Nissan Juke 2020 long-term review
25 October 2020 - Autocar
What can this new Juke offer that others in a now-crowded crossover market can’t? We had six months to find out
When you consider the cars on Autocar's fleet at the moment, the Nissan Juke stands out for not standing out. That's saying something given how radical its styling once was – and, to some extent, is still considered to be.
It's not electric like our Vauxhall Corsa-e, nor is it retro like the Honda E or a bold new sports car like the Toyota GR Supra. No, what we have here is a trusty compact crossover using a 115bhp 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine. It might not be revolutionary these days but it remains massively relevant: it is built at Nissan's Sunderland plant, remains part of a still-growing segment and is the maker's second-biggest UK seller after the Qashqai, as it has long been.
Our time with this second-generation Juke made us appreciate everything that was always desirable about the car and why Nissan did what it did to improve it. Notable revisions are a far better interior, using higher-quality materials, and more cabin space, particularly in the rear and the boot. That increase in space is in part thanks to this Juke being built on the new CMF-B platform – a Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi co-production shared with the Renault Captur and Clio.
The interior is clearly a step up, and general comfort is something I noticed on longer trips, no doubt helped by the 'monoform' seats, which are standard and also found in the Qashqai.
The interior is also less bland than those of many rivals, such as the Seat Arona and Skoda Karoq, and for some that’s a preference. News ed Lawrence Allan, in an earlier report, said he preferred the Juke’s interior styling over the safer Ford Puma’s.
One major drawback in our long-termer was the functionality of its systems. Most annoying was the touchscreen – something I’ve mentioned a number of times, I know – but these days it’s an important consideration for motorists.
Not only did a data agreement have to be agreed to or declined every time the car was turned on and before I could access the infotainment system on screen, but also, once over that hurdle, it more often than not didn’t recognise a touch input. It almost never recognised a first touch of the screen when I tried to change radio stations, and it often took three or more prods to respond. It was irritating at best and a distraction while driving at worst. Glitches aside, the system was easy to get to grips with, as was Apple CarPlay compatibility.
There were a few more grumbles, such as an irritating click that could be heard somewhere in the dashboard every time the rear wiper moved, some impossible to place rattles somewhere in the back and side lumbar supports on the seats that creaked when going around corners. In isolation none of those were big issues, but if you’ve spent £23k on a new car, it’s not good enough.
Given the limitations of socialising this year, I didn’t manage to pack the Juke with people to see how it fared, but I did load the car with ample garden waste for a pre-booked tip slot or three, and it coped well. A chest of drawers wasn’t quite so well accommodated – it nearly went in but the slightly awkward shape of the upper aperture of the boot (which you don’t get on an Arona, for example) meant the furniture wouldn’t quite fit. Still, I don’t think a compact crossover can be criticised for that.
It will come as no surprise to most of you that the Juke doesn’t occupy a segment targeting keen drivers. If driver engagement is a priority, a Ford Puma is probably your best bet, but the Juke fared pretty well in this respect. It felt planted and confidence inspiring on every road it went on, including the more fun, rural roads.
On the local, speed-bump-ridden roads it tends to spend much of its time, the Juke demonstrated good stability, although opting for smaller wheels (our car came on 19s) would inevitably bring a kinder ride on broken urban roads.
The turbocharged 115bhp 1.0-litre petrol engine (it’s the only option for now, although we’re still expecting a hybrid) was always sufficient, and that with plenty of motorway driving.
A minor downside was limited torque at both the very top and very bottom of the rev range, with the low-rev shortfall meaning stalling happened more often than is acceptable for anyone, let alone a motoring journalist… The impressively quiet unit has another unintended outcome: making you realise you could be in a much higher gear.
The Juke has been everything I’d expect from a compact SUV – barring the few niggles, which I hope are the exception rather than the rule. It’s a comfortable, well-specified and practical car, not made to set your soul on fire but instead offering easy day-to-day motoring in all scenarios – which I suspect is what every buyer of a Juke is looking for.
The new Juke didn’t leave as big a first impression as the original did almost a decade ago. Yet this new one is growing on me. The honed design doesn’t feel like it’ll date as quickly as the previous car’s, and it’s at the better end of the class to drive. Still, I’d have the equivalent supermini over a small SUV any day, but that’s another story.
Snazzy wheels Good-looking diamond-cut alloys got plenty of admiring glances out and about.
Overall comfort No complaints from me or my passengers about comfort on any journey, short or long.
Overzealous safety systems Dashboard alerts flashed for no apparent reason far too regularly.
Random rattles I wasn’t able to pin them down, but some fittings in the rear could have been more securely mounted.
