ROAD TEST: Nissan Juke plays its own tune
TRENDSETTING has been the trajectory of the Nissan Juke from day one.
Launched in Australia during 2013, the styling drew dramatically contrasting perspectives. Despite its compact dimensions, the Juke is bold and proud with bulging wheel arches combined with muscular lines.
Arriving about the same time as Mitsubishi's ASX, they were the trailblazers in what has become a segment more popular than pursed lips on Instagram.
The small SUV segment has since been besieged with new additions, with the Mazda CX-3, Honda HR-V, Hyundai Kona and the equally sharp-looking Toyota C-HR among the genre's most popular.
Resigned to the shadows, those who like the Juke's styling can currently jag a bargain as it aims to compete with the influx of competition.
Currently the Ti-S is available for $33,990 drive-away - essentially a saving of all on-road costs.
Sitting mid-rung on the Juke tree since a flashy Nismo derivative was introduced last year, the Ti-S still gets some impressive fruit to warrant the price tag north of $30K.
Among the inclusions are 18-inch black glossy alloys, push-button start, six-speaker CD stereo with a 5.8-inch touch-screen and in-built satnav, leather-accented seat trim, heated front seats along with auto wipers and lights.
Basic external colour options are white and red, costing $550 extra are ivory, black, platinum, blue or gun metallic.
Personality is integral to the Juke's appeal and the Ti-S can be individualised inside and out.
There are $800 "myJuke” packs where the compact SUV can feature coloured highlights on the bumpers, wheel inserts and mirror caps. While inside there are blue, black or orange treatments available for the console, air vents and door trims. Not all colour configurations are available ... some people need protection from themselves.
Capped servicing is $2197 for six maintenance visits, plus $32 for brake fluid every two years or 20,000km, while intervals are annual or every 10,000km.
All Nissans are lagging behind mainstream warranty standards with three-year or 100,000km coverage. Most others are at least five years, including market leaders Toyota and Mazda, while Kia maintains the benchmark with seven years/unlimited kilometres which has recently been matched by SsangYong and and MG.
Time is not an ally when it comes to safety features. The Juke scored five stars when tested back in 2011, it wouldn't get close now due to the absence of active technology such as autonomous emergency braking, lane keeping assist and radar cruise control.
There is was no issue with the car's structural integrity and it does come with blind spot monitor, lane departure warning, tyre pressure monitoring and an around-view monitor.
Motivating the Juke is an energetic turbocharged four-cylinder engine which offers some serious zip off the line.
With grip from all four wheels and equipped with torque vectoring, that can automatically send power to individual corners, it's a surprisingly fun drive especially when the going gets twisty.
Aiding the cornering prowess is independent rear suspension (manual and base models get a torsion beam) and 18-inch rubber. There are also three drive modes, normal, sport and economy, offering varying levels of throttle response and steering weight depending on how spirited you're feeling.
The high-riding driving position will find favour with those seeking extra vision, but the Juke feels more car-like with it's ability to carve into the bends and rip away from the lights.
One trade-off with the suspension set-up that virtually eliminates body roll is a firm ride and road rumble at highway speeds. Those who stay in town or in suburban areas will barely notice the shortcomings, except on speed bumps and poor quality bitumen.
Fuel consumption is relatively thrifty at less than seven litres for every 100km, but it does require premium 95 unleaded.
Despite modern external lines the Juke is beginning to feel its age inside. While there is full bluetooth connectivity, absent are smartphone mirroing apps Apple CarPlay and Andorid Auto, and the driver's central display has no option for a digital speedo.
Boot space is compromised with just over 200 litres available and there are limited spots for keys and others items through the console - plus the hand brake is positioned on the left side showing its overseas origins.
Life doesn't need to be mundane, the Juke lacks some of the latest safety kit but the overall package is one of value.
Some don't like the looks, but I love the muscular persona that showcases a mix of SUV and coupe, and it possesses the ability to add some colour to my life without breaking the budget for the next two decades.
TOYOTA C-HR KOBA $36,988 D/A
Far less power than the Juke, with a turbocharged 1.2-litre 4-cyl that generates just 85kW/185Nm combined with a CVT automatic. The C-HR also runs on 95 octane unleaded but has safety upgrades of active cruise control with autonomous emergency braking and rear cross traffic alert. Fun drive but needs more power.
MAZDA CX-3 AKARI $37,490 D/A
Segment leader with a 110kW/195Nm 2.0-litre 4-cyl petrol engine has just received a mid-life upgrade. Superior safety credentials, including rear cross traffic alert, smart city brake support and driver attention alert. Also comes with leather seats and sunroof. Not quite as sharp as the Juke in it's performance but still feels zippy under acceleration.
Funky personified, the Nissan Juke has never followed the pack. The Ti-S is a surprise packet with impressive urban dexterity.
AT A GLANCE
NISSAN JUKE Ti-S AWD
PRICE Drive-away $33,990 (good)
WARRANTY/SERVICING 3yr/100,000km w'ty (below par), services $977 for 3yrs (OK)
ENGINE 1.6-litre turbo 140kW/240Nm, CVT, all-wheel drive (fiesty)
SAFETY 5 stars (from 2011), six airbags, around-view monitor, blind spot warning, tyre pressure monitoring (not great)
THIRST 6.5 litres/100km (pretty good)
SPARE Space saver (expected)
CARGO 207 litres (miniature)