What Nis­san’s up to is no joke

It’s easy to like the com­fort­able, lively Juke, de­spite the fact that it is an ugly lit­tle beast with a rather un­for­tu­nate name

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - GOODWHEELS -

IAM start­ing to won­der what’s up at Nis­san. And I am not talk­ing Nis­san South Africa, I am talk­ing Nis­san Ja­pan.

Or, rather, Nis­san in­ter­na­tion­ally.

Over the years, they’ve been mak­ers and pur­vey­ors of pretty good cars. That does not seem to have changed, go­ing by a re­cent model I test drove.

And my mem­ory goes back to the old Dat­sun Blue­bird. Boy, those weren’t ex­actly the kind of cars that should have been named af­ter the car of that land speed record icon Don­ald Camp­bell, but they sure as heck lasted a lot longer than any of Un­cle Don­ald’s records. Re­mem­ber the fa­mous SSS? Over the years in days gone by, Nis­san here in the sunny south lived in the shadow of an­other icon, Toy­ota.

Sev­eral of my mo­tor­ing col­leagues agreed with me in the past that, had the Nis­san been fit­ted with a Toy­ota badge, it would have sold like hot cakes.

Nowa­days, Nis­san is a part of the Re­nault/nis­san al­liance, the mar­ket­ing gu­rus are quick to point out.

So? Re­nault does what Re­nault does best. What is Nis­san do­ing?

And one of the big rea­sons for my ques­tion is that test car men­tioned ear­lier. A Nis­san Juke.

Oh, for heaven’s sake, let’s just get to the point. Juke? Why Juke, Nis­san? Don’t you know in the whole of the English- speak­ing world it is go­ing to be­come the Nis­san Joke?

Like the Qashqai in South Africa al­most im­me­di­ately be­came the Kaskar, the Afrikaans name for a home-made tomato-crate car with roller bear­ing wheels.

Also lo­cally, the name Liv­ina strongly re­minds Afrikaans-speak­ing peo­ple who had any­thing re­sem­bling a nor­mal child­hood of Livinia the witch, aka Liewe Hek­sie.

I’ve heard a name for the Ti­ida that I am not go­ing to re­peat in a fam­ily news­pa­per, but it has strong Cape roots…

Oh, and last but not least, they also have the Nis­san Leaf, that sup­pos­edly gree­nie elec­tric car. Leaf. My good­ness. Next we know we’ll have a Nis­san Beansprout. No, can’t have that, we all know by now that meth­ane is far worse than car­bon in an ever-warm­ing world.

I don’t know too much about the Leaf, so I can­not say if it is a good car. I don’t think sewing ma­chines make good cars, but then, that’s just me. When you talk about leaves, I can­not help but re­mem­ber au­tumn leaves fall­ing. Over.

And they call their mo­tor­sport arm Nismo. Sounds like a gizmo. Not some­thing sexy like Scud­e­ria Nis­san, or Nis­san Sports Pro­gram (NSP) or some­thing like that. No, Nismo. Sounds like a com­puter geek thought it up. Nismo could have been one of those lit­tle round­headed Star Wars ro­bots.

All these Nis­sans have proved to be pretty re­li­able, user-friendly cars as far as I know. Some just are not all that sexy.

As vet­eran rac­ing ace Sarel van der Merwe com­mented, Nis­san’s been com­ing up with some, er, strange con­cepts.

Sarel con­trib­utes to our mo­tor­ing pages these days and he joined me for the Juke test re­cently.

One strange con­cept I liked a lot when I drove it was the big Murano. In many ways, it is not ex­cep­tion­ally prac­ti­cal, much like that BMW X6 thing. But it goes well and it looks da bizniz.

Nismo came up with a sporty ver­sion of the Joke, er, I mean Juke, re­cently.

They are due to launch it at the Tokyo Mo­tor Show soon. Un­til then, Nis­san this week is­sued a some­what blurry pic­ture of the Nismo ver­sion and threat­ened that the Juke Nismo would soon show the di­rec­tion in which Nismo is mov­ing.

Look­ing at the car, I’d say ral­ly­ing. Maybe Re­nault is look­ing for some­thing with which to take on the Citroëns of the rally world.

De­spite its silly name, the Juke is no joke, take my word for it. In fact, take Sarel’s word for it.

The car sticks to the road ad­mirably and the cur­rent 1 600cc en­gine with its turbo charger is a lively lit­tle thing. But what was most in­flu­en­tial in the dis­cus­sion over its mer­its was the fact that the Juke is a very com­fort­able and easy-to-like car.

This is de­spite its rather strange name and looks that will make most peo­ple ei­ther blow hot or cold.

As Sarel said, you can­not place this car in a bracket. Where does it fit in the mar­ket­place? Does Nis­san know? Do they re­ally care?

But we soon re­alised. It does not have to fit and Nis­san does not have to care about that at all. The Juke only has to have a suf­fi­cient num­ber of peo­ple lik­ing it for it to make sense. And guess what? Lik­ing it wasn’t too dif­fi­cult, de­spite the fact that both of us thought it a rather ugly lit­tle beast.

Ac­cord­ing to Nis­san, the Juke is sell­ing well all around the world. Which is good.

Now just to help these guys find bet­ter names for their cars.

Pa­jero is al­ready taken. For­tu­nately.

QUO VADIS? The Juke in the flesh, but not the Nismo ver­sion, of course. It looks racy enough al­ready, me­thinks.

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