Ask the Expert: Is a Nissan Juke CVT auto as unreliable as I’ve heard?

Honda CR-V: a brilliant blend of on and off-road usability, reliability and comfort - Honda

Dear Alex,

I want to replace my old automatic SUV with a newer, smaller one. I live in a remote rural location, so I require a generous ground clearance. Four-wheel drive would be preferred but is not essential. I drive fewer than 2,000 miles per year and my budget is about £5,000. I’ve found two Nissan Juke 1.6s locally that fit the bill; however, I’m concerned about internet reports of reliability problems. Are there any statistics on how likely and when the CVT [continuously variable transmission] gearbox might fail? Alternatively, what make and model would you suggest?


Dear KG,

You’re right to be concerned. The first-generation Juke from 2010 to 2019 is not well known for its reliability – in fact, it’s known for being problematic, particularly with the Xtronic CVT automatic option, as you’ve already discovered during your due diligence in researching potential purchases online before committing.

I don’t know of any concrete stats on failure rates, but most reliability surveys turn up a slew of owners who have experienced problems with Xtronic gearboxes. Of course, there will always be exceptions to the rule, but this gearbox’s reputation is dire; there’s no smoke without fire.

The problem isn’t just that the gearbox is known to fail – it’s also that it can’t easily be repaired, which often means the most cost-effective way to solve the failure is a straight replacement. With a new gearbox, that can often mean a £4,000-odd bill – almost the value of the entire car, in this case.

For that reason, I’d always steer clear of an automatic Juke. The trouble is regarding an alternative; reliable cars of the Juke’s size and type are hard to find within your budget.

The most obvious solution would be to choose a short-wheelbase example of the second-generation Toyota RAV4 (2000-2005). All will have the four-wheel drive you’d like, with the high ground-clearance you need. What’s more, any well-maintained RAV4 should be durable and long-lasting.

However, for that reason, RAV4s are in high demand, so you don’t get much for your money. For your budget, any RAV4 will be much older than the Jukes you were looking at – a 2004 example is about the best you can hope for.

As an alternative, look at a Suzuki Grand Vitara. These feel a bit cheap and tacky inside, but they’re reliable and versatile cars with the compact dimensions you require. They’re pretty thin on the ground, though, especially in automatic form, but I found a 2007 example with 86,000 miles within your budget.

Another Suzuki that’s scarce but worth considering, if you can find one, is the Jimny. This won’t be as comfortable on the road as the other options, but its full-time four-wheel drive and robust construction will get you home whatever the weather. It’s small enough to represent a real downsize compared with almost any other SUV, too. I found a top-spec JLX+ with 92,000 miles and a full history within your budget.

But I would recommend a Honda CR-V. For the budget, it’s the best small SUV, with a brilliant blend of on and off-road usability, reliability and comfort.

I found a tidy-looking 2007 2.0 i-VTEC EX with 96,000 miles for £4,990. The only downside is that it’s 15¾in longer than a Juke, so you wouldn’t be downsizing. But if you can live with that, it’s probably the most sensible choice.