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What is it?

When it hit the Aussie market in 2013, the Nissan Juke was received with wails from blind people, Picasso said it outdid his worst paintings, and small children fainted on sight.

It’s fair to say its looks were beyond polarising. Yet, much like the largely unloved AU falcon — it charmed in spite of its divisive apperance.

For 2020 the beer goggles were polished and a new, better (in context) looking Juke has emerged.

The front has been given the most notable makeover; the protruding headlights don’t protrude as much and have been re-styled, the goggle-eyed fender based driving lights are gone and the Juke now has the familiar looking Nissan V family look.

The rear has been tidied up and the lights have been squared off and seemingly look slimmer.

There’s four grades and we drove the entry level ST.

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What’s it cost?

ST is priced from $30,490 driveaway and premium paint adds $695.

Wheels and rubber are alloys wrapped by 215/60/17s Hankook Ventus Prime.

On our Ivory Pearl Juke (one of eight colours), they sit inside wheel arches capped by body-wrapping black urethane.

As mentioned the front end comes in for the biggest change. The bumper-fitted headlights have had the surrounds pared back. The lights themselves have been restyled — buts it’s the V-shaped grille and LED running lights that have had the biggest impact.

It’s still a hunchbacked look but the changes lessen that impact. It’s helped by gentle fender curves front and rear, plus a subtle scallop in the doors.

Inside and it’s not the worst office-space to be in.

The manually operated seats have a cloth covering with a distinctive weave, and support is plentiful.

Triple dial airvents in the centre of the dash have a cool-looking, grey plastic surround which extends to the centre console.

The dash itself has a cloth feel to one section and a normal black plastic elsewhere. 

A gentle sweep from side to side joins the other two airvents.

A niggle here with the controls; two separate buttons for fresh or recirculate when one should do the trick, and even the slowest fan setting can be too much.

For a car that sits inside the small SUV category, the Juke has a surprising amount of space.

It’s 4210mm in overall length, has a 2636mm wheelbase, and offers up 1049mm front legroom. Rear legroom is 843mm and there is a generous 996mm/948mm headroom front and rear.

The 8.0 inch touchscreen lacks DAB audio, however there is Bluetooth audio streaming across the range, allowing smart apps to play your chosen tunes.

Another niggle is the start-up warning screen to remain alert. In the Juke, it doesn’t disappear, meaning it’s there until touched or the engine is switched off again.

A pair of generic analogue dials flank the now universally accepted colour info screen, accessed as usual via the steering wheel.

Heading back to the rear of this pert five-seater, and the cargo space sits lower than the boot lip. That helps in keeping items secure and there is up to 1305 litres available.

Safety levels are high with six airbags, Intelligent Emergency Braking with Cyclist and Pedestrian Detection, Forward Collision and Lane Departure Warning as standard.

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What’s it go like?

Ahem. Go is not a word easily associated with the Juke, and frankly it’s what lets the car down.

Take a turbocharged 1.0-litre three potter, give it 84kW and 180Nm, and so far, so good.

Then give it a dual clutch transmission and those reasonably promising numbers are hobbled. Constant Variable Transmissions (CVT) are not universally liked on the other hand, but would be a far better fit for such a tiny engine.

What torque there is peaks at 2400rpm. In comparison, the same size and configuration from Kia’s Picanto produces a slightly lesser figure — but it’s available from 1500 through to 4000 revs.

The other thing holding back the Juke from being the bloody good drive it could be, is its mass.

At 1275kg it isn’t huge, but on a torque to weight ratio — it’s too much.

Acceleration is pedestrian from a standing start, marginally better on a rolling requirement, and there are those typical yawns between Reverse and Drive.

Economy is affected too, but not badly. We saw a best of 6.8L/100km but we couldn’t help wonder if a 1.3-litre turbo would see that economy drop due to better power and torque.

That need to feather the throttle to engage Drive than effectively hoof it to get going, must adversely affect the way it drinks unleaded.

Given its druthers, the turbo three has that typical turbo three thrum, and it’s not an unpleasing sound at all.

What’s also enjoyable is the ride and handling.  It’s neutral in its handling, lacks the twitchiness of the Pathfinder, and feels more planted in the steering.

It’s also planted in the MacPherson strut front, twist beam coil sprung rear, absorbing roads of varying characteristics easily and without major fuss.

Cornering is adroit, even though it’s a front wheel drive system.

When coming into sweeping turns, the suspension controls the body roll progressively, and the steering doesn’t need constant input either.

Brakes are disc front, drum rear, and they’re noticeable — but again don’t adversely affect that part of the Juke ST’s drive.

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What we like?

  • Subjectively better looks than Version 1
  • Good interior packaging for a small SUV
  • Handling is impressive

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What we don’t like?

  • Lack of urge
  • Gappy DCT
  • Lack of urge and gappy DCT overcome the well sorted handing
  • Did we mention the lack of urge?

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The bottom line?

The Juke, as a driver’s car, suffers from that curious mix of wonder versus what already is.

We wonder if a bigger engine would actually be a better choice and be more economical because it would work less hard to do the same job.

Looks-wise, well, it’s a case of “beauty is in the eye of the beer-holder”. 

Ride and handling are well and truly good enough for most.

Cargo space is also good enough.

As a complete package, it’s akin to watching a 40-year-old old VHS tape on the latest 8K screen; the thought is there but it doesn’t really work.

Find a 1.3-litre turbo, Nissan, or go harder with a 1.6-litre turbo and all-wheel drive the hell out of it.

Either way, the Juke needs a heart transplant.

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Nissan Juke ST, priced from $30,490
  • Looks - 7/10
    7/10
  • Performance - 5.5/10
    5.5/10
  • Safety - 8.5/10
    8.5/10
  • Thirst - 7.5/10
    7.5/10
  • Practicality - 7.5/10
    7.5/10
  • Comfort - 8/10
    8/10
  • Tech - 7.5/10
    7.5/10
  • Value - 7/10
    7/10
7.3/10

Conole

Dave Conole hails from Perth where he co-hosted a car show on one of the city's major community radio stations. Although he's had formal training in stage, TV, and film, it's his face for radio that gave him his start in the automotive field, both reviewing and motorsport commentary. After moving to Sydney in 2004, Dave has worked for some of Australia's biggest media groups and is the anchor commentator at Sydney Motorsport Park. This has lead to anchoring major events such as the Top Gear Festival (and, no, he didn't get punched by Jeremy).