The Micra-based Nissan Juke after nine years has been given a full overhaul. For many the little SUV is a like or loathe it car. Disarmingly cute or Frankenstein’s monster there is no denying the demand for the B sized SUV. The European designed / UK built Juke has racked up sales in excess of 1.5m. In 2010 the crossover had few competitors, today it has circa 24. We’ve travelled to Spain to test the new car before its launch.
Nissan Europe expects 30% growth in the Juke’s class between now and 2023. Produced in Nissan’s Sunderland plant in the UK all our questions about the potential impact of Brexit on the Juke’s lone production plant were kicked to touch by Nissan executives. The Juke has racked up sales of circa 10,000 in Ireland but in recent years suffered at the hands of the class leading Hyundai Kona, Renault Captur and other fresh metal. The good news, if there can be any for Sunderland, is that new Juke is a vast improvement.
Despite superficial similarities to the original there are major changes outside and in. The new Juke skips ahead of the current Micra by utilising the very latest Nissan Renault alliance platform as used in the latest Renault Clio and new Captur. New Juke has grown in all dimensions and is lighter and stronger than before. A five star Euro NCAP crash rating is expected. “The Nissan JUKE has never followed the crowd. Instead it leads the way, with its big personality and agile driving,” said Marco Fioravanti, Vice President, Product Planning, Nissan Europe.
The front end is smarter thanks to a prominent grille. The use of new LED lighting does away with the old and oversized light clusters. The Juke’s round headlights are kept but reworked. The bonnet and flanks feature muscular crease and lines that add a bit of architectural flare. The front and rear overhangs are nice and short and the plastic clad wheel arches are well filled out thanks to N Design’s standard fit 19 inch alloy wheels (SVE also gets 19s). The rear tailgate is reworked for better load access and opens to reveal a large 422 litre split level boot. The tail lights clusters are now split between the body and tailgate. Nissan says Juke buyers are driven by stylish design, to this end there are 11 exterior colours, three ‘floating roof’ colours and a host of customisable options and value packs. The grade structure for Ireland starts with the poverty spec XE (16 inch wheels, no CarPlay or Android Auto or centre touch screen), SV, SV Premium, SVE and N-Design.
The Juke’s wheelbase is 2,636mm (+105mm) and at 1800mm wide the Juke’s larger CMF-B platform delivers a positive affect on cabin space and dynamic handling. The Juke is now bigger than the Hyundai Kona and should be called ‘Juke and a half’. The cabin is dramatically overhauled and considerably larger also. The rear passengers gain the most with increased knee (+58mm) and headroom (+11mm). Luggage capacity grows by 20 per cent. Our range topping N Design test cars were very impressive but buyers of the entry model will notice the jump in quality in the cabin. The layout and materials are a step up from the harsh and nasty plastics of old. There is seating for five seat but four adults can fit with ease. The new layout is clear, clean and considered. Audiophiles will love the Bose personal plus sound system with its ultra near field head restraint speakers (optional on SVE & N-Design). The higher quality materials like Alcantara, leather and satin metal finishings are complemented by a host of new connected technologies.
Nissan’s most connected car yet gets a dual purpose data sim as part of the standard e-call system but it can also facilitate Wi-Fi and Google Home connectivity. Much like you can say “hey Mercedes, Alexa etc.” in many new cars, the Juke will let you do similar. Many functions as standard like CarPlay and Android Auto with others free for the first seven years e.g. ‘Google assistant’, ‘driving history & analysis’, ‘vehicle health’ and others. The more interesting connected functions like ‘smart alerts’ (if the car is speeding etc.), ‘maps and live traffic’ through to ‘remote control services’ that allow remote locking and unlocking via the data connection will be free for the first three years. To retain any optional services after the free period a subscription will be required. Nissan’s ProPilot semi autonomous driving is available on automatics versions (as an option on SV Premium and standard fit on higher grades). When activated the Juke can stay in its lane while cruising at a set distance to the vehicle in front and also stop and move off again in heavy traffic. The standard fit IEB auto braking system deserves a mention as it has the ability to recognise not only other vehicles but pedestrians and cyclists and will act if it calculates a potential collision. In the supermini-based SUV end of the market ‘modest’ petrol power is king. The new Juke will come with just one engine initially with possibly a hybrid (from the Captur) at a later date. Under the bonnet a nippy turbocharged DIG-T 1 litre stars. The three cylinder 117hp/180nm (200nm overboost) represents a 15 per cent power increase and a 30 per cent reduction in CO2 over the 1.6 litre. A manual six speed gearbox is standard but there is also an excellent seven speed DCT dual clutch automatic.
The Juke’s driver’s seat is set lower and is fully adjustable. The A pillars are now smaller and vision improved. The suspension has been overhauled and this is positively reflected in the ride quality and dynamism of the front wheel drive car. Driving aids on our N Design models feature Nissan’s active trace (inner wheel braking) and active steering return control. Three drive modes can be selected with Eco, Normal and Sport impacting on steering weight and throttle response. On the road the car is quiet and the engine is barely audible. Progress is surprisingly swift and confident. The automatic is a hoot on twisty routes in manual mode using the steering wheel mounted paddle shifters and great about town in full auto. The standard manual has a nicely placed shifter and all the driving controls are light and easy to use. The Juke has a more sophisticated ride and can be driven with surprising gusto. While clearly a more substantial car the Juke manages to retain an element of fun at its core.