WHEN the offer got thrown around the office for a day of testing the next generation Nissan JUKE prior to its official launch, suddenly everyone seemed to be out to lunch, or perhaps it was fear of the original shape that looked like a Mazda 121 ‘bubble’ on steroids.
But the chance to actually drive three cars around all day and check out all that was new about Nissan’s compact SUV was too much for yours truly. What we found was pleasantly surprising.
Sure, if you go back ten years to the beginning of the JUKE’s history, you’ll remember a car that, depending on your opinion, was either ahead of its time, or down right ugly. But that was then, and this is now.
The JUKE is still the JUKE in the sense of exterior styling. It still has that classic sloping roof line, and a hint of its bubbly shape from years ago. But these features are no foiled by a much more sporty look, making that classic look more appealing.
At the heart of these changes are a new front grille, with molded daytime running lights and plenty of chrome accents. It makes for a much more refined look, as does the new rear wing at the back of the vehicle, which gives the roof line a sleeker, sportier feel.
We will admit we still don’t love the rear door handles, as they continue to represent form over function, but that’s probably the biggest hangover from the original design. The biggest exterior change though is wheels.
The base model ST and ST+ come with 17-inch alloy wheels, while the ST-L wears 19-inch alloys, and the range-topping Ti sporting 19-inch AKARI alloys. There’s also a healthy range of colours to choose from.
JUKE buyers can select Arctic White, Ivory Pearl, Gun Metallic, Platinum, Burgundy, Pearl Black, Vivid Blue and Fuji Sunset Red. Arctic White is not available on the luxurious Ti model variant.
Under the hood, the entire range is powered by a 1.0-litre 3-cylinder direct injection turbocharged petrol engine producing 84kW of power and 180Nm of torque, coupled with a 7-speed dual clutch automatic transmission.
And before you think about that combination being a one-way ticket to a joyless, under-powered experience, we can tell you that, other than being a little slow taking off, the JUKE does a great job of delivering the power when you need it.
If you do need a little more poke though, the ST-L and Ti come with a D-mode button, giving you access to drive modes that include Eco, Normal and Sports, which does help to remove any sluggishness as you dart into a gap in peak hour traffic.
We are secretly hoping Nissan might slip one to the cool kids at NISMO for another go at a JUKE NISMO though. Power is delivered to the front wheels and there’s no all-wheel drive option available.
That’s okay too though, as this car is genuinely aimed at 18-35 year olds, or older empty nesters, looking for an urban run around that’s got decent ground clearance, funky looks and offers something different to the normal look and feel of a small SUV.
Inside, every JUKE variant is different, with some similarities across the range. For instance, all models come with an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system that supports Apple Carplay and Android Auto, Bluetooth, and voice recognition.
Starting with the ST, you’ll find comfortable mono-form cloth seating and a manual handbrake. It falls short on a decent centre console though. Jump up to the ST+ and you’ll add satellite navigation, heated seats and auto air conditioning settings.
It’s the ST-L where you’ll start to notice a real difference, with a leather steering wheel and shift knob, a light up circular LED that surrounds the gear stick, part cloth/leather seats, a front arm rest and a decent centre console.
The Ti adds rear privacy glass, Alcantara accents and what has to be one of the coolest features ever, BOSE speakers built in to the front seat headrests. They’re even kind of shaped like headphones.
In fact sound is the biggest difference between the ST-L and the Ti, with six speakers in the former, and eight in the latter. Oddly, we thought the sound in the ST-L better because it favoured all occupants, while the Ti’s felt more front seat focused.
We were impressed by the amount of safety technology across the range too, with the ST scoring a rear view camera and parking sensors, forward collision warning, rear cross traffic alert, and emergency braking, with cyclist and pedestrian recognition.
Remember this is a base model, and it also gets lane departure warning (which vibrates when you start to drift), driver alert, blind spot warning and hill assist. Impressive right. Although we did find the lane departure warning system to be temperamental.
The ST+ gets the same safety goodness, but the real difference is when you jump into the ST-L, with a beautiful 7.0-inch driver assist display in the instrument cluster, rain sensor wipers, electric park brake and push button start.
The Ti adds what is a personal favourite of this reviewer, an intelligent around-view monitor that makes parking a breeze. All-in-all the 2020 Nissan JUKE range delivers a small SUV, loaded with technology, comfort and unique styling.
Nissan has clearly listened to its target market. It doesn’t feel over-engineered either, which should help keen running costs low. Service intervals are set at 20,000km (although our resident mechanic recommends every 10,000km).
We drove the 2020 Nissan JUKE range as part of an individual drive day event (designed to comply with COVID-19 restrictions), hosted by Nissan Australia. To find out more about the JUKE, contact your local Nissan dealer.