The all-new Nissan Juke has arrived to carve out a niche in the compact SUV space, and hopes that tricks like headphones in the headrests win over buyers.

Headrests with built-in headphones are the latest gadget in the all-new Nissan Juke, a compact SUV planning to fight harder against the likes of the Toyota C-HR, Mazda CX-30 and Hyundai Kona.

Part of the eight-speaker Bose Personal Plus system on the top-of-the-line Juke Ti ($36,490 plus on-road costs), the additional headrest speakers are subtle but add space to the audio mix. It’s part of a big step up in equipment for a car that’s long focused on its quirky design to attract attention.

Standard kit on the base ST ($27,990) includes an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and a suite of active safety features that include auto braking and blind spot warning. Step up through the range – which consists of ST, ST+, ST-L and Ti – and additional equipment includes navigation, smart key entry, 360-degree camera, ambient lighting, electric park brake, an Alcantara dashboard finish and partial leather seats.

While there are plenty of plastics there’s enough modern materials on seats and elsewhere in the cabin to lift the ambience; even the base ST gets an interesting material finish striped across the dash. As for the styling, the new Juke has still got a distinctive snout with a mix of thin and circular lights, but with this new model it’s a lot more cohesive and less challenging.

The new Juke is based on Nissan’s CMF-B platform which is bigger than before, measuring 4210mm long (+75mm), 1800mm wide (+35mm) and 1595mm high (+30mm). The boot space offers 422 litres of storage space, growing to 1305 litres when you drop the second row seats.

While the car has stepped up in size – it’s among the more spacious of the small SUVs – the engine has been downsized. A tiny 1.0-litre three-cylinder gets the benefit of a turbo to boost outputs. With just 84kW and 180Nm of torque, the Juke has less power than most rivals, its three-cylinder engine usefully torquey in the middle engine revs but not exactly fiery.

However, it’s lighter than rivals so gets along with enough verve for city peddling. The generous torque ensures easy country cruising. A seven-speed twin-clutch automatic ensures slick shifts, although as with many similar systems from other brands (including Volkswagen with DSG) there’s the occasional low-speed clumsiness as it sorts out take-offs, like managing the brake release and trying to prevent clutch slip. Remember, a DSG is more or less a computer controlled manual.

2020 Nissan Juke Quick Spin

And, while it’s impressively economical – claimed consumption is 5.8 litres per 100km – it calls for more expensive premium unleaded. When stationary it’s either silent courtesy of the stop-start system or vibrating gently with the thrum of the three-cylinder. Elsewhere, the Juke steps things up massively.

Nicely weighted steering sets the scene for a vastly improved driving experience with the new platform offering a 22% increase in lateral stiffness. On the 17-inch wheels of the ST there’s decent compliance and control. The 19-inch rubber of the ST-L and Ti sharpens steering responses slightly, albeit with an associated sharpness to the bump absorption.

But it’s the blend of practicality, equipment and driving verve that make the Juke a more convincing compact SUV competitor than it’s been in the past.

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