New Nissan Juke prototype review

New Nissan Juke prototype review

The new Nissan Juke has been a long time coming, but if Nissan can repeat the popularity of its mould-breaking predecessor, the second-generation model will be a common sight on driveways up and down the land in the not-too-distant future.

Most cars tend to remain on sale for some seven or eight years, but the Mk1 Juke has now ticked past nine. Its longevity is not just down to its success in what has become an enormous market segment – more than one million Jukes have been sold around the world since 2010 – but also because its creators have taken their time with this, the tricky second album.

The first Juke arguably kick-started the supermini-sized SUV revolution. We’re told the goal this time is to totally modernise the car – make it more upmarket, better to drive, easier to live with and more practical, without sacrificing the provocative, almost Marmite-like reception of the original.

It’s clear that the Juke will remain a bulbous crossover with exaggerated wheelarches, split headlights, a tapering roofline and hidden rear door handles. In profile it looks longer than before, but carries forward the design principles of its predecessor. However, Nissan Europe design director Matthew Weaver says his team has worked on making the design more practical and easy to live with. That’s why the tail-lights are now attached to the tailgate and not the body, allowing far wider access to the larger, 422-litre boot.

The Juke sits on a fresh platform called CMF-B. It’s the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance toolkit used on the latest Clio and Captur – the second of which will rival the Juke when it arrives in November.

Nissan claims that the advantages of the new platform are found mainly in packaging and rigidity. The new car’s wheelbase grows by 105mm, while it’s also 35mm wider and 75mm taller. It’s stiffer thanks to the use of more high-tension steel, yet Nissan claims the Juke is 23kg lighter, too. Improved crash performance is another consideration of the new platform; Nissan has yet to put the new model through Euro NCAP’s test procedure, but it’s confident of a five-star rating.

We’ll see electrified powertrains further down the line, but at launch the Juke will be petrol only. The prototype version we’re driving has the same turbocharged 1.0-litre DIG-T engine as the Micra N Sport. This develops 115bhp and up to 200Nm torque on overboost, and sends drive to the front wheels through a six-speed manual box.

An automatic version will also arrive at launch, using a newly developed seven-speed dual-clutch box, more suited to the European market than the CVT transmission that was previously offered. The Juke will be built at Nissan’s plant in Sunderland.

A lot of the damper tuning has been done in Britain, too, with Nissan modifying its test facilities to mimic European conditions. The sign-off for the Juke’s dynamic performance then took place in Germany.

It’s something immediately apparent as we take the wheel of this nearly finished prototype; even this short, early taste reveals that the Juke is a far more serious proposition than before. It’s hardly a full road test, but a couple of laps of the demanding Alpine handling circuit at Millbrook Proving Ground in Bedfordshire show that, even before sign-off, the Juke has come on a long way.

The driving position is massively improved, as are all of the controls and the level of adjustability in the seat. The steering wheel now features telescopic reach adjustment (the Mk1 car’s wheel adjusted for height only), and in the manual car the gearlever sits more purposefully on the centre console; the shorter throw is evident the moment you select a gear and release the handbrake.

The suspension and steering on our test car were virtually finished, showcasing the Juke’s sporty new character. On Millbrook’s tarmac, the Juke has a slightly firmer edge than some of its rivals. But the trade-off for the stiffer set-up is strong body control; driven back to back with the old car, the Mk2 Juke immediately seems more poised.

Engineers have focused on how the car reacts to undulations and sudden changes of direction, and it feels much more sorted. The steering is more direct and the rack feels faster, but there’s still no feedback.

As for the engine, there’s still some work to be done, such as reducing vibration at idle, but it’s a refined three-cylinder turbo and it equips the Juke with more than enough power to perform. Nissan says it emits 136g/km of CO2, but fuel economy figures haven’t been announced yet. Around 45mpg should be possible.

As for the new six-speed manual gearbox, it’s better than before, but the gearlever’s action isn’t the sharpest; Nissan says this will be improved. The arrival of a new seven-speed DCT gearbox, replacing the unappealing CVT, is good news though.

We can’t tell you much about visibility, given that our lightly disguised test car’s rear windows were covered. Nor can we show you the interior yet, although during a behind-the-scenes walkaround of the car, Weaver insisted he wanted to carry over some of the original’s character.

A new eight-inch touchscreen will sit at the top of the newly designed dash, and there’s a seven-inch digital display in the instrument panel. The design is flamboyant, sporty and rounded, a bit like a MINI’s. Nissan promises that there will be plenty of personalisation, and has confirmed a range of trim themes and colours to choose from.

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