The Nissan Juke is wilfully weird but it's hit a nerve with British buyers who love the thing. Jonathan Crouch takes a look at the updated version.
Ten Second Review
If you need a car that blends into the background look somewhere else. Nissan's Juke has sold like hot cakes and the latest update keeps the design extreme but adds smarter technology, cleaner engines and more personalisation options.
By most accepted rules of vehicle marketing, this shouldn't happen. For a car with as divisive a look as the Nissan Juke to rack up such huge sales would suggest that those who love it really love it. The usual template is for the big sellers in a range to be conservatively-styled while the niche models on the periphery are ones that car manufacturers can afford to take the odd risk with. Perhaps the Juke was originally destined to be an outlier but went mainstream. Whatever, it's here, it's hard to ignore and it's been updated to keep buyers interested. What is most amazing about the Juke is that a company the size of Nissan could build it. The usual procedure is for a maverick designer to come up with just such a concept only for octogenarian company heads to shelve it, for customer clinics to reject it or for marketing pressure to water it down. Somehow the Juke survived all of these potential trapdoors and remains singularly the most distinctive family car on sale today.
Though the existing 110PS 1.5-litre dCi diesel continues unchanged, there's otherwise quite a bit of change to report beneath the Juke's stubby bonnet when it comes to the pair of petrol powerplants on offer: one is new to the Juke and the other extensively revised. The 1.2-litre DIG-T petrol engine, developed in conjunction with partners Renault, replaces the original model's aging 1.6-litre unit and features turbocharging and direct injection to deliver 115ps and 190Nm of torque. Despite its modest size, this 1197cc turbo four packs a real punch, offering sharper acceleration and greater torque than the old 1.6-litre naturally aspirated motor. The popular 1.6 DIG-T turbo petrol unit has been further improved to deliver lower end torque below 2,000rpm. Producing 190PS, this is available in both front and all-wheel drive versions. Go for an all-wheel drive variant and you have the option to specify the Xtronic transmission gearbox, which further improves fuel efficiency and acceleration. The Juke's elevated stance but diminutive overall length doesn't promise a stellar driving experience, but as the last model proved, within a few yards you'll realise that this is a fun car to hustle about. Nissan Dynamic Control helps here; an advanced driver control system giving the choice of three different driving modes, Normal, Sport or Eco, along with instant driving information and vehicle setting controls. The torque vectoring system on the latest all-wheel drive model incorporates technology that Nissan initially used to such devastating effect on their GT-R supercar-slayer.
Design and Build
Yes, the Juke does still look like either something dredged up from the abyssal depths of the ocean or a fun, friendly and futuristic little runabout, depending on your perspective. Whichever camp you're in, you have to hand it to Nissan for not losing its resolve and watering this version down. At the front, the upper lamps have been redesigned and now incorporate bi-intensity LED daytime running lamps, while the headlamps now have Xenon bulbs for better visibility. Door mirrors get LED indicators and, where fitted, cameras for the Around View Monitor. Bumpers, tail lights, alloy wheels and available colours have all been tweaked. The Sunlight Yellow metallic is sure to be popular with those who resolutely refuse to blend in. Nissan also offers coloured inserts which can be applied to the mirror caps, side sills, roof spoiler and door handles in order to further personalise the exterior. That motorbike-style central console continues inside and features such as the console, door trims and other elements can be individually coloured red, white, black or even bright yellow. Changes have also been made to the shape of the luggage bay in two-wheel drive models to boost luggage space by an impressive 40 per cent, taking the overall capacity to a respectable 354-litres. Versatility is further enhanced with flat folding rear seat, making it easier to load large objects, while the inclusion of a two-stage floor in the luggage area makes the space on offer even more flexible.
Market and Model
Rival manufacturers were left scratching their heads when Nissan started selling Jukes from around £13,000. To put into perspective quite how good the value proposition is here, consider the fact that you can now buy a 1.2-litre turbocharged Juke for less than the price of a 1.0-litre normally-aspirated Ford Fiesta. It's not as if the Juke is lacking in equipment either. Standard on all models are LED daytime running lamps, a CD radio with an AUX-in socket, a gear-shift indicator and a tyre pressure monitor. The Visia 1.5 dCi and 1.6-litre DIG-T versions add alloy wheels, manual air conditioning, a drive computer and driver seat height adjustment. Go for the Acenta trim and you receive front fog lights, 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic air conditioning, remote audio controls, Bluetooth connectivity for phone and audio streaming, cruise control and a speed limiter, along with the Nissan Dynamic Control System and chrome interior touches. It's no wonder this model has proven so popular. Tekna models add power folding door mirrors, light and rain sensors, the 'i-Key with Start/Stop' package and the latest NissanConnect with rear-view parking/reversing camera, Around View Monitor and Safety Shield. NissanConnect now offers smartphone connectivity through a 5.8in colour touch screen. The sat nav system integrates with Google to give information that ranges from weather forecasts to the location of fuel stations, hotels, restaurants and other points of interest. A clever send-to-car function also allows drivers to search for their destination on their PC at home, then send send destination instructions to their car's NissanConnect system at the click of a button. The set-up includes Bluetooth audio streaming and mobile phone integration, as well as AUX-in and USB slots.
Cost of Ownership
The updated Juke is looking to retain its predecessor's reputation as being inexpensive to run. Due in no small part to its distinctive personality, residual values have been a few points beefier than in many typical superminis. CAP Monitor quotes residual values of between 52 and 54 per cent after three years/60,000 miles, even outstripping the MINI hatchback by a good few points. The latest 1.2-litre turbo petrol engine makes good use of its lower weight, standard automatic Stop/Start feature and more fuel-efficient operation, delivering 126g/km of CO2 and returning a combined fuel consumption figure of 51mpg. The 1.6-litre DIG-T petrol unit features emissions of 139g/km of CO2 for the 2WD versions. All give best to the diesel engine which returns better than 61mpg. Insurance is very competitive too, with an opening rating of 11E.
You probably know the guy who complains that all new cars look the same but has nothing good to say when Nissan brings out something different and fresh. Don't be that guy. The Juke has deservedly carved itself a lucrative niche for itself with an inexpensive vehicle that drives well, is cheap to run and which isn't afraid to assert its own personality. The latest changes don't alter that fundamental appeal but adding tech inside and some uprated petrol engines certainly isn't going to do the Juke's prospects any harm. Should Nissan have gone a little further with the exterior changes? I'm not so sure. The Juke was already an extreme-looking thing and going overboard with styling updates would have smacked of trying too hard. As it stands, it'll continue to be the car that none of its rivals have come close to answering.