Joel Helmes road tests and reviews the 2014 Nissan JUKE.
Now Nissan has joined the ‘funky’ small car club with the JUKE and unfortunately I can’t really see an absolutely compelling argument to drive one out of a dealership.
Thus I fear sales numbers for the Nissan JUKE are going to remain modest, just like the aforementioned Kia and Toyota models.
The Nissan JUKE styling sure is different and eye-catching and while we should celebrate individuality and creativity, I fear the design is going to alienate a lot of potential buyers.
Among the people I quizzed on what they thought of the styling, about half hated it straight off; the other half thought it was only ‘alright’.
Now, you may disagree, you might love it and you might even buy a JUKE, but when you alienate a large percentage of people just on the looks then the overall sales success of the car is likely to be handicapped.
The JUKE is offered in the choice of three specification levels – ST, ST-S and Ti-S and there is a fair bit of choice between the three models.
The ST gets a naturally aspirated 1.6 litre four-cylinder petrol engine that delivers 86kW and 158Nm and the entry-level model offers a choice of CVT or five-speed manual transmissions.
If you opt for the Nissan JUKE ST-S you get a turbo-charged version of the same engine, power and torque skips up to 140kW and 240Nm and you can choose between a six-speed manual transmission or CVT.
While the top-of-the-range Ti-S also features the turbo engine and comes with all-wheel drive, but is a CVT only.
The entry point in the JUKE range is the ST which is priced from $22,090 for the manual; I had the JUKE with the CVT option – a combo that starts from $24,490.
On the road the limitations of the modest 86kW and 158Nm are immediately obvious. Acceleration, both from a start and at speed is pretty hopeless.
You can choose different drive modes – Eco, Normal and Sport, but really all are just totally uninspiring. The lack of grunt also means you need to drive the JUKE pretty hard to keep up with the traffic and that means the little engine really makes a lot of noise.
It feels as the CVT also drains any life the engine may have, I would be checking out the manual version if an ST was as far as your budget will stretch.
Fuel consumption was only passable, I averaged 8.4L/100km in a mix of city and highway driving. The official combined figure though is 6.3L/100km, but this seems pretty ambitious!
Beyond that the Nissan JUKE provides reasonable handling, but the ride is really nothing to write home about. On a more positive note the steering is nicely weighted and sharp.
Inside the cabin the entry-level JUKE offers an impressive feel with fit and finish as good as you would find in any car in this segment.
The seats are sporty and firm, but would be more comfortable with more under-thigh support. Speaking of comfort – the lack of a centre arm-rest and a driver’s foot rest brings the comfort level down.
The leather-wrapped steering wheel though is a highlight, take note however that the steering adjustment in the Nissan JUKE is height only.
Legroom up-front and in the rear was disappointing and although I’m not a particularly tall or large person I did feel quite cramped. Boot space is limited, though the JUKE does have handy sub-floor storage areas.
On the positive side the JUKE offers really generously sized wing-mirrors and visibility from the driver’s seat is quite good (though the mirrors do create their own blind spots!).
The glove box is very generously sized and the Nissan JUKE does feature handy storage pockets on the back of the front seats. The gauges are nice and clear and the driver info screen is also easy to read, despite the display graphics being a touch on the dated side.
Take note as well that the indicators are on the left hand side!
In the Nissan JUKE ST you also miss out on features like auto headlights and wipers, a reversing camera and satellite navigation and you have to be happy with an old-fashioned key ignition too.
You do get well-placed auxiliary audio input and USB ports though, but the adjacent mobile phone storage spot was not large enough for my HTC phone and that means it easily slid out and ended up on the floor (whoever designed it must have had an iPhone!).
Finally, the main centre control panel does offer an interesting feature – it switches between climate control and driving mode controls at the push of a button. The execution is quite good in the clever way that the buttons have two completely different functions – the only problem is the panel is just too complex, positioned too low and the screen too small.
The verdict: The new Nissan JUKE is different and we love that. The styling though will divide opinion.
The lack of get-up-and-go in the ST, the ride and the fairly thin standard features list in this grade of the JUKE all take away from the finished product.
NUTS and BOLTS
Engine: 1.6 litre four-cylinder petrol delivering 86kW and 158Nm
Transmission: CVT or five-speed manual
Safety: Five stars
Origin: United Kingdom
Price: ST from $22,090.
For further information, please see Recalls and faults: Nissan F15 Juke.