Young designers create fresh look
The Kiwi versions of the Nissan’s Juke are under assembly in Sunderland, north east England, and Rob Maetzig has driven it
There are lots of Nissan Jukes in the Newcastle area, the reason is obvious – Nissan Sunderland is the area’s largest employer and they are entitled to obtain the product at special prices.
Described by Nissan as the first-ever compact crossover vehicle and therefore with no real opposition, it is a distinctivelooking and fairly highriding five-door hatch that appeals as being of 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 currently being offered by the 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.
‘‘But we have an unusually young team of designers here and they tend to take a more fresh approach to vehicle design,’’ he said.
‘‘And Western vehicle designers tend to be bolder with their creations, too. 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. Whereas Nissan UK’S business plan was for 80,000 Juke sales this year, the number has in fact passed 150,000 and demand continues unabated.
Will this popularity be replicated in New Zealand? Well, there’s no doubt that 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 poised ready to pounce.
The tail lights are distinctively shaped and spread out over Volvo-like flanks, while the frontal light system features indicator lights that protrude from the front fenders. The shapes of these lights divert wind from the exterior mirrors when the Juke is at pace, thus 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 86kw/158nm 1.6-litre four cylinder petrol engine offered sound if fairly uninspiring performance. Hit sport, though, and things change a lot 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 on behalf of the driver.
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 amount of energy used by the air conditioning system. As a result, average fuel consumption of 6.3 L/100 km is claimed.
Juke is well specified, offering full connectivity, six- speaker audio, intelligent key with push-button start, and a drive computer that can offer all sorts of 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. Its 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 with a centre console based on a motorcycle fuel tank, deserves to also have a few nifty-but-useless apps to its on-board computer wizardry.
Of course that’s as long as underneath it all, there’s a good car. My impression after last week’s wintry tour from Newcastle to Edinburgh, is that Juke is indeed a good product. It looks happy, too. I can see it easily meeting Nissan NZ’S sales prediction of 80 units a month.
The Nissan Juke’s pricing and specification will be made known closer to its launch next year but we’d expect the low $30,000s for the base ST with the higher spec Ti asking a little more.
NISSAN JUKE: Selling like hot cakes on its home market.