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Nissan's UK-built, mould-setting Juke compact crossover enters difficult second-album territory

It’s thanks to the commercial success of the original Nissan Juke that the market segment known to some as B-SUV (‘B’ being the prefix traditionally used to identify superminis) exists at all; and, arguably, it's at least partially Nissan's doing that the compact crossover hatchback has become Europe’s biggest automotive market growth area.

Inevitably, now we have a second-generation Nissan Juke, with a new chassis and a new engine, built on a Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance model platform. And given how much more competition there is for this one than there was for its predecessor, you can bet that it won’t be another nine years until we see a third.

The original Juke pioneered the split-level headlights that so many crossovers have copied. This one adds Y-shaped daytime-running lights within the lower round lamps for extra visual appeal

Plenty is different about the car this time around. Whereas the last one had a specially adapted chassis used only by Nissan and offered a choice of petrol and diesel engines, and two- and four-wheel drive, the new one opens for business with just one engine, with Nissan having ruled out diesel power for the car entirely.

Sharing its platform underpinnings with the new Renault Clio and related Renault Captur, the second-gen Juke will be built alongside the Nissan Qashqai in Wearside, near Sunderland; and given the position of commercial strength it occupies, latecomers to the class such as Volkswagen, Skoda, Mazda and Ford will be watching its critical reception – of which the next 2000 words or so can be considered a key constituent – with interest.

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The Nissan Juke line-up at a glance

There really isn’t such a thing as an engine line-up for the second-generation Nissan Juke as things stand. The only motor available is the 999cc turbocharged petrol three-pot that you’ll also find in the Renault Clio (albeit in a slightly different state of tune) with a choice of six-speed manual and seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmissions.

Trims range from Visia at the entry level up through an unusually swollen mid-range of four intermediate steps (Acenta, N-Connecta, Tekna, Tekna+) and culminating in the Premiere Edition, which comes with 19in alloy wheels, two-tone paint and part-leather seats as standard. Mid-range N-Connecta cars have navigation, a rear parking camera, cruise control and LED headlights.

Price £22,495 Power 115bhp Torque 148lb ft 0-60mph 11.9sec 30-70mph in fourth 20.3sec Fuel economy 37.8mpg CO2 emissions 118g/km 70-0mph 51.9m


Nissan Juke 2020 road test review - hero side

The design direction of this car had been kept a closely guarded secret.

For the past couple of years, any Nissan designer you spoke to about it would simply nod, smile and then confirm how well it was understood that the new Juke should retain the quirky visual appeal that made the original so distinctive. Managing this feat in a vehicle that, in order to compete within the bustling niche that has developed around it, has to become bigger, squarer and more versatile was never to be taken for granted.

I was never a fan of the bug-eyed look of the first Juke. This one appeals more to me, but I can see it’s a little more derivative. Can’t imagine owners will care, though, given that it’s a better car in so many ways

However, although the new Juke is notably larger and slightly more conventional in its outline, it retains plenty of esoteric design charm and visual clout thanks to its bold lines and detailing. If Nissan has succeeded in adding rational practicality on the inside, the car’s exterior aspect certainly doesn’t make it look any the plainer or more sensible than the old Juke did – and that can be considered a key success.

The Juke has grown, but fairly modestly, against the tape measure and also weighs a little more than it did in first-gen form when compared on the nearest thing possible to a like-for-like basis – but not much. It has put on less than 50mm overall on both height and mirrorless width, and only a little more than 50mm on length, and an entry-level Visia version of the new car weighs 19kg more than it used to. That’s no bad result for a car with more standard equipment than the old version as well as a little more sheet metal, which, as we’ll come to, offers notably more interior space than before.

Nissan has adopted for the new Juke what it would call an alliance platform, shared with Renault: the CMF-B, also used for the latest Renault Clio and Renault Captur. It’s an all-steel chassis suspended via independent struts at the front and a torsion beam axle at the rear, and the car’s wheelbase has been stretched by just over 100mm.

For now, the only engine option on offer is the 999cc three-cylinder turbocharged petrol co-developed with Daimler, which is also to be found powering the new Clio, the updated Nissan Micra and the latest Dacia Duster. Here, it produces 115bhp as well as 148lb ft of torque on temporary overboost and drives the front wheels through a choice of six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmissions. (We elected to test the manual.)

For now, there’s not so much of an engine range, then, although there may be more choice later on. Nissan hints that a petrol-electric hybrid option will join the Juke range at some point, but it has ruled out any replacement for the old Juke diesel and likewise says the car will remain front-wheel drive only.

Nissan Juke 2020 road test review - cabin

The quirkiness and sense of fun of the original Juke’s interior design has been toned down a little this time around and augmented by a pretty clear effort to add some richer material and technological allure. There’s still plenty of visual character and a little bit of fun factor in evidence, and both can be dialled up beyond the level of our test car if you opt for pricier Tekna+ trim.

But the design flair certainly hasn’t been allowed to take over, or to prevent the Juke from delivering passenger space or ambient perceived quality to make it competitive with its rivals.

