The Numbers

1598cc 4cyl, 86kW, 158Nm, 6.0L/100km

The Topgear Verdict

Props to Nissan for the adventurous looks, now it just needs the substance to match the style.

2013 Nissan Juke

So, what is it?

A small-ish, funny looking, five-seat SUV. The primary shape came out of Nissan Design in Europe, with final tweaking in Japan. It sits on a long-wheelbase version of Nissan’s B platform, which also underpins the Pulsar.

Why should I care?

Its quirky exterior styling has made the Juke a cult favourite in other markets. Nissan’s decision to produce such a left-field offering adds personality to the brand, and provides a ‘different’ option in the crowded, but growing, compact SUV segment.

What's new about it?

Not too much. The Juke was launched globally in 2010, so it’s well into mid-life on release here, and under the skin, the drivetrain is Pulsar all the way.

That's all fine. What's it like to drive fast?

Not exactly thrilling. The base ST is front-wheel drive only, and powered by an 85kW/158Nm, 1.6-litre petrol four, matched with a five-speed manual gearbox. The mid-range ST-S, and top-spec, all-wheel drive Ti-S pick up a turbo 1.6 (as used in Pulsar SSS) that delivers a much healthier 140kW/240Nm. The ST-S steps up to a six-speed manual, while the Ti-S comes standard with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that’s optional on the other two. Expect 0-100km/h for the turbo in around 8.0sec, and a standing quarter in the low 15s.

Not surprisingly, the ST is a less than thrilling drive, but the turbo is much punchier, with a distinct sweet spot around 3000rpm.

The down side is the launch drive exposed wooden steering feel and the droney nature of the CVT. The manual gearboxes are light and positive, but this isn’t a fanging favourite.

And driving from home to the office in the city?

All models ride on 17 inch alloy rims, shod with 215/55 rated rubber; Continental ContiPremiumContact 2 on the base car, and Bridgestone Turanza ER300 on the upper variants, but the base and mid-range car feature a torsion beam rear suspension. Ride quality is variable, with ripples and potholes immediately making their presence felt. The Ti-S cops a multi-link set-up and comfort is better.

Cabin and cargo space isn’t exactly expansive, but the front seats are comfy, trim quality is high (on all models) and the 60/40 split-folding rear seat enhances flexibility.

Although there are a few touches of individuality here and there, the relatively straight-laced interior lacks the exterior’s eccentricity. Things like small, LCD-style graphics in the instrument panel, and tilt adjust only for the steering wheel, hint at the car’s age. A newcomer like Renault’s Clio eats it for breakfast on interior style.

How much would I have to pay for one? And is it worth the coin?

The entry level ST sits at $21,990, the ST-S steps up to $28,390, with the Ti-S topping out at $32,190.

Standard equipment includes four-speaker MP3/USB compatible audio, Bluetooth phone connectivity, cruise control, remote keyless entry, and the alloy wheels. The top-shelf Ti-S offers AWD and nicities such as partial leather trim, and heated front seats, but the best value is the mid-range ST-S. It picks up most of the range-topper’s fruit, including a five inch colour infotainment screen, sat-nav, six speaker audio, rain-sensing wipers and a rear view camera. If you don’t need AWD, it’s the pick.

What about a performance model?

Nissan’s performance subsidiary, NISMO, offers heaps of go-fast gear for the Juke, but Nissan Oz isn’t offering any of it at this stage. And of course there’s the completely mental Juke-R, a built-to-order special, which stuffs the GT-R’s 406kW engine and AWD system into the Juke. You guessed it, that’s not an Aussie option either.

Would you take this or the Hyundai ix35?

If you’re in love with the Juke’s looks, fair enough. But the Hyundai is the better option in terms of dynamics, equipment and value.

So what would you give the Juke out of 10, then?

This book’s cover promises action and adventure, but the actual story isn’t quite so thrilling. The dynamics aren’t up to scratch for the segment, and the base engine is off the pace. Turbo models are more involving and well kitted out. It scrapes in for a six.

Reviewed by: James Cleary

Driven: November 07, 2013