When you first clap eyes on Nissan’s new, very imaginatively styled… and yet very unimaginatively captioned ‘B-segment crossover’, you can’t help but think it’ll land as far from the mark as a Kurt Darren concert in Soweto. If you had to view each design element in isolation like you were ‘striking a pose’, the styling betrothed to this mad little scamp is truly ‘fugly’. We’re talking deepest darkest nightmare from the suppressed unconscious kind of stuff. I can’t help but think somewhere, in a billion dollar loft apartment in St. Tropez, Walter da Silva and Ian Callum are keeled over, straining for breath, they’re laughing so hard. Oh, and Chris Bangle has just walked in and he’s joining in too.
You see, I had the pleasure of attending a presentation by car designer Ian Callum (of Jaguar and Aston Martin fame, just in case you don’t know who we’re talking about here and you think Hyundai’s are the last word in styling beauty), and the thing I’ll forever take with me from it was one line. No, literally, that’s what he said. “One line”. You should be able to pen anything on a car with just one line on a piece of paper. If any of his design team used anything as numerous and wasteful as two lines, he’d say it’s too complicated, start again and simplify. Now, of course there will always be exceptions to this rule that work, but not many; and one can only assume the Nissan Juke’s designer was a drop out from the Callum school of design, and he went stark raving mad in rebellion.
Bizarrely though, the Juke’s styling works. No really it does, it’s hideous but its got something going for it… some might say its got Moxy. The ‘f’ in ‘fugly’ doesn’t need to denote a swear word, it could just as well signify ‘funky.’ It looks like a monster with six eyes sprouting off its face, but it’s a fun monster like something out of the movie Monsters Inc.
Nissan say the Juke gets its name, because it sidesteps convention, and similar to the Citroen DS3 / DS4, one could argue; that it’s taking the fight to ‘old school’ with its fully robotised, cartoon-type attitude. No argument from us on that one. On the inside, the centre console is made to look like a motorbike’s fuel tank and mirrors the exterior colour of the car. It also has a very funky centre fascia interface that shows you a G-meter and turbo boost gauge. (An extra R6 000 buys you heated, leather-covered seats, which represents fair value and adds significant upmarket feel. – Ed.)
Powertrain wise, in the model we have on test you get a 1.6-litre, four cylinder, with a clever dual-injection system to make it as economical as possible, but it’s also boosted with a turbo charger, to make 140 kW and 240 Nm. We’ve driven these turbo models exclusively on the launch and now on our road test, both at altitude and at the coast, and the engine has plenty of grunt, plenty of rev’s to play with, and goes like a scolded Tasmanian devil everywhere. After both experiences, however, we can confirm that we would have liked a less zingy exhaust note, it really does sound like you’re hurting the motor when you give it the berries. Almost sounds like an old, tuned, supercharged Honda in fact. This makes you quite reluctant to stretch the engine to its redline, purely from an aural point of view, if you‘re on the school run or popping off to the shops.
We also know smaller displacement turbo motors are all the rage these days, but what was wrong with the normally aspirated, petrol 2.0-litre you get in the Nissan Qashqai? We absolutely love that motor with its lungful’s of normally aspirated punch and less lagging power delivery. The 2.0-litre is a bit of a binge drinker, so you can understand the eco consideration in going smaller, but the rev happy 1.6 DIG-T here doesn’t exactly conserve its fuel either thanks to its responsive attitude. A 1.5-litre dCi is coming to the range later and a CVT two pedal transmission, which could make for interesting road tests when they arrive.
So what about driveability? Well, here too the Juke is a kind of fun and scary mixed bag, all at the same time. The turbo power that throws you into your seat is very fun. 0 – 100 km/h in 8 seconds is great for a family hatchback. Except it feels even faster than that and that’s also the issue. It feels faster and more exciting because it’s all a bit frantic in the Juke when you put your foot down. The taller ride height means you pitch every time you accelerate and brake, while you roll and yaw in the corners a little more than is entirely necessary. It’s clearly not meant to be driven in a sporty manner around a winding road because if it was, the Japanese engineers would have kept it lower to the ground, or stiffened it up a lot more, or fitted altogether better suspension than its torsion beam setup on the rear. Oh boy, does it love to spin its front inside wheel when you’re cornering too.
This is a shame because the gear shift action from the six speed manual gearbox is particularly encouraging when you want to give the car a work out. The ride quality too with the car experiencing neutral roads and steering is firm, feelsome and quite connected to the driver, as is the steering in fact, but the ride height is a problem. If they lowered it to the height of a normal hatchback I’d love this car.
Of course, you’ll say the average buyer (of which there are plenty and the Juke is doing great sales at the moment) won’t be the type of people to hustle it around mountain roads all day. Well then tell me why there is a 140 kW motor with a turbo boost gauge and a G-meter on the dash? I think it’s the type of car female buyers will build an almost emotional attachment too. But me…? Well, while it’s a fun, cheap and distinctive car, I fear it’s lacking in some real substance. It’s a bit too gimmicky for my liking.
What we like…
- Gutsy hot hatch-like engine and power delivery.
- Distinctive styling that says… ‘I’m ugly and proud of it.’
- Comfortable and fun interior with good standard spec.
What we would like…
- Better exhaust note.
- More body control to deliver a sporty driving feel.
|Base Price (incl. VAT)||R258 500|
|Warranty||3 year / 100 000 km|
|Engine Capacity||1 618 cm³|
|No. Of Cylinders||4-cylinders, In-line|
|Power||140 kW @ 5 600 r/min|
|Torque||240 N.m @ 5 000 r/min|
|Drive type||Front-wheel drive|
|Acceleration||0-100 km/h in 8.0 seconds (claimed)|
|Top Speed||215 km/h (claimed)|
|Fuel Consumption||8.0 l/100km (claimed combined)|
|CO2 Emissions||159 g/km|
If you own a Nissan Juke, or even if you don’t but have an opinion (everyone has one of those), we’d like to hear it, so share it with us in the comments section below.