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It’s a new Nissan Juke, but you’d know that even if you hadn’t been told, because it so clearly looks like a replacement for the Juke that has been around for the past nine years, and which popularised, rather than invented, the trendy compact crossover.

The Juke is now, as it was then, a small, tall hatch, bigger than before, though not by a huge amount. At 4.2 metres long, it’s halfway between a supermini (Ford Fiesta etc) and small family car (Focus etc) in length, a size that now means adults can sit behind adults and which lifts the boot volume by 20% over the old Juke, to 422 litres.

It sits on the Renault-Nissan group’s small CMF-B platform, which you’ll also find underneath the latest Renaults Clio and Captur and it’ll be built in Sunderland

How does the new Juke differ mechanically from the outgoing one?

It’s a relatively conventional architecture, with MacPherson struts at the front and a torsion beam at the rear, while the transverse engine drives the front wheels only. The only engine option – for the moment – is a three-cylinder, 1.0-litre petrol turbo making 115bhp and 133lb ft, which is allowed to rise to 148lb ft on overboost for a short time in higher gears, to facilitate overtaking. But the platform has been developed to accept electrification, so you can expect hybrid versions, though no diesel, later.

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With the 1.0, claimed performance is moderate – 0-62mph takes 10.4sec with a six-speed manual; a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic version, which can be had on anything above base trim level, adds £1400 and 0.7sec to the 0-62mph time. Depending on your wheel and trim specification and gearbox choice, the Juke will return between 44.1mpg and 47.9mpg, and between 110g/km and 118g/km, on the WLTP emissions test cycle. 

What sold the original Juke was, at first, its novelty and, thereafter, its design. Nissan offered some slightly baffling statistics about how much more distinctive people thought the old Juke was than other compact crossovers but, ultimately, its success boiled down to them liking that it looked a bit weird in a sea of anonymity. A similar distinctiveness hasn’t done the Toyota C-HR any harm since.

And the new Juke? It’s still Jukey at the front, with hints, to me, of those Land Rovers from the Sly Stallone Judge Dredd film (ask your dad), with hints of other Nissans and C-HR from the back. I thought it would be less polarising than before but our correspondence says otherwise. 

How does the Juke perform on the road?

Whatever, it feels comparatively conventional inside. There are imaginative touches – round air vents and, in some trim levels, rather, er, eye-catching colours. And there is a broad array of active safety and connectedness – and it talks to your smartphone, which does all of that better. But the layout is conventional, with a widely adjustable driving position, a small round steering wheel (rarer than you’d think, that sort of thing) and a gearlever reportedly much closer to the driver than before for more focus. Sportiness, perhaps (we’ll come to that). Visibility is respectable – the narrow rear window doesn’t help, but you can see a fair bit of the bonnet, so it’s no more difficult than your average supermini to handle at low speeds.

The control weights all aid that too, being light but positive. The Juke has drive modes - because what doesn’t? – with an Eco mode that makes the throttle extra treacly and a Sport mode that makes the steering too heavy. 

Nissan used the word ‘sporty’ often in its presentation, but as usual things are best left in Normal, because in no mode is the Juke particularly sporty: I’d say a Seat Arona feels more nimble when it comes to it. 

But that’s fine. Nissan has resisted the urge to make the Juke super-stiff to counter the inevitable compromises that come with a taller body. Even on the 19in wheels that come as standard on top models (with 225/45 section tyres), the Juke mostly rides respectably, though with a thump over big surface changes that might make the concrete bit of the M25 a bit of an ordeal, and a fair amount of road noise the rest of the time. 

We’ve had no chance yet to try one on smaller wheels, but I suspect it’ll be better – and with those complex black plastic wheel-arch surrounds, reducing wheel size and adding extra tyre wall might not even leave it looking under-tyred. The other day I drove a Kia Xceed and it was far and away in its nicest form with the lightest engine and the smallest wheels. We’ll see here later.

The engine’s curious. There’s little of the thrum that usually marks the character of a three-cylinder engine, and it’s disinclined to pull from very low revs, but above 2000rpm it spins willingly and freely, though backed with an odd, high-pitched whine that might in part be from the transmission. I’d want a back-to-back test to say for sure, but I think there are more refined crossovers than this one. Performance, for a 1.0-litre engine pulling 1182kg (manual) to 1207kg (auto) is adequate, though, and swapping ratios on the easy-going manual is brisk, while the auto can be left searching for the ideal ratio.

How does the Juke compare to its closest rivals?

When the original Juke arrived, it had no more than a couple of competitors – the charming Skoda Yeti being one. Today there are almost two dozen, but none are much more compelling now than the competition was a decade ago. 

That’s why it’s still tempting to steer people towards a conventional supermini or small family car, because it’ll be more efficient and nicer to drive. But let’s assume you’re not going to buy one of those, because a crossover’s raised seating position is useful for child seats or dodgy hips, and the moderate extra ground clearance handy for speed humps or dodgy roads. Given that, and prices from £17,400 to £25,400, the Juke warrants as much attention as anything else.

I still think there’s a genuine opportunity to be had for a manufacturer that makes a genuinely compelling alternative, which is either lots of fun or supremely refined. Nissan hasn’t nailed either of those, but it’s respectable enough, and puts right the complaints about how cramped and crashy the previous one was. As it ever was, it’s challenging on the outside. Now harmless on the inside.

What Car? New car buyer marketplace - Nissan Juke

Nissan Juke

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