Nissan Juke – Dare to be different
There’s nothing like it out there. Is that a good thing?
IN A SEA OF RECESSIONARY conforminism, the Nissan Juke stands out like a clown
at a tax convention. While all the comb-over bean counters are wearing sensible shades
of black from Woolworths, Juke Nukem is the guy with the Elvis sidies, the Disney tie,
spikey mullet and a killer white slacks/yellow jacket combo. Fashion disaster or a
trendsetter? The jury’s out, but grudgingly agree that he’s surprisingly good at his job.
Since he’s always smiling, he must be happy. Or mental.
The Juke is a schizo car. From the bulging wheel arches up it mirrors the 370Z, with a
sloping roofline, arrowed headlamps high up on the bonnet line and Z-shaped tail- lamps.
The lower half is all chunky SUV though, with another set of large round headlamps
flanking the grille backed up by a third set of lights nestling in the front bumper. Stare at
it from the front and it’s like looking at a six-eyed Martian from a 1950s Marvel comic. A
smiling Martian. Ag shame man, it wants to be friends.
Since crossovers are all the rage at the moment, Nissan reckons there are plenty South
Africans that are looking for a small B-segment crossover, a gap in the market that isn’t
being sufficiently plugged by the expensive Mini Countryman.
So the Juke’s no joke, as world-wide sales of 180 000 units in 2010 attests. Locally
Nissan want to shift more than 400 Jukes a month in 2012, a tall order considering the
very capable Qashqai sells slightly less in a good month. Then again, the Qashqai showed
that South Africans like cars that are well- priced, well-built, suited to our outdoor
lifestyle and able to handle roads ranging from smooth freeway to crumbling secondary
roads and the occasional gravel jaunt.
The Juke, with its younger in- your-face styling, ticks all of those boxes. But first ignore
the market¬ing hype that this is a sports car on stilts. Sporty? Maybe. Sports car? No.
Here’s why. It launches locally with two engines, a naturally aspirated 1.6-litre Acenta
with only 86kW of power and 157Nm of torque mated to a five-speed manual box, and
the far more desir¬able turbocharged 1.6 Tekna. This little engine is good for 140kW and
240Nm. Wring its neck and it sounds a bit tinny at the top end, but the surge is good and
the six- speed manual throws are slick.
Three driving modes are on offer, ranging from Eco to Normal to Sport. Each setting
alters the throttle map, steering weight and even the performance of the aircon. Even
though 0 to lOOkph should come up in 8 seconds, it’s still not a hot hatch. It’s just too tall
and it rolls a bit in corners. The flip side is that there’s none of the jitteriness of a hot
hatch thanks to decent ground clearance and long travel suspension. It’s a compromise
that works well in an urban crossover like the Juke, where a comfortable and supple ride
coupled with enough torque to manage quick overtakes more than compensates for teeth-jarring dynamics.
But your choice should be Volkswagen UP