Monster under the bonnet

2011-10-28 08:32

Crossovers are the new big thing and Nissan has just launched its latest offering.

This type of vehicle is not novel to Nissan, as their Murano and Qashqai models are similar. In fact, it’s as if those two went off and had an offspring!

The name Juke is an American football term meaning “side-step”, and its looks are certainly out of step. It is those odd looks – reminiscent of the ghastly Fiat Multipla – that put me off it at the recent Johannesburg International Motor Show and so I paid it little attention.

After driving the car this week though, I was reminded of that old saying not to judge a book by its cover. It might look like something born in the urban underworld that has now snuck out to take over the streets, but beneath those creature-like looks is a rather cute little thing that worms its way into your affections.

First unveiled at the Geneva International Motor Show in 2009 as the Qazana concept car, the Juke’s design remains practically unchanged. Launched early last year, 180 000 units were sold globally within the first 12 months.

So clearly when it comes to buying a car, looks aren’t everything.

Here at home Nissan South Africa is hoping to take over the new Sports B-Crossover segment of the market – currently untapped – putting 5 000 units on the road in the next few months.

The Juke is a cross between a sports car – with the same kind of driving and handling – and a mini-SUV. What I like is that while it can climb hefty pavements and take on occasional off-roading, it doesn’t try to be a full-on SUV.

Not planning to get anywhere on its looks, this is one car that’s easy to pick out on the road. It is chunky with alien-like headlights set above the front bumper and another pair integrated next to the grille, along with a set of fog lights below.

There’s also the flaring wheel arches giving it a no-nonsense stance. Throw in the car’s high waistline, slender and tinted windows – which look like visors – and a coupé-style sloping roofline and you’ve got one funny looking design.

But it makes up for it in the inside. It’s sporty with a glossy centre console resembling the fuel-tank of a motorbike. The instrument cluster behind the steering wheel also looks like that on a motorbike along with the binnacle above it.

The seats and door panels are covered in high-quality red and black materials, and the leather and heated seats are only an extra R5 800.

Available with two 1.6 engines, it is a naturally aspirated version with a five-speed manual gearbox making 86kW of power in either entry-level – Acenta or the mid-specified Acenta plus guise.

The turbo-charged DIG-T model with a six-speed transmission features the Tekna trim kicking out 140kW of power.
Standard comfort features include climate control, rear-view cameras, keyless entry systems and six airbags in both models.

Most surprising though is the way the Juke drives, it’s almost monstrous off the line and accelerates rapidly with ease. For real petrolheads, the new I-CON (integrated control) system comes standard.

The I-CON system flicks between different displays, colours and functions, according to the driver’s preference. When in climate mode the display shows interior temperature and climate control settings, while other settings show the throttle mapping and torque curves.

You might call the Juke an acquired taste, but only time will tell if this little monster with a heart under the bonnet can win over local motorcar buyers.

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