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The Top Gear car review:Nissan Juke
For:It's different, decent to drive, SUV-style seating position
Against:Not for everyone, practicality still compromised
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Controversial looks remain, but engine/boot tweaks make it more user-friendly.
Nismo is a legendary name among petrolheads. Which is why it’s now turned its attention to the… Juke. Eh?
What we say:
Nissan's fixed the woeful boot space with the 2014 facelift, but the Juke remains an oddity we struggle to understand
What is it?
Yes indeed, what is it? At launch we were tempted to say ‘not much’. It’s an urban poseur of a crossover, small-ish but not so small as to be truly urban-oriented, and it’s tall and beefy-looking to provide that hallowed element of SUV bling, without really having any off-road ability.
Today though, it’s selling extrememly well – a regular entrant in the top 10 charts – so it looks as if Nissan has hit the sweet spot with it. It’s been enhanced over the years with a facelift and progressively more focused Nismo version, while remaining decent value for a step-up supermini that’s a bit different.
The Juke actually drives reasonably well, with quasi-sporty handling and fairly nimble manners. The ride’s not bad either and, while hardly a dynamic masterclass, there’s still enough there for your money not to feel short-changed. Just avoid the mean-spirited basic 1.6-litre engine, that’s all: you’re far better off with the 1.2 DIG-T turbo, which is economical enough without having the rattle of the pricier diesel.
The Nismo RS is a rather interesting beast. It’s offered in two flavours, a regular front-wheel drive with 218bhp or a four-wheel drive with 214bhp but, shudder, a CVT gearbox. Of course CVT is short for ‘terrible gearbox’ and so you should avoid this one at all costs. Choose the standard car and you’ll enjoy an amusing hot hatch with a twist – certainly, with 0-62mph in 7 seconds, there’s enough power to help you keep Fiesta STs honest. Let’s face it, they won’t be expecting it…
On the inside
The Juke is a bit plasticky inside, although Nissan does conceal this rather well with the motorcycle fuel tank style centre console and tech-laden, if rather small central infotainment screen. Being SUV-like, it sits occupants higher than the small car norm, which is good for the slightly superior sense of wellbeing buyers love. Although high sides and thick rear pillars will make you happy many versions come with a reversing camera.
A significant update for 2014 addressed one of the Juke’s most glaring failings, its woefully inadequate boot. It was almost city-car sized and so compromised, it’s hard to believe it got through to production like it. Today it’s still hardly cavernous, but 354 litres with the seats up is much more like it.
You can pay bargain-basement prices for a Juke, but you don’t really want to. The Visia grades are positioned to sit alongside mid-range superminis in the chooser lists, but for buyer awareness reasons rather than to actually appeal once they get into the showroom. The favoured trim is actually N-Connecta, which has DAB, touchscreen nav and climate control as standard. It’s yours from £17,400, but let the ever strong retained-values massage the PCP figures so you can get it for a nicely competitive monthly sum.