Small SUV sales are booming as Aussies jump out of hatchbacks into high-riding vehicles. Now Nissan has launched the new version of its Juke small SUV to cash in on the segment’s popularity.
Bigger budgets usually get you a bigger car in any given showroom. But Nissan’s smallest car isn’t its cheapest. Pitched toward trendy youngsters or downsizing folk who have been around the block, the Nissan Juke is marketed as a fresh and funky alternative to cookie-cutter crossovers. Launched locally in June, it’s as new as cars come. There is a price to be paid for its cool-factor and in top-end Juke Ti trim, that price is $39,490 drive-away. The Ti is stocked with 19-inch alloys, LED headlights, smart keys, and an 8-inch touchscreen with smartphone mirroring. Nissan backs the Juke with a five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty. Servicing comes in at a little less than $1900 for five years.
You get a lot of gear in the range-topping Juke, including quilted Alcantara trim delivering a taste of Ferrari for a Fiat price. A clever Bose stereo has speakers built into the headrests, delivering a more immersive experience than you might find in rivals. Importantly, the back seat is much more accommodating than before and Nissan even includes a USB charging port for rear occupants. The boot is also usefully bigger, making the updated Juke more practical and comfortable than its predecessor.
The Juke has the gear expected from a new model in 2020 — auto emergency braking, active cruise control, rear cross-traffic alert and lane keeping assistance. A five-star crash rating is also good to see.
Every new Juke has a turbocharged engine and dual-clutch automatic transmission, a combination you will also find in the legendary GT-R. But supercar performance isn’t part of its package, as the Juke’s modest 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo engine makes just 84kW and 180Nm, requiring more than 11 seconds to reach 100km/h. It sounds charming and is smooth for the most part, but there is noticeable lag from the motor and Nissan’s dual-clutch auto can be slow-witted, deliberating when it should be decisive. Those big 19-inch wheels translate to crisp steering inputs but a bumpier ride than buyers might expect. As with every baby SUV, it can’t match the driving polish of a well-sorted hatch of the same size and price. We’re also unsure about Nissan’s new Intelligent Trace Control, which guesses where you want to place the car in a given corner and makes adjustments to its line without driver input.
Ford Puma ST-Line V, from about $39,500 drive-away
We haven’t driven the new Puma yet, but enthusiastic reports overseas suggest Ford’s newest model should be on baby SUV shortlists. It goes on sale in October.
Mini Cooper 5-door, from about $36,400 drive-away
Need a compact five-door with funky looks? Consider the Mini Cooper, which is more fun to drive with money to spare for personalisation.
Mazda3 G25 GT, from about $39,500 drive-away
Stuffed with technology, handsome to behold and sweet to drive, the grunty 2.5-litre Mazda3 G25 GT could be the best car on sale for this price.
The new Juke builds on the funky looks of its predecessor with a more practical cabin and up-to-date tech but as with most small SUVs, there are questions over its value and on-road refinement.
NISSAN JUKE VITALS
Price: From $27,990 to $36,490 plus on-roads
Warranty/servicing: 5 years, unl’td km, $1889 over 5 years
Engine: 1.0-litre turbo 3-cylinder, 84kW/180Nm
Safety: 5 stars, 6 airbags, auto emergency braking, blind-spot warning, lane keep assist, rear cross-traffic alert, traffic sign recognition
Boot: 422 litres
Originally published as Tested: Nissan’s stylish new SUV