Cars - Nissan

Road tests and reviews of the latest Nissan models available in South Africa

We take a drive in the new Nissan Juke

Nissan Juke Road Test

By Franky Johnson

Nissan once again expanded the JUKE range last year with the introduction of the new Juke 1.2 DIG-T Acenta, and the range now comprises six derivatives.

When launched in 2011, the JUKE was the very first five-door compact crossover vehicle in the competitive “B” segment of the market, and its unusual looks are a combination of retro and modern design, but like many controversial designs that some like and some don’t like it, but those that do, are impressed by its muscular, coupe-like profile and its sporty driving dynamics.

There’s no question, the Juke is something of a head-turner. It looks tough and solid and the test car was fitted with chunky 10-spoke alloy wheels which give it a robust stance on the road, enhanced by a set of Conti 215/55R17 tyres.

The refreshed Juke retains many of its favourite elements, such as the sporty sloping roofline, SUV stance and hidden rear door handles, while updating many other elements. Viewed from the front, all three levels of lighting have been given more prominence, starting with the fog lights that nestle in a newly designed black air intake and redesigned colour-coded bumper.

The rounded fog lights with new clear lenses are most prominent and flank a new grille with grated design and a bolder SUV-style Nissan badge. This badge cue is repeated in the centre console instrumentation and at the back of the car in the diffuser design. The most noticeable change is in the uppermost-lights which have been completely redesigned and which joins the family of modern Nissan crossovers with its boomerang shape and integrated daytime running lights, while from the sides, the new side mirrors with turn signals are squared off and bolder.

The rear of the Juke gets a new luggage door with wider number plate area, a diffuser and rear air dam that has been redesigned to create a wider and more purposeful stance for the Juke. Other changes to the rear of the car include the new roof-mounted aerial, completely redesigned rear lights that mirror the front lights and which pays homage to Nissan Street-stars such as the 370Z and redesigned rear reflectors.

Inside the Juke, the driver-focused cabin is dominated by a centre console design finished in a distinctive high gloss colour. There’s also an abundance of chrome fittings and high-quality materials, set off against the bright reflections from the centre console. The seats are upholstered in dual-tone suede-touch upholstery, the gear lever is leather covered as is the 3-spoke multi-function steering wheel.

The centre-piece remains the painted transmission tunnel, which we are told by Nissan, is inspired by the radical lines of an Italian superbike. Also retained is the speed-sensitive sport steering wheel with satellite controls the contoured front seats and the large, easy-to-read circular gauges that supply the driver with all the necessary vehicle information.

The centre cluster has been upgraded to offer a more premium feel. Drivers familiar with the original Juke will still find the I-CON system at hand, which controls vehicle set-up and performance settings.

Standard equipment includes Bluetooth phone integration, cruise control with speed-limiting capabilities, the irritating Stop/Start system and full climate control.

The luggage area has been redesigned and by lowering the space saver spare wheel, luggage space increases from 251 litres to 354 litres. There’s also provision for oddments and six cup or bottle holders

The Juke 1.2 DIG-T Acenta is powered by an all new direct Injection petrol turbo-charged engine first seen in the new Qashqai. It replaces the normally aspirated 1.6 litre petrol engine that powered the entry-level Juke models. The 1.2 DIG-T engine develops 85 kW at 4 500 rpm and 190 Nm of torque from 2 000 rpm, which makes it more powerful than the previous 1.6 litre, and is linked to a direct-shifting six-speed manual gearbox.

In acceleration tests the 1.2 litre turbo Juke covered the 0 to 100 km dash in second gear in a time of 12.5 seconds, and has a claimed top speed of 178 km/h Petrol consumption is given as 5.6 litres/100 km, but over the week I had the press vehicle the trip computer showed I had averaged 7.9 litres per 100 kms.

The Juke retains the unique driving control system in the Nissan I-CON system, which allows the driver to select and customise driving modes, with pre-set options for Normal, Sport and Eco driving, but I felt quite happy to leave it in Normal mode.

The list of safety equipment includes ABS with EBD and brake-assist, vehicle dynamic control, six airbags and ISOFIX child seat anchor points and immobiliser. The Juke is secured with a Nissan immobiliser, an alarm system and the Nissan DataDot identification system.

Up front, the new Nissan Juke provides comfortable, well-bolstered seats - the driver seat is height-adjustable and the steering wheel tilts but doesn't telescope. Shorter folks will appreciate the ability to have a higher, more commanding view of the road that comes with this utility-style vehicle. The backseats are also well-shaped and are high enough to provide good leg support even for taller passengers.

From behind the wheel, like an SUV, the driving position in the new Nissan Juke is commanding, the gearshift is well positioned and falls easily to hand in spirited driving. Around town, the Nissan Juke's light steering makes driving straightforward but as on most electrically powered systems, there’s not a lot of feedback on the twisting country roads.

On poor road surfaces the Juke's firmer underpinnings still manage to absorb the jolt of sharper impacts, and provide an agreeable balance between handling prowess and ride comfort. While cruising at higher freeway speeds, road and wind noise was noticeably absent, and you can quite happily listen to your CDs or I-Pods through the excellent sound system.

Driving briskly through the curves, the Juke exhibited good balance, and the handling proved to be more fun than the torsion beam rear suspension would lead you to believe. On the freeway, the Juke rides comfortably at the 120 speed limit, and thanks to the quick changing gearbox, it has plenty of power in reserve for overtaking. There’s a good balance between sporty handling and a comfortable urban ride, making the Juke a real pleasure to drive.

The Nissan JUKE 1.2 DIG-T Acenta retails for R282 100 (pricing at Nov 2015), and that includes a 3-year / 45 000 kilometer service plan and a 3-year / 100 000 kilometer mechanical warranty.

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