FOLLOWING years of what I considered to be the highly competitive compact crossover segment’s least inspiring drives, it feels like the Nissan Juke is now changed its tune.

The irony is that the best-driving version to date comes not with a Nismo branding to signal the Japanese brand’s high-performance models but a “Hybrid” boot badge communicating its place as the new part-electrified version delivering 47mpg combined fuel economy and 114g/km CO2 emissions is not lost.

I found previous generations of Juke imprecise, with a short wheelbase feel that made them prone to rather unnerving levels of pitch and lean.

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This time around it feels like a properly grown-up, dare I say premium-leaning crossover, in a segment that now boasts other eye-catching contenders like the Peugeot 2008 and Vauxhall Mokka.

That should not come as a surprise, though. Just as all new car prices are rising, so the Juke is no longer the affordable equivalent to a small hatchback it once was, in hybrid guise at least.

In Hybrid form, prices start at £27,250, with the Tekna+ trim model tested here coming in at £30,320.

As I was saying, there is evidence of that step-up in quality throughout the Juke Hybrid, though.

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The steering has a nice weight while the suspension is now firm enough to offer cornering composure with damping polished enough to still smooth off the road’s harshest edges.

Nissan’s new hybrid drivetrain is also extremely refined, always starting off in EV mode as it draws on power from a 49PS electric motor to offer extremely smooth getaways.

That refinement sadly ebbs away when greater urgency is called upon, the 1.6-litre engine also sounding course and rather raucous when the going gets fast or steep.

Such instances are few and far between, though, and it is hard to believe that the Juke — which returned over 50mpg on my week-long test — is not more frugal than it is given the amount of time it seems to draw on electric power for propulsion.

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It is a car that wants you to revel in its smooth, quiet progress, rather than explore whether a fairly conservative 10.1 seconds claimed acceleration to 62mph and 104mph top speed are on the money.

Nissan’s “e-power” mode draws on this desire for smooth progress.

Helping deliver a sense of in-gear control and boosting the car’s ability to channel energy back into its 1.2kW battery, it allows the Juke to be driven on the accelerator pedal alone in a style familiar to some full EVs, utilising regenerative braking to slow the car to a crawl when the driver lifts off.

Nissan’s cabins have come on in leaps and bounds in recent years, ever since the somewhat under-rated Micra hatchback I’d surmise.

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In the Tekna+ Juke Hybrid tested here we see a stylish flat-bottomed steering wheel adorned with easy-to-use buttons.

There is a nod to the old Juke centre console that was meant to ape a motorcycle fuel tank, with gloss plastic trim, but there are also well-judged touches of chrome and faux leather.

Nissan’s intuitive NissanConnect eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system — equipped with TomTom’s live navigation — sits atop the dash, rather than being integrated into it, bit its position makes it easy to see, placing it nearer to the driver’s eyeline than some rival layouts.

Familiar to higher-specced Micras is also an excellent Bose sound system, featuring speakers in the front seat headrests. In total its ten speakers delivered excellent sound quality.

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Heated front seats, front and rear parking sensors with a reversing camera, and automatic high beam are among the other trim highlights.

Nissan’s suite of safety tech is also suitably comprehensive, featuring all the usual kit, along with rear-cross traffic alerts and (in automatic versions) cruise control which detects the movement of traffic in a stop-start jam to keep the driver on the ball.

It might come as a little surprise that the Juke has had to up its game to justify the effect that a shift upmarket and the additional cost some clever electrification has had on its asking price, but it does now feel like a quality crossover contender.

That its cleverness never really translated to stellar fuel economy was the only disappointment, but its stats remain close to those that might have been delivered by the diesel engines now derided by the powers that be.

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