When the Nissan Juke first went on sale in Australia in 2013, it attracted plenty of attention. It looked wild – you either loved it or hated it – but there was really no way you could ignore it.
Now the 2020 Nissan Juke is here, and it’s Nissan’s first attempt at a new-gen Juke. There’s a passing resemblance between new and old, but this car not only wears a fresh face, but beneath the skin there’s a new chassis, new safety, new electronics, and a new engine ensuring every aspect of the car is up to date for a modern audience.
The obvious leaping-off point has to be the looks, though. There are some trademark Juke-isms like big circular lights up front, hidden rear door handles, and C-shaped tail-light detailing.
Everything has been slimmed, sleeked or smoothed, though. There’s more tension in the lines and a much, much more conventional profile free from the vaguely duck-face look the old model portrayed from some angles.
Is it sad to see the unique and distinctive looks toned down? Maybe a little, though there’s bound to be more widespread appeal in the new Juke.
The four-model range for Australia covers a variety of budgets, starting from $27,990 plus on-road costs for the cheapest Juke ST and topping out at $36,490 (+ ORCs) for the Juke Ti shown here. That's not bargain-basement pricing by a long shot, as Nissan joins the semi-premium sphere, and it puts the Juke in almost the exact same price range as the larger Qashqai ($28–$38.5K), not to mention a solid overlap of the 2WD X-Trail range ($30–$39.5K)
The difference between each step relates to trim and equipment, for under the skin all Jukes use the same three-cylinder turbo petrol engine rated to 84kW at 5250rpm and 180Nm at 2400rpm driving the front wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.
There’s no manual option, no all-wheel-drive availability, and no high-performance model as seen in the previous model – at least not yet anyway. All of which positions the Juke as a very city-centric small SUV targeted at style-driven urban buyers who may not be fussed with off-road capability (or lack thereof).
Importantly, the interior has been treated to a big (and I mean seriously B.I.G.) overhaul. Age was the old car’s biggest enemy. It first arrived overseas in 2010 before screen real estate was king, and played fast and loose with some regular conventions.
The old car was interesting inside. The console was supposed to look like a motorcycle fuel tank and was finished in hard, glossy, scratch-prone plastics. The climate controls could be toggled to switch between AC info and drive-mode controls.
All kinda cool, and a great way to attract attention, but also a little odd for the sake of it.
In top-spec Ti guise, there’s still plenty of adventurous detailing: circular vents, swathes of suede-look on the dash, doors and console, an evolution of the motorcycle console, but this time padded and less likely to scratch up.
Better still, the infotainment touchscreen has grown to a more convenient size. The old Juke got by with a 5.8-inch screen, the Juke claims 8.0 inches of touchscreen real estate, and high-spec models get a 7.0-inch digital display in the instrument cluster flanked by analogue gauges.
The new infotainment system is Nissan’s latest, shared with other models in the range, and is packed with AM/FM/DAB+ radio, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, inbuilt satellite navigation, and voice recognition. All that's missing to complete the picture is a wireless phone charger.
It’s a system that may take a little learning, as some menu items are well hidden, but it can also be customised with a dedicated screen for inbuilt widgets to set it up as you like. It’s not the crispest of displays (especially when viewed alongside the much sharper instrument display), but is much more contemporary than some of Nissan’s older but still current infotainment platforms.
There are still a few signs of the Juke TI’s more affordable origins: hard plastics on the door uppers, and a much lower-rent plastic used on the lower dash. Not wildly out of place, but not quite as well resolved as other aspects of the interior.
Some of the Ti’s exclusive features cover things like: a unique design for the 19-inch alloy wheels, the Alcantara trim highlights, rear privacy glass, illuminated door scuff plates, a padded instrument hood, ‘follow me home’ headlight-off delay, and a Bose Personal Plus audio system with eight speakers and an unusual in-seat speaker system for the front seats that’s styled like a set of headphones looped over the headrest.
Other features shared with lesser Juke grades cover things like: single-zone climate control, keyless entry and push-button start, ambient lighting, leather steering wheel, heated front seats, a front console armrest, manually adjusted seats, adaptive cruise control with speed limiter, auto lights and wipers, plus LED head-, fog- and tail-lights.
The safety list is a long one, too, with six airbags, autonomous emergency braking that can detect cyclist and pedestrians, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, traffic sign recognition, intelligent lane intervention (to help prevent merging into the path of another vehicle), front and rear park sensors, tyre pressure monitoring, and a 360-degree camera system with moving object detection.
Local safety assessment organisation, ANCAP, has awarded the new Juke five stars under its 2019 ratings system.
