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First Drive

First Drive: Nissan Juke

Nissan Juke 1.0 DIG-T 117 Tekna+
The story: Nissan has finally replaced its pioneering Juke small crossover, with the new second-generation car claimed to be more practical, better to drive and more technologically advanced.
Category:Small Crossover
Key rival:Peugeot 2008
Efficiency:47.9 mpg
On sale:November 2019

The first-generation Nissan Juke followed in the tracks of its Qashqai bigger brother in establishing a new crossover sector of the market that other manufacturers have rapidly flocked to.

In fact, small crossovers are the biggest growth area of the UK new car marketplace, and rivals such as Peugeot and Renault are already launching the second generations of their successful challengers in the forms of the 2008
and Captur respectively.

So it was about time Nissan brought through a new version of a car that was launched back in 2010 and which has lived longer than a car’s typical life cycle.

And as successful as the first Juke was (it has managed more than a million sales across Europe since launch), it was more than beginning to feel its age. The new model brings big improvements in efficiency, practicality, safety and connectivity in particular, as well as Nissan’s focus areas of claimed agile performance, athletic design and advanced technology.

First Drive-1st November 2019-Nissan Juke-Image 6The styling is certainly a striking difference, especially at the front where the nose is a more futuristic, almost concept-car, design, while the rear retains more of the first Juke’s looks while being more muscular, angular and sporty.

On the inside, Nissan accepts that rear-seat and boot space were key weaknesses of the previous model, and has addressed that with a 20% increase in boot space (from 354 litres to 422 litres), putting it much nearer the top of the class; the Japanese brand also claims that there is an extra 58mm of rear legroom thanks to the new car’s increased dimensions.

Both areas certainly feel much more acceptable, with the split-level boot offering a decent space beneath if the floor is in the higher position, while adults will find just about enough rear space for a comfortable journey, although headroom isn’t particularly generous.

First Drive-1st November 2019-Nissan Juke-Image 7Up front, the infotainment system isn’t the quickest to react to prods of the touchscreen, and while quality is generally good, cheaper areas of hard plastic aren’t exactly tough to find.

Nissan has kept it simple with the powertrain offerings, in that there’s just the one engine, a 117hp 1.0-litre petrol, and a choice of either six-speed manual or the seven-speed DCT automatic transmissions. |The latter is a £1400 option that is 2g/km more efficient at 110g/km, dropping it one Benefit-in-Kind tax band as a result. Nissan claims the new engine is 15% faster and 30% more efficient than its predecessor. It isn’t the most lively of units though, feeling sluggish if rapid acceleration is required, which will only be made worse by hills or heavier loads. That’s amplified by the automatic gearbox, and given the price premium, the manual is the logical choice.

Apart from that, the Juke is a better driving experience. The ride quality is generally good, especially in the way it soaks up bumps or potholes, although it can offer a jiggly vibration sense at higher speed, like it’s feeling every ripple of the road. But the chassis and handling impress much more than the first Juke ever managed, and the steering is on the light side of well weighted, which will be appreciated in a car that is likely to be fairly urban-inhabiting.

Paul Barker

The verdict

Big improvements over a car that was rather showing its age. The Juke’s advances in efficiency, practicality, safety tech and driving experience more than counter the slightly lacklustre new petrol engine.