Tempestuous touchscreen It could take four prods for the screen to acknowledge my finger – not acceptable really.
Final mileage: 7387
Life with a Nissan Juke: Month 5
Somewhat unhelpful assistance - 30 September 2020
To be clear, I’m pro any system that makes cars safer. But ‘my’ Nissan Juke (along with many other cars) does a terrible job of pre-empting (or not) danger ahead. Countless times, a large red bar has flashed up on the instrument panel along with a sound alert for no reason. It happens regularly when there’s a car moving in an adjacent lane on the motorway. More terrifying than helpful. R
When asked to join a convoy of supercars along a series of great driving roads, we knew just the car for the job - 16 September 2020
It’s an unlikely day: I rock up at a five-star hotel in the picturesque Cotswolds in our modest Juke, where every other car in sight costs at least five times what the Nissan does.
I’m here for two reasons: one, it’s the first time I’ve given the Juke a proper run beyond some motorway-focused trips since lockdown began, and two, there’s a new smartphone app I’ve been invited to trial that promises excellent road trip routes in the UK and Europe.
Maybe it’s just me, or London dwellers more generally, but it’s a perennial (first-world) problem of mine: I want to go for a drive on some decent roads, but where? The Ultimate Drives app, created by the same people who run driving tours in Europe for typically wealthy supercar owners, lets you pick a road trip via a number of drop-down menus, including location, type (eg mountains, wine routes, coasts and lakes) and adrenaline rating (high, medium or low), and comes up with suggested routes. Its most popular route is, unsurprisingly, the stunning Grossglockner Pass in Austria, but for now we’re keeping closer to home with a route entitled ‘A run through the Cotswolds’.
I’d whizzed along a large stretch of the M4 to the start point in Castle Combe, reflecting on how I’ve never thought the Juke was meant for mile-munching but that it actually does this remarkably well. Much of the journey was completed through a torrential downpour, during which I discovered an unwelcome quirk of the Juke – every time the rear wiper moves, something in the instrument panel or stalk clicks. Every time.
The owners of all the other, well, prettier cars have been invited along as loyal clients of Ultimate Drives, with founder Mark Heather explaining that most people present do at least one European driving tour a year with the firm. The app is where Heather wants the business to develop, though. A basic version is free, but the Premium edition, which includes Google Maps integration, costs £15.99 annually.
Once I’ve set up the app on my phone, I connect it via wire to the Juke and the route appears in Google Maps through Apple CarPlay exactly as if I’d input any other destination. The difference here is that Google Maps is directing me to a number of waypoints – in this case seven, which ensure a varied, scenic route with plenty of good driving roads.
On my route, four of the stops are pubs or eateries as well as the final destination, giving drivers and their companions plenty of options for food and drink. Heather plans to make the Premium subscription more appealing through tie-ups, be it discounts at restaurants along the way, places to visit or even a deal on a rental car.
Around 30,000 use the app globally, and the goal is to hit 100,000 by the start of next year. For this day, we’re primarily in convoy, but that’s not the purpose of the app. I’ve opted to drive at the back of the pack – a shrewd choice when you’re up against a Ferrari Portofino, Porsche 911 GT3, Alpine A110 and more. It’s amusing to pootle along behind the others, seeing the endless head-turning of village locals, amazed at the sight of 20-plus sports cars in procession.
Given the recent downpours, the rural lanes host far more debris than the driver of a hundred-grand sports car would like. I find myself grateful to be in the Juke, without having to worry about damaging the car thanks to its slightly higher ride height (or a lot higher compared with a Ferrari) and compact size. When a large SUV comes the other way, I’m confident that the Juke will be able to take refuge on a verge with no trouble.
There are enough quiet, windy roads – especially once the sports cars have got away – for me to test the cornering abilities of the Juke. Surprise: it’s not a car tuned for dynamism, but it did hold firm into bends at moderate speeds and with a quiet, reassuring confidence. And whether here or on the motorway, its power is always sufficient if rarely much more than that.
The final destination, a charming pub in Nether Westcote, completes the 60-mile route. From there, I eventually pick up the M40 to head back towards London. By the time I get home, I’ve spent six hours or so in the Juke and feel neither restless nor fed up.
All of the other cars in my convoy would have been immeasurably more fun than the Juke but, nonetheless, any vehicle in which I can spend that long with my comfort and humour intact gets a thumbs up.
Plain sailing The Juke is proving itself to be an excellent all-rounder for town, rural and motorway life.
Minor flaws Things like random clicking, touchscreen glitches and rear rattling cause irritation.