Where previously the Juke offered a rather complex array of 1.2- or 1.6-litre turbo engines, two-wheel-drive base models, CVT auto and all-wheel-drive high-spec and two-wheel drive with a manual, the slate has been wiped clean.
The Juke serves one-size-fits-all powertrain simplicity with no carry-overs from the model before. Because the Juke is an SUV with a pretty clear urban focus, the 1.0-litre turbo engine and dual-clutch auto look like a reasonable pairing on paper.
Three-cylinder engines are known to be a little vibey and gruff at times, and that’s certainly the case here. At idle, the little engine reverberates through the interior, and as you accelerate the vibrations pick up in time with the engine note.
It’s not an awful experience, but there are certainly smoother ones out there. The little 1.0-litre turbo is as willing as it can be, so while it won’t set any land speed records, it can blat about in traffic cheerfully enough.
Although 84kW doesn’t seem like a lot of power, it’s close to other light SUVs like the Volkswagen T-Cross (85kW) and Hyundai Venue (90kW), while 180Nm of torque puts it between the 200Nm Volkswagen and 151Nm Hyundai.
Less of a happy union, the dual-clutch auto can be grumpy at low speeds. It’s fidgety when parking or making a three-point turn. Stepping off from the lights, it tends to pause for a moment before the car lunges into action.
Sometimes it’ll start off smoothly but withhold engine urge. Other times it’ll surge into action, and it’s not always easy to judge what you’ll get.
Once the car has some speed under its wheels, the transmission transforms, highlighting what’s so good about this type of automatic. It’s smooth between gears, responsive as speed or conditions change, and works well to impart a splash of sportiness if you desire.
There's an official fuel consumption rating of 5.8 litres per 100km, while in the cut and thrust of the real world, the Juke returned 6.9L/100km. That's a decent figure, though you'll need to keep it topped up with 95RON premium unleaded.
Those big 19-inch wheels underneath and a surprisingly stiff ride don't always get along with city streets. Cobbled and patched surfaces jolt and jar through the cabin and the ride constantly jiggles, further exaggerating the jittery engine up front.
Darting around city streets it’s harder to notice, but take to the highway and there’s a decent amount of wind noise from around the base of the front pillars. It’s also joined, annoyingly, by high levels of fan noise from the air-conditioning in a kind of white-noise symphony.
That’s a real shame, too. The Juke is the right mix of compact dimensions and raised seating position to best cope with the pitfalls of urban living. It would be nice if the ride and refinement matched.
Though it may only be compact on the outside (4.21m long, 1.8m wide and just under 1.6m tall), there’s room within for a 422L boot, which is not only big for a light SUV, but also surpasses the boot space of some SUVs from the class above. There’s more room in the boot of a Juke than there is in top sellers from the segment up including the Hyundai Kona (361L), Mitsubishi ASX (393L), but just a little less than the Honda HR-V (437L).
There is a high lip to load over, and the boot space is deep more so than wide or long. It’s possible to lean forward and drop the 60:40 folding rear seat, too, and a pair of bag hooks add a touch of utility to the otherwise plain space.
The cabin also manages to feel spacious for such compact dimensions. The front seats are a little on the snug side, but there’s stacks of head room. Width is a little short, but front-seat occupants probably won't elbow each other too often.
The rear seat tends to be more practical than you might expect. There’s enough room for adults without pressing their knees into the front seat backs. The one-piece backrest ahead and narrow side windows do trim down outward visibility, though, so short passengers may feel hemmed in.
Oddly, the flat rear bench is one of the best we’ve used in a long time if you get stuck with the middle position – it’s not lumped or bumped making it easy to use. The high exterior door handles aren’t kid-friendly, cementing the Juke’s role as a singles'/couples'/empty-nesters' express, along with a lack of rear face-level vents, though there is a handy back seat USB charge port.
There are bigger rear door openings, and more space in every direction than the previous Juke, making the whole package more practical.
Nissan covers the Juke with a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty and five years of roadside assist. Services are set at 12-month or 20,000km intervals, and under Nissan's capped-price program are set at $287, $419, $447, $419 and $287 apiece, or a total of $1859 for the first five visits.
Between the old and new Juke, there’s been an appreciable push upmarket. The top-shelf Juke Ti neatly balances the duality of being compact and practical for urban use, while also presenting as premium and more style-driven than your average runabout.
It isn’t a perfect package, at least not yet. The trepidatious transmission and rough-riding suspension won’t suit all tastes, particularly those used to a more relaxed runabout. Budget-savvy buyers are more likely to gravitate to the Qashqai and its 'more metal for the money' positioning.
The new Juke is light-years ahead of its predecessor, though, and although the pricing is unabashedly premium for the flagship Juke Ti, it shows what’s possible in a full-featured downsized urban SUV.