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Nissan Juke review (2010 onwards)
Summary - If you buy into the dramatic style, you're sure to enjoy the driving experience
We like - The style, good diesel engine, fun to drive, well priced
We don't like - Hardly any roomier than a supermini, satnav design
First impressions will make or break the Nissan Juke. It's that kind of car. This is a motor show concept - the Qazana - that's hit the streets with hardly a change.
That's rare, for manufacturers usually run scared, and tone down the show car so it will be less extreme and less frightening to the man in the street - the future customer.
So what is the Juke? Talk to any car maker these days about new models and the first word you'll hear will be "crossover". They all want a slice of Nissan's action with its ultra successful Qashqai.
Practical, family cars dressed up to look like rugged SUVs is now the game everyone wants to play. Nissan is hoping to repeat the success on a more compact scale with the Juke.
If you are to believe the hype, the lower half of the Juke is like an SUV, the upper more coupe. Screw up your eyes and you can get a sense of the GT-R in the roofline, and 370Z from the rear lights.
Pricing is realistic, staring at around £13k for a 1.6 petrol and rising to £20k for the four-wheel-drive 1.6 Turbo with CVT gearbox. While the Qashqai has been a target for other manufacturers, Nissan would dearly love to snaffle a lot of buyers who've been choosing Minis up 'til now.
Curiously Nissan didn't have any examples of the big seller, the 1.6-litre 115hp Juke, on the launch. A tactical move? Quite possibly.
The two alternative engines are quite different. In hot hatch guise the Juke gets a 190hp 1.6 turbo petrol engine that promises scintillating performance.
With front- or four-wheel-drive it's certainly quick enough, though eight seconds to 62mph is only just hitting the cusp of decent sporting performance.
The 4x4 version may seem like a good way to get all that power down to the road. Except it comes only with a CVT automatic transmission that's simply unpleasant in the Normal mode and has a violent, almost scary mind of its own in Sport.
Which makes the 1.5 turbo diesel such a pleasant surprise. This engine has exactly the same torque figures as the much more powerful petrol engine, which helps makes it a peach to drive.
Quiet, refined, and pulling extremely well in all six gears, it's very easy to get along at speeds little short of the faster car, despite the 0-62mph time of 11.2 seconds.
Ride and handling
If you want your new car to have PRESENCE, massive wheels and tyres are an essential component. The Juke gets them, they look great and they supply an inordinate amount of grip.
Coupled with a very quick steering rack, the Juke can dart left and right just as quickly as your brain can take in the transition. It has much of the agility of the Mini, and most of the fun.
The downside is, inevitably, firm suspension and a less than cosseting ride. It's par for the course though, and no one ever said a Mini was the height of comfort.
You can do better with the Juke. The Four-wheel-drive version has a completely different rear suspension that's rather more compliant. It also has torque vectoring like the BMW X6.
This allocates power the to wheel with the most grip, supposedly useful when powering onwards. We're not convinced of the value, especially as it means you also have to accept the CVT transmission in the package.
Inside, the Juke's wacky theme continues unabated. Body coloured panels, seats covers with a wetsuit look, gearlever surround hinting at a motorcycle fuel tank, it's imaginative and rather clever.
The "Dynamic Control System" is a display in front of the gearlever that usually deals with the climate control but can be switched to provide a whole array of car-related adjustments, like the throttle sensitively and steering weight.
Also, in a very GT-R type of way, you can display cornering g-force, engine torque and turbo boost. Not that this is of much use because the display is simply too far from your eye line to be of much use.
The satnav/stereo unit is straight from other Nissans and the mechanical look to the design seems out of place in the Juke's flowing, organic interior. It's good though, with a particularly effective automatic zoom function as you approach road junctions.
From the driver's point of view the Juke is a good place to be. The seating position is relatively high, the gearchange is also high and close to the wheel, and you use those slashed headlights as sighting point when manoeuvring.
Space for passengers and luggage is much a same as a good supermini, thought the Juke's larger exterior dimensions promise more than they actually return. Five doors are standard, the back handles hidden in the pillars.
Economy and safety
With its standard six-speed manual gearbox, the diesel Juke returns an average of 55mpg in the statutory tests, as good as many diesel superminis. The CO2 figure of 134g/km is not so impressive - many better this.
There are no EuroNCAP safety figures yet. The Juke comes with six airbags as standard.
The MSN Cars verdict
The Juke isn't without it's small issues, but we feel happy awarding it five stars. We love the fact that the drama of the exterior design has been carried through to the interior, and that Nissan hasn't pulled short when it comes to building a car that's equally fun to drive. Watch out Mini.
|Need to know|
|Engines, petrol||1.6, 1.6 Turbo|
|Power, hp||110 - 190|
|Torque, lb ft||117 - 177|
|0-62 mph, secs||8.0 - 11.5|
|Top speed, mph||106 - 134|
|Mpg combined||37.1 - 55.3|
|CO2, tax||134g/km,18% - 175g/km,24%|
|Ratings||Nissan Juke 1.5 dCi Acenta|
|Ride and handling||****|
|MSN Cars verdict||*****|
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