Style and value add appeal

Compact SUVs are all the rage at the moment. A combination of head-turning looks, tall ride height and relatively affordable price tag appeal to a wide audience. We test Nissan’s Juke to find out why Aussies are flocking to this type of vehicle.

Extroverts will love it

The Nissan Juke is anything but bland. It stands out from the crowd with sharply creased panels, interesting design elements and an almost cartoon-like, wedge-shaped silhouette. The rear door handles are hidden up high to give it a clean, coupe-like appearance at the back. The edgy exterior design has some drawbacks in terms of practicality, though, as the back seats can feel a little claustrophobic for little ones and they’ll struggle to reach those door handles, which will also puzzle first-time passengers. But in a world of safely styled, vanilla SUVs, it’s a breath of fresh air.

Nissan has dialled up the flair inside

For those who really want to add some extra personality to their vehicle, Nissan has added a new model to the Juke range, as well as a different trim option for the range-topping Ti model. The ST-L+ slots in between the ST-L and the Ti and gains stylish, partial leather black and white seat trim, with white leather coverings on the dashboard, kneepads, doors and armrest. There are also glossy piano black finishes around the headrests and centre console. The Ti’s “Energy Orange” interior basically mimics the STL+, but replaces the white leather accents with orange. It won’t appeal to all tastes, but we reckon it looks pretty smart. At night, ambient lighting lifts the mood further.

Audiophiles will love it, too

The STL+ also has the Ti’s excellent eight-speaker Bose audio system that includes speakers in both front headrests. Bose says the speakers employ “UltraNearfield” tech designed to provide a more “immersive” listening experience. Put simply, the speakers are pointed directly at your head, which means they don’t have to bounce off any other surfaces before they reach your ears. That means they deliver a good live sound and above-average clarity. If you’re obsessed with pumping out obnoxiously loud bass you might be disappointed but people who appreciate a little light and shade in their music will love it.

It’s well equipped for the price

At $36,490, the STL+ is not cheap for a compact SUV, but you get a lot of equipment for your money. There’s a decent 8.0-inch touchscreen on the dash that is compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as a 7.0-inch high-resolution instrument display in front of the driver. Other goodies include satnav, heated front seats, digital radio, a rear USB port, surround view parking camera, push-button start and electric handbrake. Safety is top-notch and includes radar cruise control, blind-spot and lane-keep assist, auto emergency braking, rear cross-traffic alert and traffic sign recognition. The parking camera can also detect moving objects such as pedestrians.

There’s an achilles heel

The little Nissan would be pretty entertaining to drive if not for a temperamental dual-clutch auto that lurches at low speeds and is slow to respond when coming out of corners. We drove two variants and the second one had been given a software upgrade to dial out some of the jerkiness. It was better, but still not great and not as smooth as rivals. If you’re considering buying the Juke take it for a decent drive and decide whether or not you can live with the transmission. The ordinary auto spoils what is a pretty solid package. The 1.0-litre turbo petrol engine punches above its weight and the Nissan feels composed and capable through the corners, with decent steering and good bump absorption. The ride can be a little fidgety around town, but that applies to most small cars with big wheels and low-profile tyres.

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