I haven’t seen a car draw such drastically differing opinion in some time. That’s actually a very good thing. Nobody like’s a “meh” reaction to something, take for example the recently released VW Jetta. I’m sure this made the base of your penis fizz. Probably not. No.
The reason for the town’s folk dragging out their pitchforks and placards is due to the radical exterior styling of the new Nissan Juke. The Juke is Nissan’s global foray into an untouched market segment, and one that (according to Nissan) shows a gap in the South African market. This is the B-segment Sports Cross-over. The slightly smaller cross-over vehicle that will be a jack of all trades yet a master of none. Thankfully the Juke doesn’t really fall prey to this turn of phrase and is actually a surprising balance.
What it does unfortunately fall prey to is the type of front end that might make kids scatter from the streets and your local deity throw holy water in your direction. It’s pretty “out there” with a clear tiered and slightly “bug” looking front end.
A very compact-swooping roofline that gives the side profile coupe look, and strangely 370 Z rear. It does look like the front and rear were given to two different people to design and then just sown together. This said, the vehicle was a joint venture between the teams in the UK and Japan. Odd that?
The Juke achieves a couple things really well, and I’ll highlight them below
Firstly, it’s got the type of adventurous looks that sets it apart from anything else on the road. It’s going to attract a certain type of driver and these are the type of people Nissan want to start seeing in their cars. The car has been hugely successful in Europe, selling over 180 000 units. There cannot be that many blind people up North?!
Secondly it effectively combines a sporty drive with a slight SUV persona. To quote from Nissan themselves, “It takes the best elements of an SUV and passenger sport cars and combines them,” says Pierre Loing, Vice President, Product Planning and Zero Emission’s business unit, Nissan International SA (Rolle, Switzerland). “It’s roomy yet compact, robust yet dynamic and practical yet playful. These are qualities that seem to contradict each other, yet come together in Juke to create something that’s genuinely unique.” I must agree on most of those except the “roomy” bit. It’s no Chrysler Voyager, let’s not push it, but it does have adequate space for 4 adults / 2adult +2kids combo. The driving position mirrors one of a sports car, with steering wheel and gearshift in close proximity to the driver, offering you a very engaged driving experience. You tend to sit “in” and not “on” the car, further cementing the sporty nature of the vehicle.
Thirdly, the fact that there’s something special about it. They’ve gone to great lengths inside and out to set this car apart from anything in its class. The driving position is unique, the centre tunnel modeled on a motorbike fuel tank, the interactive dash with different modes and readouts, which are mostly gimmicky but still unique.
All this said, they can do all they want on the looks, sporty persona and gimmicks, but if the actual car “bits” don’t deliver, we won’t be seeing very many of them on the road.
Starting with the first point of delivery, the engine. Nissan will initially be bringing the Juke out in 2 power units, the 1.6litre 4cylinder (86kW, 154NM, 6.0l/100km) naturally aspirated engine, and a brand new 1.6litre Turbocharged DIG-T powerplant delivering 140kw and 250NM of torque. I was rather shocked when I heard this, seeing as that’s near hot hatch territory. Nissan confirmed that they would be bringing a diesel, automatic and 4wheel drive versions next year but no dates were confirmed. Thankfully we tested the 1.6litre turbo powerplant and I was very impressed by the free revving little motor. Pushing out 140kW brings quite a bit of power to the front wheels and there’s very little shortage of power on pull off (a little more turbo lag than expected) but once you’re on the move this little unit revs freely and loves to be driven. Bobbing and weaving in between traffic highlights the dynamic nature of the suspension which bring a really nice balance between comfort and sport. You do get a little sense that the steering lightens up and the body roll is more evident at high speeds but it’s expected.
The short wheel base nature of the Juke means it really is quite a bit of fun to dart around in. It’s quite a bit of fun when pushing on. Fun in a crossover? Wash your mouth out young man! Suspension in the two wheel drive models are MacPherson struts in the front and Torsion beam in the rear. It works well and generally can’t fault it. Steering can get a bit light at speed (Which is odd) but not noticeably so. Can’t fault the braking on the Juke, as it’s fitted with disc brakes all round assisted by ABS and EBD .
As said earlier, the interior with its quirky ICON dash sets another benchmark. It’s a massive gimmick and will no doubt last as far as many friends you have to show, but none-the-less it’s unique. The ICON set up leaves you the option to select between having your Climate control being displayed (fan speed, direction, temperature etc) or the driving mode (Sport, Normal or Eco) which then makes changes to throttle and steering response. Eco is well, very much for stop start traffic, with Normal being…well…normal and Sport once you’re ready to scare the blind. Sport also brings with it different little readouts, such as torque usage, g-force meter and some other little interesting bits. Not interesting enough for me to remember so clearly not THAT interesting. It’ll keep you busy for a little while, but the most important bit here being the different drive modes, which I see in more and more vehicles coming to market. I expect “Road Rage” or “Cruise me home” mode in the near future.
For South Africa, the Nissan Juke will be available in four specification grades. The naturally-aspirated 1.6-litre engine powers an entry-level Acenta and mid-range Acenta+ models, while the punchy 1.6-litre DIG-T power plant is only available in range-topping Tekna grades, one featuring sporty fabric upholstery and another fully leather-upholstered interior furnishings.
Starting at R198 000 for the 2WD 1.6 Acenta, right up to R258 000 for the 1.6 Turbo Tekna with leather, there’s quite a bit of value here considering nearly no options and everything as standard (Bluetooth, electric everything and a host of safety features)
There’s really nothing like it on the road, I’d suspect the Mini CountryMan / VW CrossPolo / Renault Sandero Stepway thing would be what you’d also look at, but then I don’t really think buyers shop like that anyway, this car is too unique to be “boxed in”. Urg … I can’t believe I just said that. It’s original and unique, just like every other car 😉
Don’t be put off by the quirky looks, go drive it, give it a try and you’ll immediately be enamored by the way it drives. I was pleasantly surprised, and then frightened again when I got out…and you will be too.