09 December 2013
One driverís ultra-modern crossover is another oddball. Yes, itís the Nissan Juke: a car more certain to split opinion than Marmite. For all its unusual-ness, though, the Juke is a fairly straightforward, if pricey, alternative to most superminis at heart. If the cost is a concern, take a look at the MINI Countryman and the Nissan soon looks like fair value.
Nissan has lined up three engine options for the Juke, starting with a 1.6-litre petrol engine boasting all of 116bhp. Itís no ball of fire and manages 0-62mph in 11 seconds, so is reasonable in traffic and at getting up to the national speed limit, but it needs to be worked quite hard. This is also a consequence of quite short gearing to help this engine stay in its power band more effectively. A knock-on from this is plenty of stirring of the five-speed manual gearboxís lever, though at least the shift action is light and precise. Next up is another 1.6-litre petrol engine, but this one sprouts a turbocharger to create 187bhp. Like most Juke models, this engine comes as a front-wheel drive car with manual gearbox, in this case a six-speeder. However, for those who think the Juke should have all-wheel drive to live up to its SUV-alike looks, it can be ordered with four-wheel drive. The downside is a CVT (continuously variable transmission) gearbox that can often lurch and shunt between the steps pre-programmed into it to give the feel of individual gears. In this form, the Juke sees off 0-62mph in 8.4 seconds, but weíd give it a miss for the gearbox and the expense. Better is the front-drive Juke with the same 187bhp. Itís not quite a hot hatch crossover, but itís quicker than the all-wheel drive model with 0-62mph in 8.0 seconds and the simplicity of a six-speed manual gearbox. Fans of frugal will prefer the 1.5-litre turbodiesel that has 109bhp and provides 0-62mph in 11.2 seconds. It does a decent job of powering the Juke, but it needs pressing to keep up with faster traffic and it becomes a little too noisy for our ears when driven like this.
The Juke looks almost like a childís radio-controlled buggy due to its tall stance, ground clearance and chunky wheels. However, appearances can be deceptive and from the driverís seat the Juke impresses with its stability through corners, as well as its agility. Yes, the firm suspension means the ride is on the firmer side of acceptable but it keeps body lean under control and makes the Juke much more fun to drive than most crossovers. The steering also enjoys a directness not found in many crossovers, which often tend towards the more SUV end of the scale. It helps the Juke feel poised, keen and nimble, whether itís tackling a country road or parking in town. One note of caution, however, is needed here as the Juke is still quite a tall vehicle and the front wheels begin to run wide in a corner where a Ford Fiesta is still offering fine grip.
It may be a new model, but the Juke is built on Nissanís Sunderland production line and it shows in the quality of construction. Every panel gap is even and tight, the interior is free from any rattles or creaks, and the general air of solidity imparts a sense the Juke is a much more expensive machine than it really is. The 1.6-litre turbo petrol engine is all-new, so weíll reserve judgement on that till a later date, but experience of Nissanís unerring reliability suggest it should not throw any curve balls in this direction.
Every Juke in the range comes with twin front, side and curtain airbags, as well as ESP traction and stability control. Thereís also electronic brake force distribution and ABS, as well as Brake Assist for those emergency situations. Only the most expensive model with the 187bhp turbo petrol engine comes with the added sure-footedness of four-wheel drive. However, all Jukes have an immobiliser, remote central locking and your Nissan dealer will fit the alarm.
Most crossovers are trying to blend the practicality of an SUV with the running costs of a hatchback. The Juke plays a different game and has sacrificed practicality to the gods of style. The sweeping roof line looks great from the outside, but it plays havoc with rear headroom. Thereís not a huge amount of rear legroom either compared to the best of the small hatch class, and the Jukeís rear doors feel constricted when it comes to ease of access. The boot is just about big enough to cope with a familyís weekly shopping, while under floor storage and rear seats that fold flat help with larger loads. For the driver, itís a much better deal thanks to lots of adjustment in the steering and seat to attain the right driving position. All of the dash is clear to use, even if it has been styled for fashion over function, but the poor rear visibility over the driverís shoulder and in the rear-view mirror are disappointments.
Avoid the 1.6-litre turbo petrol engine and the Juke should be easy on the wallet to own and run. Aside from the expense of buying the range-topping engine, it manages 40.9mpg as a front-wheel drive model and only 37.2mpg in four-wheel drive form with CVT gearbox. These models also offer mediocre carbon dioxide emissions of 159- and 175g/km respectively for the front- and four-wheel drive variants. The non-turbo 1.6 petrol provides 44.8mpg and 147g/km emissions, so is also unimpressive, while the diesel saves some face for the Juke with 55.4mpg and 134g/km. Residual values should remain strong for the Juke as demand is high for it as a new vehicle, while servicing and insurance costs are much the same as for any small hatch, such as a Kia Ceeíd. Nissan offers its usual trio of trims in Visia, Acenta and Tekna, though not every engine is available in every trim. Every model has alloy wheels, air conditioning, electric windows and ESP, while the Acenta gains climate control, Bluetooth connection, and Nissanís Dynamic Control System to alter the feel of the steering and accelerator for a sportier drive. The Tekna comes with leather upholstery, satellite navigation and a reversing camera, but this model is expensive.
Submitted: 28/03/2011 11:21:50
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