Sunday, April 24, 2011

Nissan Juke small car with big character

nissan juke

Fun and funky: The Juke brings youthful flair and standout looks to Nissan's successful crossover line-up.

With so many people bemoaning the fact so many cars look the same, as though they come out of the same mould, you have to applaud Nissan’s bold Juke.

The new entry-level crossover from the car-maker that pioneered the class with the Murano and hugely-popular Qashqai, the Juke aims to be a case of sports utility vehicle meets sports car in a combination designed to challenge small car traditions.


Nissan sees it as an exciting, distinctive alternative mainly to superminis, in the same way the Qashqai brought something attractively different to the mid-size hatchback sector and the likes of the Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra and Volkswagen Golf.

The Juke is extrovert, full of character and will not be mistaken for anything else on the road but its individuality also makes it one of those cars you either love or hate although, after the initial shock, it grew on me… just as well given that Nissan expects two-thirds of buyers to be men and, with its youthful looks and attractive pricing, the Juke to attract a younger audience with 80pc conquest sales bringing new customers to the Nissan brand.

Funky to look at, the Juke is also fun to drive.

Three engines are offered – 117PS 1.6 petrol and 190PS 1.6 petrol turbo, the latter with two and four-wheel drive, and 110PS 1.5 turbo diesel.

The big seller is likely to be the newly-developed 117PS petrol model which combines decent performance and economy and costs £1,350 less than the equivalent diesel.

It’s flexible enough to trickle along in a high gear in traffic, but needs to be stirred into life with the five-speed gearbox as it can feel flat at low revs if too much is demanded of it. Close gearing means it’s pulling around 3,500rpm at 70mph so you are always aware of the engine note in the background. Economy fell short of Nissan’s figures but 35mpg in rush-hour traffic and 40mpg overall was acceptable.

Mid-spec Acenta and range-topping Tekna models get Nissan’s dynamic control system which switches between climate mode for the air-conditioning, heating and ventilation and D-Mode when the buttons select eco, normal and sport driving modes altering throttle response, torque availability, steering and even the air-con. But with the display screen set low on the central fascia, with a constantly changing display of how the engine is performing in D-Mode it is all too easy to look down at it, taking your eyes off the road, so I left it set on Climate to avoid temptation.

The ride is sensitive even on good roads so you are always aware what is going on beneath the tyres but the firm suspension pays dividends with agile handling and fine body control through corners.

The interior will seat four adults, five at a push, with reasonable legroom if those up front make some allowances but the sloping roof limits headroom in the back and the rear doors are quite narrow at the bottom which makes getting in and out trickier than a normal car.

The boot isn’t huge and has quite a high floor (I’ll take Nissan’s word for it that it will take a nine-inch golf bag or large suitcase) but there is a very useful deep underfloor storage compartment – except on the range-topping four-wheel drive model – which takes capacity to 251 litres. Rear seat backs split 60/40 and drop flat on to the cushion. The flimsy load cover is attached to the tailgate with poppers so goes up with it but it looks cheap and cheerful.

The fun and funky design theme continues inside with a body-colour centre console that is supposed to resemble a motorcycle fuel tank, sweeping up to the stylish fascia with its big instruments, again drawing inspiration from motorbikes, and clear, well-placed controls. The high driving position gives good forward views but rear visibility is hindered by chunky pillars. On the downside, the steering wheel adjusts only for height and not reach, and the plastics are hard to the touch although they’ll prove durable.

Available in Visia, Acenta and Tekna trims, the entry-level model includes 16in alloy wheels, electronic stability control, six airbags, sports seats, trip computer, remote locking, electric windows and door mirrors and air-conditioning. Acenta adds 17in alloys, climate control, Bluetooth and USB point, cruise control and speed-limiter, steering wheel-mounted controls, front fog lights and that dynamic control system for drive mode and climate settings. Acenta also offers an optional sport pack of sport alloys, rear privacy glass and premium seat fabric or premium pack which further adds satellite navigation and reversing camera. Range-topping Tekna has leather upholstery, reversing camera, satellite navigation, keyless entry and ignition, automatic wipers and lights and 17in sport alloys.

The Juke brings a sense of fun to the small-car sector – it’s not going to be to everyone’s taste but the price is right for motorists who want to stand out from the crowd.

NISSAN JUKE 1.6 ACENTA PREMIUM

Price: £15,045 (range £12,995 to £20,345)

Engine: 1,598cc, 117PS, four-cylinder petrol

Performance: 0-62mph 11 seconds; top speed 111mph

MPG: Urban 34.9; extra urban 53.3; combined 44.8

CO2 emissions: 147g/km

Benefit-in-kind tax rate: 18pc

Insurance group: 12E (out of 50)

Warranty: Three years or 60,000 miles

Will it fit in the garage? Length 4,135mm; width (excluding door mirrors) 1,765mm; height 1,565mm