When I first drove the new Nissan Juke at its domestic launch a few weeks back, we singled out the drive experience for criticism.
Namely, we weren’t fans of the 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo-petrol’s low-down power delivery, nor the jerky dual clutch automatic it was paired to.
At the time, I was in the middle of also reviewing a Mazda CX-5, fitted with a muscular turbo engine and a slick six-speed conventional auto. It’s a smooth mover, so we were concerned the Juke may have suffered by comparison and earned an unnecessarily harsh critique.
This time around, I was coming from an MG HS. Chinese cars have come a long way and the MG isn’t a bad drive, but it also isn’t the final word on refinement… but it was still demonstrably better than the Juke.
The main annoyance is getting off the line. The turbo three-pot is unresponsive and the transmission clunky: the changes make you feel you’re on a rowboat.
Sinking the boot to get moving also sees some wheelspin in wet weather and doesn’t help fuel economy.
That said, the auto stop/start helps and is one of the smoother systems we’ve found. Overall, we used a just- acceptable 8.5L/100km over a week.
Things improve once on the move, though the transmission tends to pick too high a gear — resulting in low revs, where the Juke doesn’t do its best work.
Of course, a car as style-focused as this will appeal to many buyers who couldn’t care less how it drives.
And they can rub their hands together because everything else is very, very good — leagues better than the old version.
The packaging is excellent. Many small SUVs now offer almost as much interior space as family-favourite medium SUVs — the Juke manages it despite residing in the even smaller light SUV segment.
The 422-litre boot is deep and big enough for most family duties (for context, the first Mazda CX-5 only had 403 litres) while rear headroom and leg room are adult-friendly.
We were in the second-top spec ST-L, which is predicted to be the biggest seller.
But we think the next-rung-down, $3200 cheaper ST+ might be the sweet spot as it still offers an 8.0-inch touch screen, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, 4.2-inch driver display, comprehensive safety features, auto LED headlights with high beam assist, satellite navigation, heated front seats and more.
For the extra money, the ST-L mainly adds some nicer surfaces, moving object detection, adaptive cruise control, 360-degree around view monitor, a 7.0-inch driver display, a rear USB port and some other features — none of which we’d find crucial.
However, it does also increase the wheels by two inches and having 19s on a car this size does offer some visual impact.
In the metal, the Juke still stands out from the crowd.
The interesting thing to watch now is whether the Juke steals sales from its more sedately styled, now similarly sized Qashqai small SUV stablemate.
Though it’s matured, the Juke remains a style statement — one which will likely appeal to more people than before. Its space is excellent for the class and it is well equipped but the ST+ might be the best value variant. And we still don’t like how it drives.
2020 NISSAN JUKE ST-L SPECIFICATIONS
- Price: $33,940
- Engine: 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo-petrol
- Outputs: 84kW/180Nm
- Transmission: Seven-speed automatic, FWD
- Fuel economy: 5.8L/100km