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Can an interior-focused revamp continue the market-shaping crossover's appeal before it goes electric?

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It’s thanks to the commercial success of the original Nissan Juke that the segment known to some as B-SUV (B is the prefix traditionally used to identify superminis) exists at all.

In fact, it’s at least partially Nissan's doing that the compact crossover hatchback has become Europe’s biggest automotive market growth area. When the Juke was first launched in 2011, it was the only real model in its class. Within five years, there were 20 rivals. Now, there are more than 40.

Inevitably, that success cleared the path for a second-generation Juke. But that also ramped up the pressure. 

The second-generation Juke arrived in 2020 with plenty of changes. Whereas the original has a specially adapted chassis used only by Nissan, this one is based on the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance’s CMF-B platform, which also underpins the likes of the Dacia Sandero, Renault Clio and Renault Captur.

Diesel and four-wheel-drive powertrains have been ditched in favour of a more modern petrol unit that sends its power exclusively through the front wheels.

Inside, it has a much bigger boot – almost doubling the original’s tiny 251-litre capacity to 422 litres – as well as extra passenger space and more upmarket materials.

The Juke has now received a mid-life facelift, which is set to take it from 2024 until it is replaced by an all-electric third-generation model based on the Nissan Hyper Punk concept.

That said, this is one of those cases where 'facelift' isn't the best description: Nissan has barely touched the exterior – aside from the return of an 'iconic' (Nissan's description, not ours) yellow exterior paint option. Why hasn't Nissan changed the look? Well, customer research suggests that design is the number-one reason customers buy a Juke – so why change something that's working?

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The powertrains are also unaltered, so the focus of these revisions is very much on refining and improving the interior, which was beginning to lag behind key rivals such as the Ford Puma, Skoda Kamiq and Vauxhall Mokka.

So how successful has Nissan been in keeping the Juke competitive in the class it invented? Let's find out.

The Nissan Juke range at a glance 

The second-generation Juke was launched in 2020 with a lone choice of engine, the 1.0-litre turbo petrol three-pot that’s also used in the Sandero and Clio, here producing 112bhp. It’s available with a six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox.

It was joined in 2022 by Renault’s E-Tech hybrid powertrain, which combines a four-speed unsynchronised dog ’box with a 48bhp electric motor, a 20bhp starter-generator – drawing power from a 1.2kWh liquid-cooled bettery – and a 93bhp naturally aspirated 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol engine.

Trims range from Visia up through Acenta, N-Connecta (renamed Acenta Premium in the 2024 facelift), Tekna and, from 2024 onwards, N-Sport and Tekna+, which comes with 19in alloy wheels, two-tone paint and part-leather seats as standard. Acenta Premium cars have sat-nav, a rear parking camera, cruise control and LED headlights.

The N-Sport trim that arrived in the 2024 update comes with a contrasting colour for the roof, wheel arches, mirror caps and A- and B-pillars.

DESIGN & STYLING

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Nissan Juke review rear three quarter driving

For the second-generation Juke, Nissan moved to the CMF-B platform: an all-steel chassis suspended via independent struts at the front and a torsion beam axle at the rear, with its wheelbase stretched by just over 100mm compared with the original Juke.

The car is slightly larger than its predecessor, having gained less than 50mm in height and mirrorless width and only a little more than 50mm in length.

The entry-level Visia version weighs just 19kg more than it used to – not a bad result for a car with more standard equipment as well as a little more sheet metal, which, as we will come to, offers notably more interior space than before.

So, if Nissan has succeeded in adding rational practicality on the inside, the car’s exterior certainly doesn’t make it look any plainer or more sensible than the old Juke did. That can be considered a key success.

With the hybrid powertrain came a set of minor visual tweaks for every variant of the crossover (reprofiled bumpers, different wheel options and a new rear spoiler) but you would be hard pressed to pick a newer model out of a line-up. The hybrid also gained an equally subtle blanked-off front grille.

The exterior updates for the 2024 facelift were also minimal: the most notable addition was the arrival of 'Iconic Yellow' paint. It echoes the yellow option that arrived in the mid-life facelift of the first-generation Juke and was chosen by around 5-10% of buyers.

This time around, the yellow is a brighter and more luminous shade. It's not subtle: it feels like Nissan's designers were let loose with a highlighter pen, but at least it will be very useful if you struggle to find your car in a dark car park.

The only other exterior change of note? There are three new alloy wheel options, while the 17in wheels of the Acenta and N-Connecta grades gain low-resistance tyres.

