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
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.