Nissan Juke 1.6T Tekna

Juke's in a row

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.

Rear - 370Z anyone?

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 .

Juke Interior

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.

ICON System - note the changes

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)

Side Profile

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.

Jeep Patriot 2.4 Limited CVT – 2011

I spent two weeks with ‘a’ Dodge Caliber in the US. It was, and still is, my worst car of all time. During the period, I had 3 of them from Hertz as one after the other had to go in due to some form of problem. The CVT gearbox, underpowered engine, vague steering and terrible interior was the summation of the parts. You might be thinking I’ve made a huge mistake on this review as it’s of the Jeep Patriot, but these two vehicles share a common family DNA…They were built on a shared GS platform engineered by the then, Daimler/Chrysler & Mitsubishi. Goes to show that too many cooks do spoil the broth. We’re off to a bad start.

 

Typical Jeep Grille.

I’ve always been very confused by the proliferation of models from Jeep. Lately they have started consolidating this offering, but the shared Dodge / Jeep platforms of previous years made no sense. Way too many offerings, with too many of them that don’t stand out in any one way, nor make a groundbreaking niche of their own.

 

The Patriot has recently been “updated”, giving it a refreshed exterior look (new bumper and integrated foglamps) new 17inch mags and a much improved interior. The interior update brings it in line with the rest of the fleet and you can feel the upgrade in quality materials. The interior is much the same as the Wrangler, mostly plastic, with SOME very plasticky bits, but overall, the interior is of a much higher quality than before. The gearshift sits rather awkwardly (A-la Calibre) on the dash, but is easily within reach. (even though you don’t need it much as the model on test was a … vomit … CVT)

The interior sees reasonable spec, with heated seats, on-board computer (a fairly confusing arrangement in the instrument binnacle), Automatic climate control that blows so cold it could no doubt solve global warming if the doors are left open, and a Radio/CD/Aux sound system (the option of a Uprated Navigation system is there). Sadly the sound is not as epic as the system in the Wrangler, which made me sad.

Interior - Improved

Get into the Patriot and you literally sit IN, and not ON the vehicle, which you can clearly see when getting into the vehicle. Passengers sit rather low with the small windscreen and extremely limited exterior and B pillar rear views giving limited visibility out of the car. Front seats are fairly comfortable (With six-way adjustment), but space in the rear and boot leaves much to be desired.  As said before, the interior is quite a step up from previous model, with loads of space to store bits away from prying eyes.

 

Taking a view from the outside, and it looks typically old-school Jeep. Squared look with a prominent Jeep grille, the updated Patriot does with some plastic bits on the doors and moves the fog-lamps in a bit on the nose of the vehicle. I actually like the original classic Jeep looks, but as always, exterior is a very personal opinion.

 

What I can give some opinion on is the engine and drivetrain. The Patriot is the moffie in the Jeep off-roader family, even though it employs the “Freedom Drive I” (Not making that up) which is an active AWD system. Jeep does state it’s a light-off roader, so they’re not making any claims that this is a direct descendant of the Wrangler family, and I respect that. The system really is more for the northern hemisphere, with Freedom Drive giving confidence in the snow and occasional mud / forest road it might encounter. The system proportions torque to the axle that needs it most through an Electromagnetic Controlled Coupling (ECC). I didn’t get to test the system out, but I’m guessing around 95% of buyers won’t neither.

Boxy

On tar the vehicle handles well, the fairly stiff suspension set up allowing limited lean into corners, however that could also be attributed to the low centre of gravity and ride height. The steering is typical Jeep, with a little bit of play in the centre, but overall it feels detached from the front wheels. The retuned suspension (Four-wheel independent MacPherson strut front and multilink independent rear) does show notable improvements, but that’s much like saying your grandmother looks a little better in her purple knit than the blue one.

 

Speaking of grandmothers, the 2.4litre dinosaur being used in the Patriot is a Jeep favourite. I’ve got to be honest and say that this engine needs a serious refresh, or just throw it out and start again. Hell, throw them all into a volcano and melt them down. With 125kW and 220Nm of torque, the Patriot was never going to haul ass down the blacktop, but this engine just doesn’t cut it. On its own it’s underpowered for litre capacity, but it was then cursed by being mated to a CVT gearbox.

CVT gearboxes are to cars, like being neutered is to a dog. I genuinely want to meet the man that engineered the CVT gearbox. It makes no sense in any car other than a Hybrid, so I hope he’s perished in a CVT related incident. In layman’s terms, the CVT gearbox runs a chain on a cone, instead of a chain on individual gears. This means when you mesh your foot against the floor the revs climb up to 6000RPM (or as I found, far past the redline into the black) as the chain runs up the cone, and stays there as the ear piercing whine from the 2.4litre engine increases the speed. There are no ‘thunky’ gear changes, which is also something any driver would have to become accustomed to. I will come and hold a gun against every Patriot buyer’s head, to make sure he/she buys the manual version. I’ll be saving them a lifetime of pain, and will no doubt be added to their Christmas card list.

 

Surprisingly Jeep is quite a bit smaller than Freelander

Sadly, the Patriot just doesn’t make much sense. It doesn’t do any one particular thing very well, and the competition has it trumped.

For R309 990 for the 2.4 Limited CVT, the Kia Sportage, Hyundai ix35, Subaru Forester or even Nissan Xtrail shows more value and better on road dynamics, which is no doubt where this vehicle will spend most of its time. Yes the Jeep is the only car in this price (bar the Subaru) that features full time 4wheel drive, which may count for something if you can justify it, but considering the low ride height I doubt you can.

 

My advice – if you’re hellbent on a Jeep at this price, go for the brand-new Compass. If you’re not loyal to any Patriotism, or Americanism, then have a good long look at the competition above.

 

For more information visit www.jeep.co.za