Nissan Juke: The Juke is still king
Nissan's new Juke is still distinctive but is better in every way than the trailblazing original, says William Scholes
THERE has never been anything vanilla or beige about the Nissan Juke, writes William Scholes.
Whatever else about the substance of the car, the Juke was impossible to ignore when it was launched around a decade ago.
Looking like the rather unlikely mash-up of a slightly startled frog, a Finn McCool-sized roller skate and something Pixar might have drawn for a Cars movie, it was the epitome of the love-it-or-loathe-it styling.
The Juke formed a unique trailblazing duo with the larger Qashqai. While much of Nissan's range at the time was yawnsome, here were two genuinely innovative family cars.
Apart from giving spellcheckers a headache, the Qashqai fired the starting gun on the crossover-meets-SUV revolution which has so completely saturated the mainstream car market.
Few cars in recent times can claim to have been more influential than the Qashqai, which has spawned a legion of imitators.
The Juke pulled a similar trick in a smaller package, though the styling was more outrageous and the family-friendly practicality limited.
That Marmite styling was key to the car's popularity. Nissan has shifted more than a million Jukes from its British factory at Sunderland in the past nine years and, Brexit uncertainties notwithstanding, would like to sell that many again, thank you very much.
Which brings us to the all-new Juke.
Arguably, Juke-the-second is an object lesson in how car-makers should go about replacing a much-loved model.
For a start, they've not tinkered overly with the styling. "Design is everything," we were told at the car's international launch in Barcelona, a claim that was reinforced by research which showed that the old car's distinctive design was what most appealed to customers.
This new car could never be mistaken for anything other than a Juke, though there is more subtlety to the finished design than that might suggest.
LED lights were not anywhere as sophisticated as they are today when the original Juke was designed, for example, but the new car takes full advantage of that technology.
But having retained what customers loved, Nissan has fixed what they didn't. In doing so, they may well have broadened the Juke's appeal beyond the design-focused.
An adult can now get in and out of the car through the back doors, and even find a reasonably spacious seat once they're inside.
Looking like the rather unlikely mash-up of a slightly startled frog, a Finn McCool-sized roller skate and something Pixar might have drawn for a Cars movie, the Nissan Juke was impossible to ignore when it was launched around a decade ago
My lanky 6ft-plus frame could never manoeuvre itself into the back of the old car, but I was able to travel in the back of the new one without requiring the services of a physiotherapist afterwards or bruising my head on the roof or door frame.
That being said, I wouldn't want to be sat there on a long journey, but the mere fact it's a possibility for me is substantial progress. Against the tape measure, the new car has 6cm more leg room than the old car, for example.
The boot too has grown. It used to be embarrassingly small for a car of its size, but now it has advanced to a perfectly adequate volume of 422 litres. It's far easier to access as well, as the rear lights don't intrude quite so much.
Despite its sportyish, look-at-me styling, I don't remember the original Juke being particularly wonderful to drive.
Still, owners apparently valued the driving experience and Nissan has made sure the new Juke is more enjoyable to steer.
It certainly handled the Catalan countryside competently, with quick, accurate steering, bundles of grip and handling that's zestier than you might expect.
Higher spec Jukes will come with 19-inch alloy wheels, giving it unusually large wheels for a car of this size.
The chassis engineers seem to have successfully mitigated the negative effects on ride that large, low-profile tyres can have on a small car, with the Juke coasting along with acceptable comfort.
That being said, pretty much every car rides smoothly on the silky Catalan tarmac; I'll have to reserve judgment about how the new, big-wheeled Juke copes with Ulster's more pock-marked roads...
Only one engine is offered at launch, a high-tech 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol turbo with 115bhp and 133lb.ft of torque, which rises to 148lb.ft under hard acceleration with an 'overboost' function.
The net effect is that it's punchier than the equivalent in the outgoing car, and crucially emits 30 per cent less CO2.
Anyone who already loves the Nissan Juke is bound to also love the new car. It's better in every way that matters, with more space, some eye-catching technology and top-of-the-class safety gadgetry
The engine is smooth and responsive in the manner of almost all of its three-cylinder type, but it does not make the Juke a quick car.
This single engine is offered with a choice of gearboxes - either a six-speed manual or a smooth-shifting seven-speed double-clutch automatic.
The automatic car feels slower, but the gearbox goes about its business in an extremely smooth and mature way.
It makes a very strong case for itself, though I think I would prefer my Juke to have a the manual gearbox; with it, the car feels more urgent, and because the gearshift is light and quick, revving the happy little engine hard to extract the most of its oomph is never a chore.
As with smartphones and tablet computers, when it comes to in-car technology a decade is a lifetime.
Nissan says the Juke is the "most connected" car it has yet built. There's all manner of digital screens - nice to look at and quick to respond - phone connectivity, charging sockets, Bluetooth streaming and DAB on board. You can even have seats with built in Bose speakers.
The real highlights, however, include over-the-air updates, the ability to specify your Juke as a mobile wifi hotspot, courtesy of an embedded 4G sim card, and an app which allows you to lock the car and so on remotely. Parents can also set up alerts to tell them how the car is being driven when it's in the hands of their offspring - Big Brother is watching...
You can even talk to your Juke through the medium of Google. Should this sort of thing interest you - and car manufacturers keep telling motoring journalists that it does - then you too can use Google Assistant to communicate with the car to tell you how much petrol it has left, send it sat-nav destinations and carry out around 30 other tasks, with more commands to follow.
High-tech also facilitates the latest safety gadgetry and assistance. For example, Nissan's impressive 'ProPilot' system, which helps with steering, braking and acceleration, is available on the Juke.
The first examples of the new car should reach customers next month. Prices start at £17,395 for Visia trim, rising through Acenta (from £18,995), N-Connecta (from £20,995) and Tekna (from £22,495) to the range-topping Tekna+ (from £23,895). Adding the automatic gearbox costs £1,400.
Anyone who already loves the Nissan Juke is bound to also love the new car. It's better in every way that matters, with more space, some eye-catching technology and top-of-the-class safety gadgetry.
It also feels of higher quality than before - reflected, in part, by residual values that are more than 10 per cent superior to the original Juke - and drives with pleasing enthusiasm.
Most importantly of all, for those who still don't like their cars vanilla or beige, it looks like a Nissan Juke. Love it or loathe it, the Juke is here to stay.
AT A GLANCE
Nissan Juke N-Connecta
Price: £20,995. As tested £22,720, with two-tone paint £1,145 and 19-inch alloy wheels £580
Engine and transmission: 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol turbo, front-wheel-drive, six-speed manual gearbox; 115bhp, 133lb.ft (148lb.ft with overboost)
Performance: Top speed 112mph, 0-62mph in 10.4 seconds
Fuel consumption and CO2: 47.1mpg (WLTP combined cycle), 112g/km
Car tax: £170 in first year, then £145 annually
Benefit in kind: 26 per cent
Euro Ncap safety rating: Not yet rated