Tekna’s Bose stereo puts speakers in the seat head restraints. It’s good at creating ‘surround’ effect in music but doesn’t sound particularly powerful

The oversized, high-contrast centre console that dominated the last Juke’s cabin has been replaced by one of a more ordinary shape and modest volume. The new one is a more discreet design feature, leather-upholstered as it was in our Tekna-spec test car, integrating the car’s starter button and drive mode selector switch and presenting the gearlever within a ring of ambient lighting.

You sit medium high and slightly bent-legged at the controls and pretty typically in a crossover supermini, with easier access and better visibility of the world outside than you’d get in a traditional hatchback. The instruments are analogue dials, with a good-sized digital drive computer screen positioned between them that can display the usual choice of trip computer or in-car entertainment information. The ritziest small crossovers now offer fully digital clocks, of course – but the Juke’s instrument binnacle is far from antiquated and it’s clear, simple and easy to configure to your liking.

Nissan’s use of leather and chromed plastic smacks of an attempt to lift the Juke’s ambience upmarket, which is moderately successful, although perceived quality is a little inconsistent. More impressive is how much extra space has been found inside the car relative to what was a pretty impractical showing previously.

Although the Juke hasn’t been transformed into the best-packaged and most accommodating car in its class, it no longer gets the wooden spoon for second-row occupant room or for boot space. Taller adults can sit line astern now pretty comfortably, whereas they wouldn’t have had a hope of doing so before. The car’s 422-litre boot is respectable for capacity, too – up 20% for volume on the last car, although still down on key rivals – and made accessible by an adjustable-level floor.

Nissan Juke infotainment and sat-nav

Only the very cheapest, Visia-grade Jukes go without a NissanConnect 8.0in touchscreen infotainment set-up. You needn’t venture beyond one-up Acenta trim to get that and it includes smartphone mirroring for both Apple and Android phones, as well as NissanConnect live information services and a rear-view camera – which is no mean offer for a car with an asking price of £19,000.

N-Connecta spec includes TomTom factory navigation with live traffic information and it’s a pretty good system that’s simple to programme and set up and easy to follow – much as most are likely to use it.

You only get the Bose Personal Plus surround audio set-up of our test car if you climb all the way to Tekna grade. It’s not the best reason to spend the extra money, although it does create a convincing sense of width to its surround sound music reproduction.


The Juke’s vital statistics indicated that it should perform quite well relative to its rivals. But although wet and chilly weather didn’t make life easy for it on the day of our performance tests, there was evidence to suggest that the car’s solitary engine would fall a little short of a broadly class-competitive mark even on a dry day.

Missing Nissan’s 10.4sec 0-62mph standing start claim by half a second or so would have been understandable in the conditions – but to miss it by a full second and a half, as we did on our quickest runs, suggests either that this engine needs to loosen up quite a lot with mileage and use before it will give up its best or that it simply won’t ever have the flexibility or zip you might expect of it. The car’s failure to get within a second of the less powerful Seat Arona 1.0 TSI we performance tested in 2017 from 30mph to 70mph through the gears might lead you to similar conclusions.

It feels more agile than most rivals, aided by good grip and a resistance to roll, yet it blends its driver-friendly handling with a ride that’s firmly controlled but never harsh

At full power, the Juke’s three-cylinder motor seems to work keenly enough from a subjective standpoint, revving freely up to about 5000rpm, although not with what you’d call genuine enthusiasm. It suffers with some notably slow turbo response at low crank speeds, though – enough to represent a slight drivability hurdle until you’re used to the way the engine responds to part-throttle.

It’s less problematic in the short term if you avoid using Sport driving mode and isn’t really a problem at all once you’re used to taking particular care with the first couple of inches of accelerator travel.

Operating the car’s other pedals is easier and more intuitive, thankfully – they show evidence of more harmonious and attentive tuning – and the shift quality of the six-speed manual gearbox is fairly light, slick and well defined.

Nissan Juke 2020 road test review - on the road front

Although it’s probably not a car many will describe as fun to drive, the new Juke has more athleticism and handling poise than the average crossover of its size and price. It retains that zippy dynamic appeal that helped to mark out the original version as a car intended for more energetic and youthful drivers as well as older ones, yet it also overlays a new-found level of ride sophistication that makes it more comfortable and pleasant than its predecessor.

The steering is medium weighted and intuitively paced, and the suspension slightly firmer than the class norm but also little less comfortable than even the best rivals as a result of good, progressive vertical body control.

Those 19in alloy wheels wouldn’t be my first choice, even though they fill the Juke’s arches quite nicely. I’d opt for something smaller in a bid to get a slightly more settled town ride. It’s a touch too fidgety as is.

Unlike some cars of this kind, therefore, the Juke succeeds in making a virtue of its compactness on the road. It has the simple grip and body control to feel quite agile, whereas rivals can feel slightly soft and unresponsive by comparison.

