AS WELCOMES GO, this one was a doozy. New Nissan Juke delivered, start the ignition and a fault flashes up on the dial pack. The radio cranks up playing ‘What Have I Done To Deserve This?’ by the Pet Shop Boys. I can tell that this relationship is probably going to be eventful.

The fault – a glitch in the stop/ start system – clears itself after a run around the block and a reboot of the car. Prior to driving the new Juke, I wasn’t sure I’d get on with one. I knew that Byron Mathioudakis would bag me mercilessly after we’d done likewise to him when he proclaimed, not entirely without merit, that the first Juke was one of the most influential cars of the 2010s.

After attending the local launch, I was more encouraged. Although I did have a guilty penchant for the old 160kW Juke Nismo RS, I’d never been able to shake the impression that it was, at best, a 0.75 trick pony.

This latest car felt a good deal more mature in its execution without losing the puppyish verve of the original.

Yes, it only has 84kW to send 1274 kegs of British-built baby SUV up the road, but it still has some pep to it.

To get the most out of the Juke, you need to switch it into ‘D-Mode’, which my partner has a rather uncharitable nickname for. You can guess at that.

This sharpens the throttle and steering and makes the auto ’box more aggressive. You’ll have to get used to the neurotic throttle map when you pull away, but after that it’s all good. The best part is that it loses the standard mode’s propensity to slot the dual-clutch ’box into seventh at the earliest opportunity.

My car is the Ti trim, which is the range topper and comes equipped with Bose Ultra-Nearfield speakers in the headrests. There’s a setting on the centre display which allows you to adjust the degree to which these speakers offer a surround-sound effect. Adjust it when the music’s playing and it feels like a scarf of sound enveloping you.

The rest of the cabin is a very welcome surprise to those of you who might associate Nissans with fairly rudimentary materials and design.

The dash top is covered in Alcantara, the sports seats are supportive, the driver’s seat is manually height adjustable and can be set reasonably low. The passenger seat gets no such height adjustment, which seems a bit of a miss in a range-topper with a list price of $36,490, and as a result, taller passengers may have to recline a little further than usual.

The standard-fit sat-nav is excellent, although the 8.0-inch touchscreen can occasionally require a couple of stabs to register a command. It runs a port of TomTom Maps & Live Traffic, so it’ll be able to route you around major snarl-ups. If you prefer, there’s also Apple and Android mirroring.

All Jukes run on passive suspension and the ride on the Ti, with its 19-inch alloys, is firmish. Overall body control is very good, but it can jiggle along tetchily on inside lanes that have been heavily trafficked by trucks.

It also runs out of suspension travel quite sharply if you hit a pothole, as I discovered on a recent drive. So savage was the report through the cabin that I pulled over straight away to check if I’d damaged the wheel in a fairly innocuous series of three ripples caused when a truck had braked and deformed the hotmix on what must have been a 40+ degree Celsius day.

The Juke is fun to drive, though, and part of that fun comes with the knowledge that with just 999cc at your elbow, everything becomes a giant-killing opportunity. I reckon that any vehicle that can raise a grin is off to a good start, even if that has meant that my fuel consumption is standing at exactly 9.0L/100km against an ADR figure of 5.8L. It’s becoming clear that D-Mode has a lot to answer for.




Price as tested: $37,219

This month: 397km @ 9.0L/100km