Nissan Juke Tekna: long-term test review
The Juke is one of the big-name cars in the compact crossover class when it comes to its sound system, but the firm ride and stodgy controls mean that it isn’t a headline act.
Mileage: 5,380Economy: 37.5mpg
London's Royal Albert Hall is one of the most iconic music venues in the entire world. It has played host to world-famous acts such as Eric Clapton, Shirley Bassey, Kylie Minogue, plus a countless number of world-class orchestras. And the Eurovision Song Contest.
It’s clearly a venue that has some history when it comes to the big performers, then. And while such a lauded concert hall won’t be ditching its current sound stage for some fancy in-car audio any time soon, the Nissan Juke’s Bose set-up has proved to be a great way of piping rich tunes into my commute, a trip which, before the coronavirus hit, took me right past the Hall itself.
Offered in the range-topping Tekna trim levels, the Bose Personal Plus Audio system is an eight-speaker ensemble with a difference. That’s because the sound is quite literally brought right to your ears – thanks to each of the front-seat headrests having speakers of their own built in.
This isn’t a feature that’s unique to the Juke; in the past Mazda has used a similar system on its MX-5. But while it was an innovation used on the roadster to make up for the extra road, wind and engine noise that naturally comes in a car without a roof, inside the Juke’s well insulated cabin it just brings brilliant detail to your music.
You can adjust the strength of the headrest speakers via a slider on a menu in the car’s eight-inch touchscreen infotainment. And when they’re in their strongest setting, the sound quality is almost like wearing a set of headphones; a feature Nissan and Bose were aiming for, if the integrated speakers’ design – mimicking a pair of high-end over-ear cans – is anything to go by. You can also reduce the effect to give the impression of a wider, more conventional system.
As anyone who’s bought a set of decent headphones will tell you, you don’t need massive speakers to deliver strong, punchy sounds as long as they’re close to your ears.
So while many of the more conventional in-car systems of the Juke’s rivals struggle at lower frequencies – anyone who’s turned up the volume to the point of buzzing and rattling door trims will know what I mean – the Nissan manages to sound powerful without ever taking things too far.
So, for the genuine audiophiles among small crossover buyers, this latest Juke is certainly well worth a look.
The Nissan’s high transmission tunnel gives the impression that you’re sitting quite a bit lower than you actually are for a high-riding crossover, and the handsome steering wheel and bank of round air vents continue the sporty vibe.
Unfortunately, the rest of the Juke’s driving experience doesn’t live up to that cool design or the cracking hi-fi – and its clutch pedal is the number-one culprit.
The spring in a good clutch bounces back quickly and positively, but the Juke’s has a similar response to lifting your foot away from a memory foam mattress. It’s really unpleasant, and for a control that’s used all the time, it really takes the shine off the whole driving experience.
Nissan has made the latest Juke more fun to drive, but the trade-off is a firm ride. We like the bold styling and extensive kit list, and will find out more over the coming months.
Mileage: 2,873 milesEconomy: 36.7mpg
When the Nissan Juke was launched in 2010, it changed the automotive landscape forever. It was one of the first cars of its kind, and buyers flocked to it just as music lovers did to the first iPod.
So, like the updated model that followed the original iPod, this new second-generation Juke had a lot to live up to. Apple provided people with the ability to place thousands of songs in their pocket, in much the same way the novel Nissan introduced the concept of small SUVs to fashion-conscious buyers.
• Best small SUVs and crossovers
As time wore on, the Juke’s compromised packaging and underwhelming driving experience saw it fall behind the competition. Similarly, despite its innovative features and clean white casing, Apple’s first MP3 player was soon surpassed by more modern rivals. But then the iPod became the iPhone, and we all know how well that went.
The Juke’s fundamentals haven’t changed in this new version: it is still a style-focused small SUV with a raised driving position and polarising looks. It’ll appeal to many people on style alone, but others will see that bulbous face and head straight for a SEAT showroom. Under the skin, though, this new Juke is completely different. From the all-new CMF-B platform to the turbocharged three-cylinder engine, this second-generation model shares very little with its predecessor.
To find out if this is enough to put it back with the best, we’re running a Tekna model on the Auto Express fleet for the next six months. It’s this trim we’d recommend; despite it costing quite a bit more than the entry-level Visia (prices start from £17,395), Tekna models feature Nissan’s Advanced Safety Shield Pack, including a 360-degree camera, blind-spot intervention, rear cross-traffic alert and intelligent cruise control. That’s in addition to the standard model’s fantastic LED lights and DAB radio.
Other desirable kit fitted to our Tekna test car as standard includes a set of Bose speakers integrated into the front headrests, heated seats, and a heated windscreen – a blessing during the colder months. A seven-inch touchscreen with sat-nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is fitted to cheaper N-Connecta cars, which means they’re standard on our Tekna, too.
Our car’s only optional extra is the two-tone Fuji Sunset Red and Pearl Black paint. Nissan’s lesser ‘Flame Red’ is the only colour available at no extra cost, and while this combination looks great, it makes our car’s design seem a bit ostentatious.
We’re now nudging almost 3,000 miles since the Nissan joined our fleet, and are pleased with the performance that this seemingly small 1.0-litre turbo engine offers. On paper it wasn’t as strong as its rivals’ when we pitted it against the SEAT Arona and Volkswagen T-Cross, but in reality it’s plenty quick enough for me. The Juke’s manual gearbox and slightly spongy pedals aren’t as slick as the Arona’s, but the Nissan’s steering is precise and the body control is excellent for a car of this type. The trade-off, though, is a firm and fidgety ride. That’s a shame, because in many other ways this second-generation Juke is easy to live with and largely rewarding to drive.
Practicality is vastly improved over its predecessor, too. The SUV’s 422-litre boot swallowed everything my wife and I needed over the Christmas break – including an unjustifiably large haul of presents – and on one occasion even transported five adults and a dog for a windy walk on the beach.
Cabin stowage is a bit hit and miss; the door pockets are large enough, but the cubby between the front seats is barely big enough to hold a mobile phone. I’ve ended up using it as a rubbish bin, although it’s so small that I need to empty it at the end of every journey.
But the beauty (or not, depending on your view) of Nissan’s latest Juke lies in its distinctive styling. From the outset, the designers knew this was the original car’s key selling point, and so they needed to do something seriously special to ensure this new version carried the same appeal.
Like it or loathe it, you can expect to see a lot more of Jukes on UK roads in the coming months, including ours, because we’ll be piling on the miles.
*Insurance quote from AA (0800 107 0680) for a 42-year-old in Banbury, Oxon, with three points.
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