INTERIOR

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Nissan Juke dashboard

The quirkiness and sense of fun of the original Juke’s interior design was toned down a little for the Mk2 version and it was augmented by a pretty clear effort to add some richer material and technological allure. There’s still plenty of visual character and a bit of fun factor in evidence, though.

While the design flair 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, there are still plenty of curved, bulbous surfaces distributed throughout the cabin. That’s quite a contrast to the flat-faced Skoda Kamiq and the drab Vauxhall Crossland. 

You sit high and slightly bent-legged at the controls, with better visibility of the world outside than you get in a traditional hatchback like the Clio.

Originally, the instruments were analogue dials, but for the second-generation model they're replaced by a 12.3in digital info display – bringing it into line with key class rivals. It's a relatively sharp screen and you can customise the display somewhat, with different dials, the option to show mapping, and easy access to efficiency figures.

On the pre-facelift model, we felt that Nissan’s use of leather and chromed plastic smacked of a moderately successful attempt to lift the Juke’s ambience upmarket. There have been a few more efforts this time: the leather options have been removed, replaced with an upmarket PVC, but some trims such as our N-Sport test car get neat seat stitching – in yellow, to match the exterior paint of our test car.

There's also a slightly reworked dashboard design, which features a large swathe of partly recycled Alcantara trim. On our test car, it was yellow but more demure colours are available. In fact, you can only order the yellow with certain exterior colours – it doesn't match the blue or red exterior, for example.

What is impressive is how much extra space has been found inside the car relative to what was a pretty impractical showing previously. For the 2024 facelift, Nissan has even expanded the size of the glovebox to 6.6 litres – good news if you have lots of gloves.

The central armrest has also been redesigned, and there's now an electric handbrake. The e-pedal and EV mode buttons have also been moved on the hybrid.

Although the Juke isn’t the best-packaged or 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, better than the Ford Puma (401 litres, discounting its underfloor Megabox) and equal to the Renault Captur (422 litres) and made accessible by an adjustable-level floor.

The hybrid loses 68 litres of space, owing to the placement of its 1.2kWh drive battery, but it’s still larger than that of the Captur E-Tech (326 litres). Rear seat space is more generous than in that car too.

Nissan Juke multimedia

For the pre-facelift models, cars in Acenta and above grades featured an 8.0in infotainment touchscreen, which was fine – but rivals were beginning to offer bigger and better versions. So from the 2024 update onwards, Acenta grades and up feature a sharper 12.3in TFT screen, which is horizontally mounted and reminiscent of the one in the Nissan Ariya EV.

It's gently tilted towards the driver for easy access and is decently sharp at 1920 by 720 pixels. It's also customisable so you can preset your favourite options. It includes smartphone mirroring for both Apple and Android phones, as well as NissanConnect live information services, and a rear-view camera. There's a built in sat-nav and it also offers voice recognition.

With a sharper screen, Nissan has upgraded the resolution of the rear-view camera from 0.3 to 1.3 megapixels, which will be a boon if you sometimes find parking difficult.

ENGINES & PERFORMANCE

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Nissan Juke review front three quarter tracking

The 1.0-litre Juke’s vital statistics indicate that it should perform quite well relative to the competition, but our real-world experience suggests otherwise.

In our on-track performance tests (albeit in wet and chilly weather), it missed Nissan’s claimed 0-62mph sprint time of 10.4sec by a full 1.5sec. It also failed to get within 1.0sec of the less powerful Seat Arona 1.0 TSI when accelerating through the gears from 30-70mph.

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 the 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.

The dual-clutch automatic provides rapid, well-judged shifts. However, it struggles at lower speeds, often delivering a shunt as you try to exploit a gap at a roundabout or pull away from a junction. It’s even worse during manoeuvres like reverse parking, which can bring you to a juddering halt.

Our first taste of the facelift version came with the 1.6-litre hybrid powertrain, which with a combined output of 140bhp offers a useful increase in power over the entry-level 1.0-litre petrol.

That said, it's not exactly eager to use that extra power. If you accelerate hard the machine will draw on its electric reserves but the petrol unit will take ages to access, resulting in a slightly laggy feel. And once you do get the petrol engine working, it is quite gruff as it delivers its power.

The hybrid’s gearbox is better, though: you just put it in Drive and, most of the time, the software does a decent job of keeping everything rolling. It avoids the elastic feeling of the CVTs in the rival Toyota Yaris Cross.

That said, try to engage in some spirited driving on a winding road and you'll soon confuse the unit, which will sometimes fail to change up when you want it to, or shift down quickly when needed.