You’re certainly not made aware that there’s any energy lost in body roll when you turn the Juke in to bends and it takes plenty of speed and commitment to make the car roll enough to disturb its ever-even distribution of grip. You can hustle it along as you might any small car with plenty of confidence, then, and at no time does the Juke feel particularly big or heavy when you do.

During limit handling testing, the stability control systems proved very effective, and less intrusive when indicated as switched off – even though they plainly remain active in the background at all times. This seems a chassis that would lend itself to more driver-oriented applications better than the last Juke’s ever did – assuming, that is, that another Nismo-branded version of the car, in today’s emissions-punishing market, wouldn’t be such a vain hope as to be almost laughable.

Nissan Juke comfort and isolation

It might surprise you to learn that 19in alloy wheels are now standard-fit on an upper-mid-trim-level, high-rised supermini. Nissan would be quick to reply that the Juke is anything but conventional, and in some ways quite reasonably. Be that as it may, those wheels impact adversely on the car’s ride isolation as well as boosting its design appeal and its grip levels.

There’s some background roar to the Juke’s ride at A-road and motorway speeds that is clearly perceptible in the cabin, although it doesn’t seem to punish the car’s measurable refinement levels, which remain pretty low. It’s a surface-dependent noise level, worse on coarser and more open types of Tarmac than smoother and better-sealed ones – but you can’t help noticing when the car crosses from the latter to the former.

The car’s secondary ride isn’t as terse or clunky over bumps and edges as you might think, however, and its primary ride control is commendable. Sharper inputs can draw the occasional thump from the axles, but they’re seldom harsh, which goes to show how much work has evidently gone into the dynamic development of the car and how carefully the ride has been tuned.

Seat comfort is good, albeit not quite at Nissan Qashqai levels of general support – and that’s partly as a result of Nissan’s decision to fit sportier-looking ‘monoform’ seatbacks with integrated headrests rather than seats with more adjustable separate head restraints.

Nissan Juke assisted driving notes

That the Juke’s score card (opposite) contains more red marks than green is somewhat harsh on it, given that many of the semi-autonomous driver assist systems necessary to deliver against the questions we ask simply haven’t filtered down to this price level yet. Compared with rivals, though, this car is well provisioned and tuned for active safety.

Its lane keeping system operates only when the intelligent cruise control is active, which makes sense given the places and roads on which you’re likely to want it active and the ones where you’re not. It’s clearly tuned to help you, not replace your concentration or inputs, and it’s supplemented by a Blind Spot Intervention system that works well.

Our car’s speed limit recognition system pretty consistently read the posted limit but didn’t seem able to adapt the car’s set cruise control speed to match. Equally, its propensity to warn if you go only slightly over the limit isn’t too insistent or distracting.

Nissan Juke 2020 road test review - hero front

Nissan’s pricing for the Juke is competitive with the likes of the Volkswagen T-Cross and the even newer Renault Captur and Peugeot 2008.

Mid-range N-Connecta trim is expected to dominate the sales mix and gets you into a car with TomTom navigation for its 8.0in touchscreen infotainment set-up, keyless operation, automatic climate control and 17in alloys rather than 19s. Splashing the extra £1500 on a Tekna won’t be a hard argument to make, though, given that it buys you heated front seats, a ‘quick clear’ windscreen, Nissan’s clever Bose Personal Plus audio system and its Advanced Safety Shield active safety systems. Talking of which, the Juke’s active lane keeping and intelligent speed assist systems are among the better ones we’ve tested in cars of its class.

Popularity of the Juke probably plays against it here: residual values are respectable but below those of the VW T-Cross and DS 3 Crossback

The Juke is offered with an introductory PCP finance plan that includes a £500 manufacturer-backed contribution, which should also help to make it more affordable.

Meanwhile, although few Jukes may be run on company fleets, it’s worth noting that the two-pedal DCT automatic version is rated as having slightly lower CO2 emissions than the manual and therefore may be worth choosing for tax reasons. Our test car returned 46.0mpg on our touring fuel economy test – reasonable for a car of its size and type although not the height of efficiency.


Nissan Juke 2020 road test review - static

The Nissan Juke has mellowed and matured agreeably enough in transition to second-generation form. More important, though, it remains much the same enigmatic choice that it used to be and has gained some practicality and good manners to address the most conspicuous vulnerabilities of the original version.

Chances are that if you liked the quirky looks and youthful energy of the first Juke, you’ll find the same things to like this time around. If you’ll often fill those back seats with bigger children or adults, meanwhile, and have much to carry in the boot, or suffer with craggy roads close to where you live, you’ll find quite a lot less to dislike about this car than you might have the previous one.

New Juke is impressive in some respects, but outstanding in few

The first-gen Juke might well have got away with its paucity of crossover class competitiveness on the basis that, when it was designed, there simply wasn’t a class to compete in – but that’s not the case this time. Knowing as much, Nissan has made the second Juke ready to make the grade in most objectively measurable ways, although it doesn’t stand out in enough respects to threaten class leadership.


Nissan Juke First drives