The Nissan Juke 1.6 DIG-T demonstrates that a quality crossover with hot hatch performance costs less than you might think. Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review
Quick. What's the best value car you buy for £18,000-odd? It might just be the Nissan Juke 1.6 DIG-T, a car that offers a 190PS punch, a raised ride height, and a tall stack of standard equipment. Spend only a little more and you can get a 200PS model, all-wheel drive and NISMO styling. This one deserves your attention.
There are some cars that get instant acclaim and attention and then there are those other kind of cars. The ones that fly under the radar of popular approval, that most car buyers don't even realise exist. True, most people have heard of the Nissan Juke - indeed how could you miss a car that looks like this - but very few ever got to appreciate the qualities of the Juke 1.6 DIG-T.
Let's start afresh then. Would you be interested in a car with a turbocharged 190PS under the bonnet, that was offered in both front or four-wheel drive guises, that handled sharply, that was Japanese-reliable, offered decent fuel economy and which started at less than twenty grand? That sounds like the car buyer's wish list that you didn't think could be fulfilled yet Nissan's Juke with the 1.6 DIG-T engine delivers. The latest, updated Juke carries this engine over, albeit with a few tweaks to improve it yet further.
Unless you count the certifiable special order Juke NISMO, that was effectively a Nissan GTR shoehorned under a Juke body, the 1.6 DIG-T is the quickest Juke you can buy. The manual front-wheel drive version will zip to 62mph in 8 seconds flat which gives you a sub-8 second old-school nought to sixty. That's plenty quick enough to see off most traffic light pretenders and the elevated driving position allows you to forward plan your route through traffic better than most low-slung sports cars. The all-wheel drive model is actually 0.2 seconds slower, a combination of extra weight and the CVT Xtronic gearbox nullifying its traction advantage. There's also a 200PS version in the NISMO-badged Juke (not to be confused with the aforementioned special) which shaves 0.2 seconds off the sprinting time for front and all-wheel drive 190PS models.
Nissan has modified the power delivery of this turbo unit to deliver more torque below 2,000rpm. The Juke's elevated stance but diminutive overall length doesn't promise a stellar driving experience but as the last model proved, within a few yards you'll realise that this is a fun car to hustle about. Nissan Dynamic Control debuts here; an advanced driver control system giving the choice of three different driving modes, Normal, Sport or Eco, along with instant driving information and vehicle setting controls. The torque vectoring system on the latest all-wheel drive model incorporates technology that Nissan initially used to such devastating effect on the GT-R.
Design and Build
Yes, the Juke does still look like something dredged up from the abyssal depths of the ocean, and hats off to Nissan for not losing its resolve and watering this version down. At the front, the upper lamps have been redesigned and now incorporate bi-intensity LED daytime running lamps while the headlamps now have Xenon bulbs for better visibility. Door mirrors get LED indicators and, where fitted, cameras for the Around View Monitor. Bumpers, tail lights, alloy wheels and available colours have all been tweaked. The Sunlight Yellow metallic is sure to be popular with those who resolutely refuse to blend in. Nissan also offers coloured inserts which can be applied to the mirror caps, side sills, roof spoiler and door handles in order to further personalise the exterior. The NISMO model looks genuinely aggressive, hunched over its wheels with a pugnacious, come at me stance.
That motor bike style central console continues inside, and features such as the console, door trims and other elements can be individually coloured red, white, black or even bright yellow. Changes have also been made to the shape of the luggage bay in two-wheel drive models to boost luggage space by an impressive 40 per cent, taking the overall capacity to a respectable 354-litres. Versatility is further enhanced with flat folding rear seat, making it easier to load large objects, while the inclusion of a two-stage floor in the luggage area makes the space on offer even more flexible.
Market and Model
Prices for the Juke 1.6 DIG-T start at £18,600 in front-wheel drive, manual Tekna trim and top out at £22,705 for the all-wheel drive NISMO trim with the Xtronic transmission. That is still quite excellent value for money. You'd need to spend £18,250 to get a midspec Ford Fiesta ST that only makes 182PS. The Juke massively undercuts something vaguely comparable like a 190PS MINI Countryman Cooper S; a car that starts at almost £22,000.
Standard on all models are LED daytime running lamps, a CD radio with an AUX-in socket, gear-shift indicator and tyre pressure monitor. The Tekna trim features front fog lights, 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic air conditioning, remote audio controls, Bluetooth connectivity for phone and audio streaming, cruise control and limiter, Nissan Dynamic Control System and chrome interior touches. There's also power folding door mirrors, light and rain sensors, i-Key with Start/Stop and the latest NissanConnect with rear-view parking/reversing camera, Around View Monitor and Safety Shield. Go for the 200PS NISMO model and you get 18-inch wheels, a spoiler kit and some lovely suede sports seats amongst other extras.
Cost of Ownership
The 1.6-litre DIG-T petrol unit features emissions of 159g/km of CO2 for the 2WD versions. The all-wheel drive version only fares slightly worse, recording 169g/km. Fuel economy on the combined cycle is measured at 40.9mpg in the front-wheel drive car and 38.2mpg for the all-wheel drive model.
The updated Juke is looking to retain its predecessor's reputation as being inexpensive to run. Due in no small part to its distinctive personality, residual values have been a few points beefier than in many typical superminis. CAP Monitor quotes residual values of between 52 and 54 per cent after three years/60,000 miles, even outstripping the MINI hatchback by a good few points.
A Nissan Juke armed with a 1.6-litre DIG-T engine is a genuinely capable proposition. You know that old chestnut about choosing cars - fast, cheap, reliable; choose any two? This Juke is as close as it comes for a new car to tick all three boxes. The Nismo models amp up the attitude perhaps a little more than the 200PS motor can deliver, but this engine looks to have quite some scope for aftermarket tuners and that car with 250PS driving all four wheels would be a weapon.
As it stands, the entry-level front-wheel drive model looks to be the pick of the bunch. For little over £18,000 you're getting a car that's got a broad range of talents, although a spacious cabin isn't one of them. Remember that the Juke is ostensibly supermini-sized despite its aggressive crossover styling and family buyers might need to step up to a Qashqai. The old Juke 1.6 DIG-T never got the attention it deserved. This time round things could be different.