Nissan Juke assisted driving notes

Compared with rivals, the Juke is well provisioned and tuned for active safety – and the 2024 facelift has brought some new driver assistance kit.

Some of the updates are driven by regulations, such as the new intelligence speed assist, which bongs at you if you exceed the detected speed limit (based on the last sign the car saw). Nissan does at least allow you to press the 'OK' button on the steering wheel to stop the bonging - although you do have to do that every time it occurs.

The autonomous emergency braking has been updated, and there's a new event data recording system that will store info in the case of an accident (it operates on a caching system, so doesn't store data long term). Another new addition is cybersecurity protection to prevent the likes of relay attacks, although Nissan hasn't given details on how that works.

The lane keeping system on our N-Sport test car seemed a bit erratic in deployment, but it did feel like it was trying to help.

Two more changes driven by the regulations: the lane keep assist and active steering support have to be set to 'on' when you start the car.

Nissan has tried to find a reasonable way around this: it allows you to preset your favourite driver assistance options, and you can access and turn your default on in two presses (and it's two because the regulations mean it's not allowed to be a single press).

RIDE & HANDLING

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Nissan Juke review front three quarter cornering

Although it’s probably not a car many will describe as fun to drive, the Juke has more athleticism and handling poise than the average crossover of its size and price.

It retains the 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, thanks to good, progressive vertical body control.

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 come across as 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 it 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.

Nissan Juke comfort and isolation

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 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.

MPG & RUNNING COSTS

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Nissan Juke review front three quarter lead

The 2024 facelift has included revised pricing for the Juke range. Acenta Premium models now start at £23,485, rising to £28,385 for Tekna+ and N-Sport trim levels – both of which feature 19in alloy wheels, styling extras and updated interior trim.

That means the Juke still undercuts key rivals such as the Puma, Kamiq and Mokka by a substantial margin.

It’s tempting to splash the extra cash for the high-grade Tekna trim, which 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.

The Juke’s fuel economy is reasonable, if behind rivals: the petrol manual officially returns 49.6mpg, and we found it returned 46.0mpg at motorway speeds, compared with 50.0mpg for the mild-hybrid petrol Puma.

The hybrid is claimed to return a much more impressive 58-60mpg depending on trim, but you’re unlikely to recoup the extra that Nissan charges for it compared with the equivalent petrol manual. It makes more sense as a company car because its CO2 emissions are rated at 107-112g/km depending on trim, compared with 133g/km for the petrol manual.

VERDICT

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NissanJukeTestDrive Generic2 1903 12

The Nissan Juke is a solid choice if you’re looking for a quirky small car that stands out from more humdrum alternatives like the Renault Captur, Kia Stonic and Suzuki S-Cross.

We like its convincing balance between a comfortable ride and sporty handling, which makes it one of the more agreeable options in the class. It’s also a fairly practical choice, with more leg room and boot space than the Captur in petrol and hybrid form.

The Juke undercuts many rivals on price too, although so-so residual values mean that PCP finance and lease deals on one aren’t always as competitive as cars from better-perceived brands, such as the Volkswagen T-Cross.

And it’s hardly a class leader in other regards: the petrol engine’s throttle response is unusually slow, which presents a drivability issue at low speeds, especially when paired with the shunty dual-clutch automatic gearbox.

The hybrid is a better option if you need an auto, but being around £3000 more expensive, it’s not great value for money. The Puma offers a smoother, more exploitable petrol engine, while the Yaris Cross's hybrid powertrain delivers better real-world fuel economy.

All that said, none of those shortcomings is significant enough to knock the Juke below the class average. And it's to the Juke's considerable credit that it remains one of the more compelling and competitive options in the class that it effectively created.

When a car looks as distinctive as this one does, that’s good enough for many a buyer. It's a strong all-rounder with enough design flair to not feel like a totally predictable, ordinary option. That's a winning formula for many buyers – and for those won over by style, the Juke is unlikely to disappoint.

James Attwood

James Attwood, digital editor
Title: Acting magazine editor

James is Autocar's acting magazine editor. Having served in that role since June 2023, he is in charge of the day-to-day running of the world's oldest car magazine, and regularly interviews some of the biggest names in the industry to secure news and features, such as his world exclusive look into production of Volkswagen currywurst. Really.

Before first joining Autocar in 2017, James spent more than a decade in motorsport journalist, working on Autosport, autosport.com, F1 Racing and Motorsport News, covering everything from club rallying to top-level international events. He also spent 18 months running Move Electric, Haymarket's e-mobility title, where he developed knowledge of the e-bike and e-scooter markets. 

Nissan Juke First drives