The Nissan Juke is a young car both literally and figuratively. It first came to the world in 2009, in the form of the Qazana concept. One year later, the production form hit the market: Nissan was brave and kept the original shape, even though it was obvious that this will be a turn off for some potential buyers.
We'll try to explain the visual concept of the Juke: we are dealing with a crossover that tries to mix an SUV
with a sports car, using a supermini platfrom, albeit stretched, and featuring motorcyle-inspired styling elements, for both the exterior and the interior. Automotive cocktails don't get more complex than that.
Its closest competitor is the MINI Countryman, with a far less reasonable comparison involving the Range Rover Evoque.
The Juke also wants to be another thing, if you opt for the range-topping 1.6 DIG-T turbocharged engine: a hot hatch. We wanted to see if this unusual mix really works, so we took the vehicle for a test drive, opting for the (non-permanent) four-wheel-drive system, which is only offered with a continuously variable transmission - is anything about this car ordinary? Let's find out!
However, before we install ourselves in the leather seats included in the Tekna equipment level (the top one) of our test car, we have to warn you that we'll take this car as far off-road as we will on tarmac even though most of its buyers won't.
When Nissan introduced the Qazana Concept at the 2009 Geneva Motor Show, the company knew that it was going for a "hate it or live it" styling. This is exactly what it did when it launched the Juke.
Unfortunately, since we are not talking about a concept anymore, we have to make due without the suicide doors, sculpted tire profile and a few other eye-candy elements.
We're not here to tell you the Juke is beautiful or not, but one thing's for sure: this is a car that stands out and the industry needs such creations.
From the design of the headlights (many people will ask you if the headlights are the round ones or the ones on the sides of the bonnet), to the lines of the fenders, every inch of the Jule screams "I'm not like the others!". This is one of those cars that displays the same image regardless of the color you dress it in, so we would've had it in black or red instead of white - the impression would have been the same.
And there's another certainty - it will draw as much attention as cars with many times its sticker price fail to, so if is what you want, you can't go wrong with the Juke.
However, the size of the car has led to the public associating it with the female audience, a fact that is not fair, especially if we're talking about the 1.6-liter turbo version we tested. The Juke should be viewed as an unisex car because that's what it proves to be once you get to spend a little time with it.
The Juke is just as funky inside as it is on the outside, but without the "hate it or love it" character. Climb inside the cabin of the car an you'll get a feeling of youth. Usually, when things have been pushed to such heights in order to give a feeling of freshness, you also get a set of drawbacks that can ruin the entire experience.
Fortunately, this is not the case here. The visibility isn't similar to that of a medieval dungeon and the ergonomics don't make you feel that you're on a bike as the shape of the center console and that of the instrument cluster try to suggest.
The shape of the car makes you think that you need a complex algorithm to calculate where the extremities are when you park, but this isn't so. Of course, yo u still need the parking sensors (our test car also came with a rear view camera, but you can only get the aforementioned sensors for the rear), but parking the Juke is a really easy task.
However, the center console is the one that captures the most attention. Press the "Climate" button and the entire panel displays the controls for this functions. Touch the 'D-Mode" button and all the other one will change their color (from orange to white) and allow you to switch between the normal, sport and eco modes, as well as receive driving information. This is brilliant, as you only have to push a button and for this you get a tidy layout.
Our test car, with its Tekna equipment level and optional extras brought a lot of nice materials to a cabin that is no stranger to hard plastic. The leather on the seats, the eye-catching door handles and the display on the center console, as well as other elements of this kind bring a playful attitude. It's like the car comes to you each time you climb aboard and tries to get you in a good mood.
The interior is an area that makes you forget all about the Juke's Micra-nian origins and brings enough interesting elements to keep you entertained, with the only exception being the microscopic luggage compartment.
If the city is an urban jungle, the Juke is a chameleon that tries to adapt to every driving situation it encounters so that you and your passengers have your entire range of transportation needs catered to.
The turbocharged 1.6-liter unit provides more than enough power for the urban landscape and together with the dimensions of the car and the firm suspension give you the ability to swiftly navigate through the busy traffic. As for the CVT
, this has been set up in such a way to sacrifice efficiency for dynamics, which has brought it at the lower limit of the decent driving pleasure.
This all-new downsized unit can do that while offering a pleasing efficiency level: drive moderately and you'll get around 10.5 liters per 100 km (22.4 mpg). Dive further into the engine's resources and you fall, but not too hard - to about 13.5 liters per 100 km (17.4 mpg).
Even though the exterior might make you think differently, the all-round visibility is good, so tight maneuvers won't be difficult in the Juke.
However, the suspensions sometimes proves to be to hard for what certain urban roads have to throw at the car and the Micra-borrowed boot can make you forget about going shopping (you will end up using the rear seat as a massive shelf).
And there's also an emotional side of this story, as the Juke will bring smiles everywhere you take it.
Just in case the Juke needed to be defined through another "mix between" comparison, we'll tell you that the car feels like it's sitting halfway between the warm and hot hatch points.
While in the city the difference isn't too important, out on the open road this can be translated into decent driving dynamics for even the most exigent driver, but nothing more.
You can, of course, have a lot of fun with this car, as the little DIG-Turbo engine pulls pretty well up to 200 km/h (124 mph) and the brakes prove to be trustworthy.
However, when you push the car hard through the bends, you'll met the two faces of this car. If you drive it at, let's say, 7 or eight tenths, it will entertain you, showing it that it really is a fun car, but if you push it really hard or seek precision, you will be disappointed.
On the bends, you do feel the vehicle's high center of gravity, there is a considerable amount of torque steer and the traction up front at the limit is pretty poor - you can help by activating the four-wheel-drive.
Give us any car with four-wheel drive with a ground clearance higher than a pair of driving shoes and we'll be curious about its capability of leaving the road. We took the Juke pretty far from the tarmac and the lac of underbody protections was the only thing that kept us from getting further than you can see in the photo gallery.
Just like the Range Rover Evoque, the Juke can take a pretty impressive amount of pain and negotiate easy-level off-road paths, but it will let the driver know that it's being tortured - there is no isolation between you and the war that's going on under the car.