BY BRIAN BYRNE
WHEN the first generation Nissan Juke was launched ten years ago, its chunky bug-eyed muscular style was a head-turner. It was a tricky styling decision, because sometimes an in-your-face design might not wear well.
Indeed, I suggested that at the time.
During that decade, the small SUV Juke turned out to be something of a second-best seller for Nissan in Europe, behind its Qashqai big sibling. Also, a number of other highly-styled competitors came along, notably the Toyota CH-R, which also became a significant seller.
Both proving that there’s a market for stand-out cars. So when it finally came to fully renew Juke, they didn’t try and tone it down, as would usually be the case for a maturing model.
Launched here in February, the new Juke held onto the muscular shape, but has obviously spent time in the gym, gaining length, width and height.
The front styling has gotten a little more sophisticated, with a larger grille, better integrated DRLs, and an overall more grown-up look. Standard LED headlights have a style all of their own, and there’s also LED at the rear.
The bit more stretch has also allowed a larger boot, and the Juke is now capable enough for a family to head off across the country to revisit its best parts. Increased headroom and space for knees makes such journeys a much easier matter.
Inside they ran a rule over the quality of the materials and upgraded them. The style is still funky, perhaps a little busy for some, but retains the distinctiveness of the occupant space. Where you touch is softer, where you see is all more premium.
All the connectivity tech and safety elements that have become so much part of our motoring experiences are there in the new Juke — some of them, though, only in higher grades. And for those whose hearing will still appreciate such things, there are speakers in the head restraints of both front seats.
A Google Assistant on the owner’s smartphone offers such facilities as working the horn and lights from inside the house — a handy idea for frightening away any ungodly snooping around the street at night.
For the family with young people on consent to drive and insurance, there’s even a facility to monitor their speed and driving style, and ease back their speed limit remotely. That could be scary.
The new car has a new engine, a 1.0 three-cylinder which nevertheless adds a couple of horses to bring the output to 117hp. It’s a lively unit, with a nice busy sound if you let it spin up. There’s no diesel this time, in the segment there’s a continuing decline of oil-burners and Nissan Ireland is confident enough that a single engine will suffice. The review car had a six-speed manual, there’s an option of a dual-clutch auto.
Bit of fun
The car looks fun, so it tends to encourage a bit of fun from the driver, and there’s a Sport drive mode available that very much tightens up the experience. The sporty seats grip nicely, so if you want to spin up a good mountain road, you’ll feel well settled even on off-cambers and ridges.
There are three grades, my review car was one of the two equal top levels, so had Nissan’s Advanced Safety Shield Pack, plus Drive Assist. Just to say, I generally turn that last off on cars I get, I really don’t like being nudged at the edges of lanes. The fun is in being responsible for the drive.
I did enjoy the new Juke. Very much. There are now some 20 direct competitors in the segment, including its first cousin Renault Captur. Juke should manage to stay the pace.