The Juke is zippy but Nissan still hasn’t smoothed out the rough ride
NISSAN’S Juke is a standout among compact SUVs. Nothing else looks remotely like the British-built baby.
The Juke has just had a tweak with minor styling revisions, extra equipment and a 40 per cent boost in the boot space of front-drive models. There is also a focus on the Ti-S models at the top of the line with pricing from $29,790, compared with the basic Juke from $23,490.
Some examples have even been pimped all the way to fullhouse GT-R supercar specification as a flag-waving exercise for Nissan. It’s only tiny numbers, and not for local consumption, but the GT-R transformation shows what the Juke can become with a bit of commitment and cash.
The Ti-S comes in front or all-wheel drive and can justify splashing the extra cash. Improved telematics can be viewed via a 5.8-inch colour screen and there is a 360degree camera that mimics the view in top-priced luxury cars such as the BMW 7 Series.
There is digital radio, not that it works where I live, with leather trim on the seats (the front pews heated). The Ti-S also has digital radio, pushbutton start and Intelligent Key with remote keyless access.
Under the well-named Safety Shield, Nissan includes lane-departure and blind-spot warning and moving-object detection, with visual and audible warnings of imminent danger. The Ti-S also adds xenon lights.
These worthwhile changes renew the Juke’s pitch in the super-crowded compact SUV class, where the Mazda CX-3 and Honda HR-V currently dominate the sales rankings.
In this class, the Nissan definitely sticks out. Only the Renault Captur — from the other side of the Nissan-Renault Alliance but with no connection to the Juke — serves up the same sort of style-driven effort.
It’s time to test for The Tick, the original Juke having showed some significant flaws beneath its funky gen-Y panels. The rock-hard ride was not what you want in a country where
soft-and-supple does a better job on country roads or the pockmarked broken concrete of city streets.
The Juke is instantly familiar, and I go straight to the boot to test the claim of increased space. It’s there, for sure, and a big advantage over rivals (the CX-3 included) that started life with a compact hatch platform, designed without the family considerations of an SUV.
I also like the equipment in the Ti-S. The satnav is among quicker and more intuitive examples I’ve driven lately while the 360-degree camera package makes tight parking so much easier.
Then I hit the road and realise the Juke is still flawed as a drive. The suspension is far too brittle and uncompromising, there is heavy torque steer as the front-drive car tries to put its turbo urge to the road, and the seats are shapeless and uncomfortable for both front occupants.
The Juke is surprisingly punchy by the standards of the class, no surprise with 140kW/240Nm in an SUV that is only 1300kg as a front-driver.
It can be difficult to get away smoothly — the awful “hanging” accelerator drops revs very slowly between manual gearchanges to cut emissions — but it has great overtaking power and can be fun on the right road. The six ratios in the manual are well spread but the shift can be a little clunky.
Fuel economy is good at 6.0L/100km, although the car takes 95 RON and the turbo adds nearly to $1000 for scheduled servicing through to 100,000km over the basic Juke.
The road needs to be very, very smooth or the Juke turbo tries to spin a front wheel, or crashes around on its suspension in a way that’s not remotely enjoyable for the driver or passengers.
Even upgrading to all-wheel drive, according to other Carsguide testers, does not tame the driveline enough for Australian roads.
Ironically, the Juke highlights the differences between the two sides of the Renault-Nissan Alliance and the disconnection between models that compete in the same class. The Juke has power and no control while the Captur from Renault has wonderful suspension but is well short of go with its baby three- cylinder engine.
It’s a bit of a joke that there is no collaboration on things where the two companies have complementary skills and the ability to provide the cars that customers really want and need.
TICK OR NO TICK
It’s great to enjoy the Juke’s safety and convenience upgrades and bigger boot. I really wanted some updating of the suspension and seats that provide more comfort and support. That hasn’t happened and it means the car’s biggest flaw still exists. So there is no Tick.