The Nissan Juke is heavy for a supermini. That means it has to be short-geared to give it the friskiness its design promises, with the inevitable outcome that it’s a busy-sounding motorway cruiser.

The upside of every 1000rpm translating to less than 20mph in top gear in the normally-aspirated 1.6 is that you don’t have to drive at licence-threatening speeds to feel like you’re getting somewhere.

The Juke’s diesel engine, sourced from Renault, sounds lightly chattery on start-up

A prominent induction growl on acceleration helps the sporting tone, so you don’t mind much that the 0-60mph time is a leisurely 10.3sec (itself 2.3sec slower than the perky turbo version needs). The 1.6-litre engine is also available with stop-start, offering improved fuel economy at 48.7mpg.

Select Sport though the Dynamic Control System and the eagerness of the throttle response masks the fact that low-end torque isn't great and that hills often need a downshift and a lot of throttle. 

Engage Normal mode and the screen shows a torque indicator. Throttle response has now gone soft, as if the Juke has gained 200kg, but ultimately the same power is available. It’s hard to see why you would ever choose this sluggish-feeling mode in normal driving.

But there’s also the Eco mode, which restricts throttle opening, displays an economy meter and makes the Juke even more torpid. Use this mode only if you can’t force yourself to be light on the throttle when you’re feeling frugal.

The Juke’s Renault-sourced 1.5-litre diesel sounds lightly chattery on start-up, a characteristic that never completely fades, and the torque hole beneath the 1750rpm peak demands a firm right foot to get this not especially speedy machine to go. But at its torque peak and beyond the motor pulls with conviction, especially if you master its six-speed stick, which shifts slickly in a north-south plane but can lose you between east and west.

There’s also the Juke Nismo, which aims to blur the line between hot hatch and SUV. With almost 200bhp on tap it’s certainly quick, but the Nismo's output sits right at the very edge of what should be traveling through the chassis' front wheels – and it shows.


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