There’s noth­ing the Juke lacks


Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - GOODDRIVING - HENRI DU PLESSIS

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.

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