Juke: Don’t take it too seriously
New Zealand is soon to get a new Nissan hatchback called Juke. Assembly of the Kiwi models has started at Nissan UK’S assembly plant at Sunderland, near Newcastle – and Rob Maetzig was there to drive the very first of them.
Described by Nissan UK as the first- ever compact crossover vehicle and therefore with no real opposition, the Juke is a distinctive-looking and fairly high-riding five-door hatch that appeals as being exactly the right size for Kiwi small car tastes.
Not only that, but its looks are sufficiently different to give it appeal as an alternative to the fare being offered by Japanese and Korean manufacturers.
The Kiwi media tour to Britain included a visit to the Nissan design studios in London, where the centre’s director of design operations Paul Garside described the Juke as a ‘‘Marmite’’ vehicle – people either love it or hate it.
‘‘Obviously there’s some risk involved in designing a vehicle that is a bit different but we’re very happy to know that sales in Europe have taken off.’’
That’s for sure. Nissan UK’S business plan was for 80,000 Juke sales this year, but the number has passed 150,000 and demand continues unabated. Will this popularity be replicated in New Zealand?
Well, there’s no doubt Juke’s distinctive look will be noticed.
Paul Garside said one of its design inspirations was a sand buggy, and I believe it. The car has rakish lines thanks to a sloping roof, broad and muscular wheel arches and a high waistline, all of which combine to make the Juke look like it is ready to pounce.
The tail-lights are distinctively shaped and spread out over Volvolike flanks, while the frontal light system features indicator lights that protrude out from the front fenders.
The shapes of these lights divert wind from the exterior mirrors when the Juke is at pace, helping with fuel economy.
Juke’s interior is a little different, too. The design of the centre console is based on the fuel tank of a motorcycle, and the combination meters are motorcycle-style.
The New Zealand specification Jukes will also feature a Dynamic Control System, which offers three driving modes – normal, sport and eco – which change the operation of the vehicle’s continuously variable automatic transmission to suit driving preferences.
I found that when the normal mode was selected, the Juke’s 86-kilowatt per 158-newton metre 1.6- litre four- cylinder petrol engine offered sound, if fairly uninspiring, performance.
Hit ‘‘sport’’, though, and things change, with the needle on the rev counter whipping up through the numbers as the electronic control system changes the throttle opening to work the engine harder.
Juke’s electronic power steering is also made firmer when in the sport mode for sharper handling.
The eco mode is there to encourage more economical driving, primarily through changing the transmission and accelerator mapping, and by reducing the energy used by the air conditioning system.
As a result, average fuel consumption of 6.3 litres per 100 kilometres is claimed.
Juke is well specified, offering full connectivity, six- speaker audio, intelligent key with pushbutton start, and a drive computer that can offer information on a centrally positioned monitor.
In fact, in addition to all the usual stuff such as trip time and fuel consumption, I even found a G- force meter that indicates where the G loadings are during cornering, acceleration and braking. Gee – I thought I already had one of those. It’s called the seat of my pants. Mind you, I think the G-force meter does have a nice fit with the Nissan Juke, because this is a car that asks not to be taken too seriously.
Any hatchback created by a group of young London- based designers, with lines reminiscent of a dune buggy, with sticky-out lights and a centre console based on a motorcycle fuel tank, deserves to have a few nifty-butuseless apps to its on-board computer wizardry.
Of course that’s as long as underneath it, there’s a good car.
My impression after a wintry tour from Newcastle to Edinburgh, is that Juke is indeed a good product. I can see it easily meeting Nissan New Zealand’s sales prediction of 80 units a month.
Prices have yet to be announced but expect low to mid-$30,000s for base ST and higher-specified Ti models that will be the Kiwi selection.
Nissan Juke: A familiar sight on UK roads, the Juke is about to hit New Zealand.