Sizing up a Nissan
What Car? UK|February 2022
These siblings are two of the best-known SUVs on the market, but is it a case of bigger is better when choosing between them? We find out

1 Well-sited physical dials and switches make it a doddle to adjust the air conditioning settings when you’re driving

2 Driving position is good; it’s a shame you can’t adjust the lumbar support, but the heated seats are welcome

3 Interior quality reflects the Juke’s lower price; the hard plastics on the dash and doors have a downmarket air

1 The Qashqai’s interior is classier, with plenty of soft-touch materials and well-damped switches and knobs

2 Fully digital instrument display is easy to read and looks much more modern than the Juke’s analogue dials

3 Adjustable lumbar support and a sound driving position make the Qashqai comfy for long stints behind the wheel

When you’re buying a new car, the higher trim levels are undeniably appealing. They tend to come with all the best gadgets the model can offer, along with a longer list of creature comforts and flashier looks to boot. But have you ever stopped to wonder whether you might be better off looking at the next size up, rather than a smaller car with all the trimmings?

As a case in point, we’re looking at Nissan’s two most popular SUVs. Of these, the Juke, in Tekna trim (one down from the very top trim) costs about £4000 less than you’ll pay for the middle-rung Qashqai N-Connecta. Fairly obviously, the Qashqai is the bigger car; it’s a family SUV rather than a small SUV. But is it worth the extra outlay, and will the long-term costs be as different as the price gap suggests? Read on to find out.

DRIVING

Performance, ride, handling, refinement

To make up for the fact that it’s the heavier car, the Qashqai has a larger, more powerful engine than the Juke. And while performance is hardly spectacular, in our tests the 1.3-liter Qashqai accelerated to 60mph from a standstill in a respectable 9.9sec. The Juke, with its tiny 1.0-liter three-cylinder engine, lagged behind with a more pedestrian 11.7sec time.

Aside from sheer get up and go, there’s a more relevant benefit to the Qashqai’s extra low-rev shove: it makes for a much more relaxing drive. You can keep pace with fast-moving traffic without working the engine too hard, whereas doing so in the Juke requires a heavier right foot, lots of revs, and more frequent gear changes.

While we’re on the subject of gearboxes, both cars come with six-speed manuals. Both ’boxes have relatively light shift actions, but the jukes is woollier and less positive when you engage a cog.

The lower, lighter Juke is more agile than the Qashqai on a spirited drive along a country road; it leans less noticeably through tight twists and turns and there’s a decent amount of grip from the tyres. It’s a shame, though, that the steering spoils things by being overly keen to flick back to the straight-ahead position – almost as if you were winding up a rubber band. Its peculiar feel robs you of a lot of confidence and much of the fun.

By contrast, the Qashqai’s steering feels far more natural and gives you a better sense of connection with the road. It isn’t perfect: the weight builds up a little too quickly as you apply lock. However, in this particular matchup the difference is night and day.

As is the difference in ride comfort. The Qashqai not only cushions you from impacts better than the Juke but also does a better job of controlling unwanted body movements. As a result, while the Juke bobs up and down continually over imperfections and undulations, the Qashqai stays much calmer along broken British roads. The Juke isn’t helped by the 19in alloy wheels that Tekna trim comes with, so we’d recommend a cheaper trim level with 17in wheels if you want a smoother-riding Juke.

Opting for smaller wheels will also help to reduce the amount of road noise the Juke kicks up; on the 19s it’s a lot louder inside than the Qashqai at motorway speeds. It’s a pity, because neither car is bad in terms of wind noise; at 70mph, only a small amount emanates from around the door mirrors in both.

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