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Is it a frog? Is it a toy? Or is that a cartoon car I’m looking at?
Think back to your school days for a minute. Remember that kid who stood out for all the right and wrong reasons? Mischievous, quirky and all together boldly eccentric were the character traits of said kid. They were the class clown and the majority of their peers loved them for it. As a result they stood out never to be forgotten and are now CEO’s of innovative companies.
As I’m writing this it sounds like I’m penning an introduction for Sir Richard Branson, but I’m not. Rather I’m trying to personify what Nissan have created in their super mini SUV/Crossover, the Nissan JUKE.
You either love it or hate it but with global sales being over 500 000 units since its launch in 2010, 10 000 of those being sold to South Africans, it is safe to say it’s a success. Like no other car in its class it features three large headlights, a raised driving stance and a sloped rear roofline with concealed rear door handles. Move around to its backside and the JUKE has more shape in its derrière than a Kardashian, which is saying a lot.
It’s unique and unusual at any angle. The JUKE has loads of character and is loveable in the same way you would reference a pet.
From the inside, the character continues. The centre console is shaped like a motorcycle’s fuel tank and is the same colour as the exterior paint finish of the car. Seats are velour featuring honeycombed embossing in a black on black pattern. Highlighted red fabric inserts and stitching finish off the look of the seats, a look that can be labelled and felt as sporty.
The JUKE also features a nifty driver interface system that controls the climate system and Interactive Driver Control system. The JUKE can be driven in either: Eco, Normal or Sport modes. Each of these modes has its own specific throttle and steering responses. Along with this system is a rather gimmicky electronic screen. Each driving mode has its own readout of your driving style, eg. in Eco mode, the car gives you a graded star rating relating to your frugality; in Sport mode, a G-Force monitor measures the vehicle’s G’s on acceleration and cornering. It’s a playful device, only problem with the system is the fact that the screen is small and low res. It is also positioned lower on the console, so viewing is compromised requiring the driver to take his/her attention off the road to actually read it.
On the road
The JUKE has a raised and firm suspension. On one hand it gives the driver a great view of the road and makes easy work of negotiating speed bumps and potholes, but on the other hand it gives the JUKE a go-cart like jitteriness too.
You get the sense that the JUKE has been designed for those who like a nippy hatchback and with it a sporty character. The JUKE has a MINIesque feel on the road but not as honed.
The 1.5 dCi diesel engine is mated to a 6-speed manual gearbox. Together they accelerate the JUKE briskly. Flicking between Eco and Sport modes allows the driver to experience the sensation of the two different acceleration patterns: Eco is gentle while Sport is aggressive. Spirited accelerations do unfortunately provoke an audible diesel clutter which detracts from the muscular surge of power. The manual gearbox offers short shift from gear to gear, which is fun when joyfully driving the car. The 6-speed manual is easy to use but additional refinement would make it better. I’m not an engineer but things like extra rubbers and lubrication would make it feel slicker.
The JUKE is a 2WD vehicle with power coming out of its front tekkies. An AWD version is available for those who would like to do a little off-road adventuring in their characterful JUKE.
What I liked
What I’m not mad about
The extra stuff
Standard equipment includes 17” alloy wheels, front fog lights, keyless entry and a start/stop button, an immobiliser, electrically adjustable and folding door mirrors, rain sensing wipers, electric windows all round, privacy glass in the rear, a multifunction leather-bound steering wheel, a multi info trip computer, Bluetooth for hands free telephony and audio streaming, a quality four-speaker audio system with USB and iPod integration, cruise control with a speed limiter, the Interactive Driver Control system, six cup or bottle holders, dual tone suede-touch upholstery and a leather gear lever.
Safety equipment is at a similarly comprehensive level, the JUKE diesel featuring ABS with EBD and BAS, VDC (Vehicle Dynamic Control), six airbags, ISOFIX child seat anchor points, an immobiliser and DataDot as standard.
Included in the price are a standard 3-year/100 000km warranty and 3-year/90 000km service plan.
The competition to the JUKE, though crossovers like the JUKE, and similarly priced, cater to different people.
The common thread that runs through all of the cars is their quirky styling.
The Ford is made in India; as a result it is well priced due to the low cost of production. The downside of the well-priced EcoSport is its economy feel and finish of its interior. I like the Ford for a young family over the JUKE because of its practicality. If you are going to buy one, the 1.0T petrol engine which has won numerous awards and is your best bet.
The French urban warrior is super stylish as you would expect. From its handsome exterior and into its playfully sporty interior, the 2008 is a treat. Its 1.6 engine shared with MINI is a little go getter and loves being revved, but can feel like it needs a sixth gear.
The Soul is somewhat out of the box in its cubic design for KIA, who is well known for their sculptural designs. It’s for those who like being noticed. It’s a nice choice for business and branding purposes.
The JUKE is a winner. It has the ability to stand out from the crowd in a characterful manner. It is best suited to singles and young urbanites that aspire to outdoor recreation but spend most of their time relaxing on boulevards drinking a craft beer. It’s a fun car with a fun character.
Would I buy one? It is due for a facelift and with it there is also going to be a new 1.2T petrol engine. Wait for this one, it will be the gem of the range.
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