, thin LED DRLs, and the window-level rear door handles all ensure the Juke cuts a sharp figure on the road. The grille treatment almost looks like a scaled-down variation on the revised Patrol, keeping Nissan’s SUV styling neatly aligned. From the front, the Juke is sharp and angular, but it works.
I spent my launch drive in the range-topping Ti, and it looks stylish on 19-inch alloy wheels, with LED fog lights, and tasteful detailing across the exterior design. What’s most interesting for me, in a styling sense, is the buyer mindset in this segment.
The way I see it, you’re buying a compact SUV because you don’t want a hatch. Yes, you might want the higher-riding driving position and load space practicality, but it also stands that you want something that looks a little less contrived than the regular hatchback.
I’ve actually stopped three old Juke owners since the launch and asked them why they bought one. All three said it was because it looked completely different to anything else on the market. There’s no doubt the compact-SUV segment is a style-conscious one, that’s for sure. Let us know what you think of the new styling in the comments section below.
All variants are now powered by the same three-cylinder engine driving a seven-speed DCT, which makes a lot more sense than having a variety of powertrain options in a segment that doesn’t seem to need them. Research from just about every manufacturer shows that buyers in this segment overwhelmingly opt for the FWD platform, and that features and inclusions are more of a focus than engine performance. That’s where the trim grades come sharply into focus.
In theory, then, the lack of AWD won’t hurt the Juke. Yes, the power and torque numbers don’t match the 1.6-litre turbo engine that used to be available, but again, this segment isn’t about powerhouse engines and performance figures.
Generally, we love three-cylinder engines, and so long as this three-pot delivers the engagement we enjoy, 84kW and 180Nm will be more than enough to get the inner-city job done.
Inside the cabin, the Juke feels well put together regardless of grade, and the Ti feels genuinely premium for the asking price. There are some hard plastics – at the tops of the doors mainly – but the general fit, finish and quality of material are excellent. I like the swoopy, characterful design and execution of the dash specifically, and you can see in the video that the Ti feels and looks more like a sports car’s cabin than an SUV’s.
The use of Alcantara inserts and sculpted seats makes a difference here, but there’s an elegant simplicity to the layout of the controls and displays as well. Keep in mind, you’re starting well under 40 grand for the Ti – and it certainly feels like it’s a pricepoint above that asking price at the very least.
On test, Apple CarPlay worked well for us, and we’ll delve further into that and Android Auto when we get a Juke in for a longer test. The 8.0-inch centre screen is clear and mounted high for easy visibility, but the 7.0-inch driver’s display between the two traditional dials is also worthy of mention, too. It’s here from behind the wheel that the new Juke really does feel like a new-generation vehicle.
While the infotainment display itself is – like the rest of the Nissan fleet – more basic than the best, it does work well, and the shortcut physical buttons are a good alternative to the touchscreen when you’re on the move.
I was surprised by how much room there is in the second row, and I was able to sit behind my own driving position without feeling hemmed in. The roof line is lower than a regular SUV, but it doesn’t close down on you, and there’s more than enough head room for adults as well. The view out through the rear windows is also more expansive than you'd expect for adults. Kids won’t get quite the same view, obviously.
Strangely, there’s only one USB point for the second row. The Ti gets premium audio, which includes excellent Bose speakers at the edges of the front headrests, and delivers quality audio output. The Ti’s front seats are heated, too – remember when that was only the domain of vastly more expensive cars than the Juke?
Its 422L is a useful amount of luggage space for the segment, but there is a deep lip into the storage floor, and when you fold the second-row seats down there is also a step from that floor up onto the backs of the seats. It has to be said, though, that while the storage space isn’t perfect, Nissan has made the best of what is undoubtedly a compact body style.
As you’d expect, a compact SUV like the Juke is a cinch to drive around town, but it also works well on the highway. You do need to get used to the small rear window, but the rear-view camera makes up for it when you’re parking.
The seven-speed DCT, which I didn’t expect to work as well as it does with a small engine, is smooth and sharp, and it doesn’t seem to get caught out in the wrong gear. The three-cylinder has that characterful thrum they all have, but it revs out nicely and feels quite sporty, despite the fact that this is no performance rocket.
On the subject of sportiness, the brakes and steering feel more inclined toward sporty than you’d expect from an SUV, matching the driving position. Sure, the SUV world is changing, but the Juke feels like an SUV that you can throw around with some enjoyment, especially if you head out of the city and find some good driving roads.
It’s not a sports car, don’t get me wrong, but the 19-inch rims, firm-ish suspension tune and taut body control give it that pretension. Which, in this segment especially, is no bad thing in my book. All that with the higher riding and seating height that so many compact SUVs don’t get quite right.
The 1.0-litre engine does reach the outer limits of its performance envelope when you push it hard above 90km/h – roll-on overtaking on the highway, for example. But then, it’s a small engine, so we didn’t expect it to be an effortless grand tourer.
Where the new Juke sits in the class is something we’ll find out when we get it into the CarAdvice garage for targeting comparison testing, but on first impressions it’s an above-average compact SUV and a big leap forward from the old model.