Currently reading: 2020 Nissan Juke: first drive of reinvented compact SUV
Junior crossover has been rethought for a second generation – and we’ve driven a prototype
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5 mins read
19 August 2019

Nissan is reinventing its trendsetting Juke crossover for 2020 with an all-new generation. Ahead of that car’s official unveiling in early September, Autocar joined Nissan for a preview of a disguised pre-production model, including a brief stint behind the wheel. 

The outgoing Juke arrived in 2010 with a design that can be best described as polarising. But that didn’t stop Nissan selling a total of one million Jukes in Europe, with 60,000 sales last year. But it knew the writing was on the wall: the crossover market, which the Juke arguably conceived, is full to bursting. With an abundance of more modern rivals on the scene, Nissan couldn’t afford to rest on its laurels for the second-generation Juke. 

So it hasn’t. The aim was simple: keep the sense of fun and sportiness that drew in existing buyers, but smooth off the sharper edges and annoyances, such as limited rear seat and boot space. 

The new Juke uses the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance’s Common Module Family B (CMF-B) platform. This platform also underpins the new Renault Captur and Clio and brings several benefits. For a start, the Juke’s footprint is still a reasonable 4210mm (up 75mm) but the wheelbase has grown by 106mm to 2636mm. That’s 85mm up on a Volkswagen T-Cross, allowing for one of the roomier cabins in its class. 

At the same time, the use of high-strength steel has made the body-in-white 13% stiffer and 6% lighter. 

That’s helpful, because for now the only engine will be a Micra-sourced 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol unit, with the same 115bhp and 133lb ft of torque (reaching 148lb ft on overboost). CO2 figures for it have been homologated, sitting at 113-118g/km with a manual gearbox and 111-116g/km for the auto version (NEDC derived). 

Nissan wouldn’t confirm that a plug-in hybrid is on the cards. But a Captur PHEV has already been announced, so it’s a strong likelihood. A fully electric version is less of a given. 

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Nissan Juke

With its exaggerated styling, the Nissan Juke takes the notion of a crossover in a new direction

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So what about those love-it-or-hate-it looks? Nissan design director Matt Weaver talks lucidly about how the original’s features have been interwoven with elements of the GT-R 2020 Vision Gran Turismo and Gripz SUV concepts, but it’s still recognisably a Juke. 

The defined hips, a tapering roofline and concealed rear door handles are retained, but there are hints of Volvo XC40 in its scalloped, clamshell bonnet and Toyota C-HR where the rear wing meets the roof. The reimagined LED headlights aim to create a more cohesive look than the controversial outgoing model’s. 

The same goes for the inside. The uplift in quality is palpable. Even the entry-level Visia trim (as before, mid-spec Acenta and N-Connecta versions will account for the bulk of sales) comes with a soft-touch dashboard. It’s broken up with a strip of squishy, cross-hatched material running the width of the dash, which is mirrored in the door cards. The centre console, window switches and central air vent surrounds come in an agreeable, lacquered, metallic-grey gloss. 

The top spec will be Tekna Plus, which we saw fitted with the optional Midnight styling pack. One of three personalisation packs available, it incorporates contrasting stitching, swathes of Alcantara and gloss black trim. The upshot is a car that feels considerably more premium than before. 

Infotainment has also taken a step forward. The 8.0in touchscreen is glass-fronted and clear. It comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, wi-fi for up to eight devices and an embedded 4G sim – to facilitate map updates, Google Street View and live traffic. 

There’s a Nissan Connected Services app, which allows you to check on your Juke’s location and speed remotely – handy for parents lending their car to their kids. 

The app also allows you to lock and unlock the car’s doors remotely. You can even hook it up to your Google Home assistant and ask it up to 20 commands (these will grow to 35), such as: “Google, do the tyres need inflating?” 

The Juke also gets height and reach adjustment for the steering wheel for the first time. Space-wise, there’s now room for four six-foot adults, thanks to vastly improved rear knee room and decent head room. The boot has swelled to 422 litres from 354 litres. With a new height-adjustable floor plus – if you don’t add a spare wheel – some under-floor storage, the boot is flexible, too. 

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The new Juke will go on sale at the end of November. Expect price rises of between 5% and 10% over the current model.

What’s the new Juke like to drive?

If you were an avid Autocar reader back in the day, you’ll be acutely aware that the original Juke had dynamic vices to go with its questionable looks. Indeed, during an early test, Matt Prior had to pull over to check the tyres weren’t “massively overinflated”. They turned out to be just fine. It simply rode like an unsaddled mule. 

