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Nissan Juke

The Nissan Juke 1.5 dCi Tekna on its Beating Spirit road test

Road Test of the Nissan Juke

Model/Engine size: 1.5 dCi Tekna
Fuel: Diesel
Fuel economy combined: 55.4 mpg

Beating Spirit rating: 8/10

The Nissan Juke crossover has mini off-roader looks that people either love or hate, but regardless of your views on the styling, it’s a great car to drive and in diesel form it returns a respectable 55 mpg.

OK, so there are now many cars out there that can manage more than 55 mpg, and that can also improve on the Juke’s 134 g/km CO2 emissions, but there aren’t many that also share the car’s modern, dramatic off-road styling and offer the same levels of fun to drive.

Testing the Nissan Juke in the hills

It may look like a small 4×4, but all Jukes are front-wheel drive only – except for the top-of-the-range petrol 1.6 DIG-T CVT model. But even in two-wheel drive form, the Juke makes perfect sense for many aspects of modern motoring, including driving in areas such as the Lake District, one of the places where our test took place.

See our
review of the racing version of the Juke-R
during testing at Nissan’s high-speed track

The Juke is a relatively compact car, with short front and rear overhangs and decent ground clearance. This makes it ideal for undulating roads in the countryside, where you’re never in any fear of the car grounding on humpback bridges or other bumps and crests.

The height of the car also means that it’s easy to get in and out, and it offers good visibility (forwards at least). Yet the ride height doesn’t mean that the car demonstrates the tendency of many 4x4s and crossovers to roll excessively on corners. In fact the Juke is excellent to drive, and it feels as though this is what the MINI Countryman driving experience should be like; ie. all the fun of a MINI, but in a package with a higher driving position. The Juke has an excellent chassis, being tight and responsive to drive.

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Unfortunately the driving experience is definitely let down by the engine. The 110 bhp 1.5-litre diesel unit can be noisy and harsh, and feels as though it desperately needs some attention from the NVH department in order to provide it with some much-needed refinement.

The six-speed gearbox is smooth enough, although a little too easy to get in the wrong gear, but the rest of the car works well, with tight and well-weighted steering, enjoyable handling, good body control, and a ride that’s firm but not uncomfortable.

The Juke has three drive settings to choose from – Normal, Sport, and Eco – it’s primarily the accelerator response, steering weight and climate control that are the main elements to be adjusted.

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In fact by switching between the drive settings and the climate button, the appearance and function of the same controls on the dashboard change, so saving space and the amount of buttons. This is a clever feature, but at any time you’re left with half of the functions – either drive settings or climate – that you can’t see.

You also get a screen that, depending on which button you press, displays a graph of power, torque, economy (including a Toyota Prius-style mpg bar chart (as well as a mpg read-out in the main instrument cluster)) – or even g-force. The interface for the satnav and Bluetooth are both easy to use, and unlike many others cars, the USB and Aux sockets are actually relatively accessible.

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Nissan has made an effort with the design of the interior as a whole, the result being something that is much more interesting than the average family hatchback. The curved, coloured transmission tunnel is meant to resemble the fuel tank of a motorbike, and the entire dashboard feels as though some creative design thought has been applied.

The steering column doesn’t adjust in and out, but even so the driving position is good and the steering wheel, which comes with a whole host of wheel-mounted controls, feels sporty and chunky to hold.

In fact ‘chunky’ is probably the best way to describe the whole car. It has large, curvy flared arches, filled by 17-inch alloy wheels. With lights set high on the bonnet, the front of the car looks very different from virtually anything else on the road, unless you can track down a very rare and old Isuzu Vehicross, which was never officially available in the UK, but which also looks like some form of car mated with a spaceship.

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Judging by the reactions to our car, the Juke is a love it or hate it design. We think it looks great, making a strong and individual design statement, although the rear styling does not work as well as the front.

Although the Juke is basically a practical car, there isn’t a huge amount of space in the back seats or the boot – although the boot does have an extra storage compartment under the floor.

With equipment such as leather, satnav, cruise control, keyless start and seat heaters, the specification of our Tekna test car was good. This car costs £17,745, but prices start from just £12,995, so the Juke represents reasonable value for money especially if you opt for the entry-level Visia or mid-range Acenta spec.

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We averaged around 43 mpg on our road test, which is quite a way short of the official claimed 55 mpg, but this is not too bad considering that much driving was done on routes which involved lots of hills. The range is supposed to be 560 miles from its 46-litre tank, but the fuel gauge seemed to drop quickly.

If you really can’t live with the diesel engine, the Juke also comes with two petrol units, a 115 bhp 1.6-litre or a 188 bhp 1.6-litre direct injection turbo. Neither of these are a green choice.

Side view of the Nissan Juke

Summary of the Nissan Juke

If you want a car that looks like a thoroughly modern and individual small off-roader, that drives well, and also has reasonable economy and emissions, then the Nissan Juke could be the one for you. However in this form it’s only front-wheel drive, and it has a diesel engine that can be noisy. Taking all this into account, it gets a Beating Spirit
rating of 8 out of 10; a more refined drivetrain and features such as a stop/start system and longer gearing to result in lower emissions would improve the car significantly.

Yet even as it is, the Juke is an excellent car to drive, and if you like the way it looks, then it could win your affection. It certainly offers a fun and interesting alternative to the average small hatchback.

Paul Clarke

View of the Juke's dashboard from driver's seat

Car Details and Fuel Economy Data

Fuel economy extra urban: 62.8 mpg
Fuel economy urban: 46.3 mpg
CO2 emissions: 134 g/km
Green rating: VED band E – first year £110
Weight: 1285 Kg
Company car tax liability (2010/11): 18%
Price: £17,745 (From £12,995 to £20,345)
Insurance group: 13E
Power: 110 bhp
Max speed: 109 mph
0-62mph: 11.2 seconds
DPF: Yes

Boot space in Nissan Juke

Photos taken on the day during Beating Spirit’s Nissan Juke 1.5 dCi Tekna review