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Nissan Juke 1.6 petrol review

At the top end of the SUV market brand loyalty is relatively strong - those spending £30,000-plus on an off-roader or a luxurious soft-roader will tend to gravitate towards the brands they see as more attractive.

BMW, Audi, Mercedes and Land Rover all trade on their customer's love of the badge. Take the Evoque for instance; Land Rover's marketing ploy was to declare it as a Range Rover for under £30k - the most affordable luxury off-roader in the company's history and a change to get a badge that for years has been the peak of off-road excellence.

For those buyers who are searching for a compact SUV, used for busy city roads instead of rugged off-road terrain, there is less loyalty.

More affordable manufacturers need a unique selling point to stand out from the crowd and shift cars in a high enough volume.

In the case of the Nissan Juke, that should not be a problem.

Buoyed by the success of the genre-defying Qashqai crossover, the smaller Juke is Nissan's take on the small hatchback segment.

With only the mediocre Nissan Micra in its small car stable the brand is lacking a big-selling small hatchback. The Ford Fiesta and Vauxhall Corsa are the two best-sellers in the UK this year and over a third of all UK car sales are small cars.

To take on the big boys Nissan has reinvented the small car for the modern day. Attempting to cash in on the UK's love of big, brash off-roaders with a commanding driving position, raised ground clearance and chunky design, the Nissan Juke brings these qualities to a more practical car for the city.

It has done this by maintaining the styling but shrinking the dimensions to that of a small car. The result is a distinctive car whose angular, jarring design is all sharp edges and oversized features.

It's a real head-turner and, although I fear for how the car will have aged in ten years, at the moment it slots nicely into the UK's need for a distinctive design and striking exterior.

Nissan Juke engine and performance

We drove the most popular engine, the 1.6-litre 115bhp petrol, and were impressed with the way it handled the rigours of city driving.

However, the engine struggles on the motorway where it can feel underpowered and the payoff in terms of running costs is not as impressive as you would hope.

The 1.6-litre petrol returns 47.1mpg and emits 139g/km of CO2 emissions. This puts the car in road tax band E and will cost £115 per year in Vehicle Excise Duty (VED).

With the likes of the Fiesta now offering road tax-free petrol options this falls some way behind its hatchback competitors.

At least Nissan offers a solution for those looking for more power. A 1.6-litre 187bhp petrol engine is also available pushing performance levels to the cusp of hot hatch territory. A new, almost ridiculous 545bhp, £400,000 Nissan Juke-R is also on its way in limited numbers.

At the other end of the scale, a frugal petrol is the most affordable in the range. The 1.5-litre engine delivers 57.6mpg and emits 129g/km.

On higher-specification models there are three driving modes; Normal, Sport and Eco. Each does what you would expect; the Sport stiffens the ride and provides extra performance, while Eco mode is for those who want to practise hypermiling to save a few pennies.

Nissan Juke interior

The Nissan Juke is not just a clever design on the outside. Inside, the centre console is based on that of a motorcycle, its compact shape saving valuable space and creating an uncluttered, elegant dashboard.

The build quality is solid - a nice nod to the engineers at the Sunderland plant where it is built - and although legroom is good in the rear headroom is affected by the sloping roofline.

Meanwhile, in the boot the Juke cannot compete with the likes of the Fiesta with a modest 207 litres of space available. It's enough for the weekly shopping but will struggle with larger luggage.

However, it does come generously equipped with air conditioning, a CD/radio and electric windows as standard on entry-level models.

People will most likely choose a model slightly higher up the range in order to get smart phone connectivity, climate control and, on the top trims, parking sensors and satellite navigation.

It's a little more expensive than its hatchback competitors. Nissan Juke prices start from £13,500 and increase rapidly into the higher specifications.

Nissan Juke first drive

It looks great but how does it perform on the road? The answer is surprisingly well. The Nissan Juke is fun to throw around corners and its grip and responsive handling are perfect for city driving.

Compact dimensions and a small turning circle are ideal for the city and, despite its chunky appearance, it behaves as you would want a small car to behave.

It's a thoroughly enjoyable ride in the city - as long as motorways are avoided - but the ride can be a little bumpy. Suspension can be stiff at times and turbocharged petrol versions will only accentuate the problem.

However, it remains one of the best small SUVs to drive in an urban environment and buyers will forgive the Juke its foibles because this is a car that will leave a smile on their face.

Good-looking, well-equipped and fun to drive; the Nissan Juke was designed to stand out and, in most areas it does.

It's a car for those who are conscious of appearance; who want to be different and are looking for that SUV feel.

It is not a car for those who want a practical city run-around with the lowest possible running costs. But where's the fun in that?


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