Is the new car any better? It’s tricky to tell after our brief encounter of a prototype, which involved following a Nissan official around a loop of Millbrook test circuit’s hill route. 

There are still nagging doubts. The secondary ride is less jittery over smaller imperfections, but the primary one still feels a bit abrasive over sharper ridges. That said, our car was on 19in wheels, and apparently on 17in rims, with bigger sidewalls and redefined spring and damper settings, it’s much smoother. The suspension has been signed off, though, so fingers crossed. 

The steering is much more fluent now. It’s light but weights progressively and, paired with tight body control, that should bode well for relatively dexterous handling. 

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As for performance, the 1.0-litre three-pot feels perky enough to match the unit of identical output in the VW T-Cross. Bearing in mind there’s still a bit of tuning left to do to the throttle response, it accelerates in a linear fashion. The fundamental difference between this installation and the Micra’s is the availability of 15lb ft of torque overboost in all six gears. The Micra has it in the first five ratios only. 

The engine is a tad grumbly at idle and the seven-speed dual-clutch auto (yes, the old CVT has been ditched) introduces more resonance on the move than the six-speed manual gearbox. Both issues have been flagged up with the development team. 

On the topic of gearboxes, Nissan’s engineers want to improve the feel of the manual’s gait, but it’s already better than a Qashqai’s. The brakes need tweaking, though. They’re strong enough when you reach the meat of the pedal, but the engineers are looking to improve the initial response. So far, then, it’s a cautious thumbs-up. 

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Cersai Lannister 19 August 2019

The Juke's on who?

I tried to like the old Juke but I failed because of quality, but then realized I was being unfair as I'm not the target. So having taken off my personal biases I still found it a little lacking as a product but one that more than made up for it in spirit. It was a brave little thing that did well for that reason. It was (slightly) rebellious and self-consciously intended to polarize - as my old product planning teacher reminded me, "If you really please 30% of the people then you can get 10% of them and let the advertising focus on 'em".

So hats off to Autocar for being mildly critical of the car in a preproduction form. I'm pretty sure from the quality of those photos though that this was no grab-a-quick-drive in a prototype, but a fully finished vehicle that Autocar had. So I'll be watching to see if 1) the engine refinement changes and 2) whether it has the chutzpah of the original. It's OK not to opine yet, I'd like Autocar to be given a fair explanation of the finished car and its communications strategy first before doing so.

I wish it well, the last one was a storming success and the fact that I didn't like it means anything. Except that I know nothing.

Paul Dalgarno 19 August 2019

Sadly I won't buy another Nissan

My Qashqai comes to the end of it's three year term in November. Three things put me off another Nissan.

A local dealer (John Clark, Aberdeen) who have an "Anything is too much trouble policy" - taking a day off work as they couldn't check Aircon on Saturdays, etc, etc. Same story about BMW, Aberdeen also owned by John Clark - everything is a trouble for them too...

They wouldn't refill the aircon refrigerant gas on a 2.5 year old car - it wasn't leaking, it just needed refilled at a cost of £150 (I got it done at ATS for £100). Internet awash with stories of Qashqais losing air con gas, blamed on new gas type not being suitable for the system. I might be hard to please, but having to pay £150 for this on a new car pisses me off.

Lastly when I look under the bonnet there are rusty parts, a leaking gearbox seal, and the trim material is ridiculously easily scratched. 

I actually love the car, had 12 new cars in my life, but love it's comfort, economy, and ease of use. Dealer is apathetic, and long term durability is suspect in my view. A real shame.

Paul Dalgarno 19 August 2019

Sadly I won't buy another Nissan

My Qashqai comes to the end of it's three year term in November. Three things put me off another Nissan.

A local dealer (John Clark, Aberdeen) who have an "Anything is too much trouble policy" - taking a day off work as they couldn't check Aircon on Saturdays, etc, etc. Same story about BMW, Aberdeen also owned by John Clark - everything is a trouble for them too...

They wouldn't refill the aircon refrigerant gas on a 2.5 year old car - it wasn't leaking, it just needed refilled at a cost of £150 (I got it done at ATS for £100). Internet awash with stories of Qashqais losing air con gas, blamed on new gas type not being suitable for the system. I might be hard to please, but having to pay £150 for this on a new car pisses me off.

Lastly when I look under the bonnet there are rusty parts, a leaking gearbox seal, and the trim material is ridiculously easily scratched. 

I actually love the car, had 12 new cars in my life, but love it's comfort, economy, and ease of use. Dealer is apathetic, and long term durability is suspect in my view. A real shame.

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