Nissan Juke

New face and heart for divisive SUV

ALEX INWOOD

FIRST AUSSIE DRIVE

ITíS FUN to imagine that the Juke has its own, sealed-off section at Nissan HQ in Japan. It would have a closed door behind which jokes are told, whoopee cushions are sat on and eye-bending designs, like the freshly updated Juke you see here, are created.

This facelift arrives three years after the original Juke landed Down Under and it only sharpens the visual impact of Nissanís divisive small SUV. Thereís a new front bumper, restyled head- and tail-lights, LED daytime running lights, new alloy wheels and the addition of five bold colours, including this Bumblebee Yellow, just in case you find the madhatter styling too subtle.

Itís under the Jukeís tweaked skin where the real interest lies.

A new, Renault-sourced 1.2-litre turbo four powers entry-level ST models and, mated to a smoothshifting six-speed manual, it proves flexible, strong and more economical than the previous 1.6-litre lump, still found in ST variants with a CVT.

All front-drive models now boast a massive 40 percent improvement in boot space to 354 litres, thanks to improved rear packaging, but sadly the range-topping Ti-S CVT, courtesy of its torque-vectoring AWD system, retains its dismal 207-litre load lugging capacity.

Nissan has also streamlined the Juke range and dropped the old mid-sped ST-S. Buyers now have the choice of ST or Ti-S grades and three engine options; 1.2-litre turbo (ST manual only), naturally aspirated 1.6 (ST CVT) and a 1.6-litre turbo (Ti-S manual and CVT AWD).

Thereís new tech too, including Nissanís Safety Shield system, which adds lane-departure warning, blind-spot detection and a reversing camera that includes moving-object detection and a Ďbirdís-eyeí 360-degree view for Ti-S models.

What hasnít changed is the Jukeís suspension and steering hardware, meaning you get the same wheel-at-each-corner handling feel and well-weighted tiller. However, it also means the Juke can be unruly on twisty roads, with a lack of front-end grip when pushed.

Worse still, aside from a few minor tweaks, the Jukeís dated, mismatched interior remains unchanged. Dominated by hard, cheap-feeling plastics and a central stack that looks like a 1990s stereo, the Jukeís cabin is at odds with its cutting-edge, concept-car exterior.

Lack of interior polish aside, itís clear Nissan has improved the Juke. Sharper styling, improved packaging and a gutsy, wellpriced base model not only add to its individualism but, more importantly, broaden its appeal.

Model Engine Max power Max torque Transmission Kerb weight 0-100km/h Economy Price On sale Nissan Juke ST manual 1197cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v, turbo 85kW @ 4500rpm 190Nm @ 2000rpm 6-speed manual 1163kg 10.8sec (claimed) 5.6L/100km $23,490 Now

PLUS & MINUS

Dated, cheap-feeling cabin; lacks dynamic polish; styling New entry-level engine; more equipment; improved ore packaging; styling

Micra mania

NISSAN also launched the updated Micra alongside the Juke, with the companyís facelifted city car finally hitting Aussie shores after lengthy delays.

Like Juke, the Micra range is now available in two grades, ST and Ti. The mid-spec ST-L has been dropped. Price of the base ST manual remain unchanged at $13,490, while the auto-only Ti drops by $2000 to $16,990 and adds a 5.8-inch touchscreen, sat-nav and reversing camera.