There’s nothing the Juke lacks
WHEN I see a Nissan Juke approach from up ahead, I have to smile. When they first emerged from the chrysalis that is the Nissan factory up in Rosslyn, these little Jukes really looked odd. The first time I had one on test, I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to hide my head in a brown paper bag or whether I should brazenly brag about being in such a “different” car.
At the time, I took the car to race and rally legend Sarel van der Merwe, who quite honestly said it was one of the uglier cars he had ever driven. Interestingly, his wife liked it. Intriguingly, the majority of Jukes I have so far seen on the road were being driven by women.
And yet, I liked it. And yet, Sarel also liked it. It handled well, its little protruding lamp lenses on the front wings were really great guides to where the front-end was and how it was behaving and, in general, the car was really very comfortable.
Final proof perhaps that women know what they want and know what is good? Quite possibly.
So, it was with interest that I first read about the arrival here of a diesel Juke. A tiny, 1.5-litre turbo-diesel. And then I got to drive it.
In the press release issued by Nissan about the diesel, product manager Nancy Reddy said one could choose either to drive the car “like your hair is on fire” or cruise around “as relaxed as a lizard in the sun”.
Reddy also suggested the car could be really light on diesel. So I did all that. Driving the car like my hair was on fire was surprisingly easy. If the truth be known, this diesel has great torque and is a very willing little mill under most circumstances. Of course, it will run out of revs markedly sooner than a petrol engine, but that is a diesel characteristic – learn it, adapt to it and accept it. Your shifts simply have to happen sooner than in a petrol car.
The secret to driving a diesel is to drive it to the torque curve, not the power curve. Back in the day when two- stroke motorcycles were the norm and youngsters warmed up their bikes a bit to make them go faster, there was a narrow power band in which they had to stay as far as engine revs were concerned, otherwise the bike would simply run out of “go”. Well, a diesel can be similar if not quite as narrow.
The 1.5 dCi is said to boast 81kW of power at 4 000rpm and 260Nm of torque from 1 500rpm. If you are going to drive to power, you will have only 81 at a whopping (for a diesel) 4 000rpm, an engine speed at which the torque curve has long since run out of breath. But if you drive to the torque band, you will have 260 Newton-metres.
And you feel it, that gratifying feeling of the push in the back as the sheer grunt of the engine shunts you along.
You also have three drive modes – Normal, Eco and Sport – that allow you to set the car up for either the burning hair or sunset cruise scenario, with something in between (normal) for average people.
Having failed to be normal since my childhood when I managed several awkward falls on my coconut, I kept the car mostly in Sport or Eco, the latter also for the sport of doing my own mini economy runs. Many people may not understand this, but if you think about it carefully, this also has to do with performance. How well can it perform in the fuel- saving department? How low can you get the average reading on the on-board computer? Try as I might, I could not match Nissan’s claimed 4.2 litres over 100km. Which made me feel all sensitive. Manufacturers should not set such high targets.
But I did get to 6.1 litres over 100km once. Yes, you may call me lead foot if you like, but remember who swings that lead foot…
In my favourite sports mode, bends in the road became surprisingly straight. Due to the car’s height above sea level, one can understand the appearance here and there of a tiny bit of body roll, but that was negligible to the point of non-existence.
The Juke really lacks nothing. Slash and Deep Purple failed to faze the rather accomplished sound system. The car’s interior gave an impression of quality in most departments and all kinds of driver aid goodies like rain-sensing wipers are at hand.
Standard fitments include keyless entry and a start/stop button, front foglights, immobiliser, electrically adjustable and folding door mirrors, 17” alloy wheels, rain-sensing wipers, electric windows all round, privacy glass in the rear, a multifunction leather-bound steering wheel, trip data computer, Bluetooth connectivity for hands-free telephony and audio streaming, a quality four- speaker audio system with USB and iPod ports, cruise control with a speed limiter, six cup or bottle holders, twotone suede-touch upholstery and a leather-trimmed gear lever.
This whole lot will cost you R263 800, a price that includes a threeyear or 100 000km warranty and a three-year or 90 000km service plan.
The Juke is probably not to everybody’s taste. As much as I respect the car, I know of several others I could go for in the looks department. But that odd-looking little machine bears so many pleasant surprises that if you had to go for a demo drive, it might even win you over from your preferred buy. I dare you.
SURPRISING: Its looks aren’t everybody’s cup of diesel, but the Nissan Juke may win you over during a test drive.