You know when you really think about it, Nissan have come a hell of a long way since its first foray into UK manufacturing. Back in the `80s they started assembling the Bluebird at the now colossal Sunderland facility – and today the factory can boast to being one of the most efficient car plants in the world. From assembling the thinking mans mini-cab or newsagents daily hack back then, to the current range of Note, Juke, Qashqai and Infiniti ranges takes hard work with tough decisions, and of course, the good will and attention to detail of the thousands of workers at Nissan Sunderland.
The Juke is one of many offerings of small SUV type vehicles and one of a few offered in the Nissan range, even though the mega popular Qashqai is notably larger, they are like chalk and cheese when it comes to image and character. One could never accuse the Juke of being understated in terms of visual appearance – it certainly took a little time for me to acclimatise myself to the rounded almost bug-eyed styling. But styling is always an opinionated topic and on a purely personal level, I found it easy on the eye with some cheeky original styling accents if you look and stare hard enough.
Well, its a five door hatch but not as we know it Jim, and one or two local residents asked how well it performs in 4wd mode. This raised a smile as the model tested features a conservative drivetrain of a 1.2 petrol turbocharged engine with six speed front wheel drive transmission. The phrase “Urban Tough” is a little over-used in todays day and age but a good look at the Juke sends a message to your subconscious whispering that this car seems to be designed for life and ready to take some rough and tumble. In fact, once again, one passer by mentioned about its “Tonka-Toy” styling – that’s no bad remark at all and just by recalling this at the keyboard brings back a little smile.
Just who would have thought a little while back that Nissan could travel the gulf of distance between building what were once in essence, utterly reliable yet dull cars your Nan would appreciate. The Juke is a funky all rounder with every walk of life taking to the road in one – these are extremely popular cars… I now see why. The unique look continues to a degree on the inside too with even more swoops and curves to the dashboard but still being sensitive to avoid scaring people away. Well padded and supportive seats, a chunky steering wheel with an almost inch perfect driving position are all major plus points. Being the kind of driver that I am who likes to sit “on top” of the car, the lofty stance brings plenty of front headroom for the driver. Most of the buttons and twiddley bits are reachable without leaning forward or stretching too much.
Its not all fun at the fair though. Compared to its big brother, the Qashqai, Juke feels compromised in terms of cost in some areas. Well equipped yes but a little lacking in quality here and there, with some areas threatening to come across as cheap and… dare I say it… Nasty. Well, there’s the door trims which feel cold and scratchy to the touch, only the drivers electric window switch illuminates in the dark leaving the others for you to feel their position… and I would have liked a tad more elbow room. There is a cubby box under the armrest between the front seats, its felt lined to stop annoying clinking and tinkling of loose change but boy does it feels cheap with noticeable sharp edges after lifting up the leather clad armrest.
I also noted the sensor on the windscreen for actuating the automatic lights and wipers. There isn’t any cover for the wire where is disappears into the roof lining and under close inspection you are treated to a less than ideal vision of glorious plastic and insulating tape. None of the aforementioned should be viewed as a major mind changing negative, but it needs improving upon and wouldn’t cost the earth to do so. Another question mark pops up when it comes to the climate control function and display. These double up as the driving style operations feature and econometer – they’re fiddly, gimmicky and the visual display is too low down to be ideal for regular looking. These types of display ought to be in line of sight.
If you are looking for a true five seat family car with all the legroom and space for goods and chattels, you may like to consider a Qashqai. Rear legroom is very tight for adults although the bench seat is well padded and supportive. But for its size, the car is reasonably practical with fairly small boot, a nice touch however is a really useful false floor enabling you to hide your valuables and other prized belongings. For a car with a limited wheelbase length, its does just about okay and can move cargo from A to B… but if you are looking for a Jack of All Trades sort of vehicle to ferry the brood around, you’ll find it a bit too compromising.
On the move, the 1.2 turbo and inter-cooled engine is pretty well insulated from the cabin and its also got plenty of fizz when you pop the cork – performance wise, the Juke does not let you down. Even a trip to the shops brings a smile to the face thanks to a slick gearchange, sharp brakes, tidy handling and its sprightly nature. Out in the country, the Juke is blessed with smile inducing cornering, superb overtaking power and a chunky steering wheel that transmits just enough feel to your fingertips. Motorway cruising has the engine whirring away just under the magical 3000rpm so there are no issues at all about refinement. The good ride quality is even better at motorway speeds – only surfaces topped with rough tarmac or concrete encourage excessive road noise when pressing on a little quicker.
Lifting the bonnet reveals all of the routine level checks to be simple and hassle free. The only thing I will mention is the messy view you are treated to. As an obvious method of keeping production costs low, the Juke has no aesthetic / acoustic engine cover that most cars tend to have these days. As a consequence, the overpowering sight of hose clips, cable ties, wiring connectors and other various engines fittings look low rent and untidy. Its just not befitting a brand of car that has enjoyed a long reputation for being well made and utterly dependable. Messy engine bays are a bugbear of mine and the Juke disappointed me in this subject.
Cost wise, the Juke represents good value for money, seems reasonably economical and stands out from the crowd in a crowded marketplace. I liked the styling, appreciated the good equipment levels and enjoyed its spirited performance. If you are the type to appreciate the quirky styling its a cracking car to zip around in or soak up the cruising miles. Not a perfect car but a thoroughly likeable one that wouldn’t take an effort akin to moving Heaven and Earth make it quite remarkable.
AUTOBRITANNIA RATING: 7/10
The Humble Opinion:
The Juke really changed my first impressions once a little time was spent at the wheel. It drives really well and has a naughty puppy nature about it that’s so refreshing in a mass produced car. and… with cracking performance from a rinky-dinky 1.2 turbo engine.
Not the most space efficient for back seat passengers and the boot is not as capacious as I’d have liked. Also, I felt let down to a degree by some very obvious cost cutting measures of which I’m certain wouldn’t take or cost much for Nissan to put right.
BUT… and a fair and deserved but… its a well engineered car that’s a chortle to pootle around in. Easy to drive, easy to own and comes with two standard features often lacking with modern cars these days: soul and character. A little spit and polish here and there will turn this good car… into an excellent one!
Model Tested: Nissan Juke DIG-T 115 Tekna
Produced by: Nissan Motor Manufacturing Sunderland.
Price on the road: £17.770 (excluding options)
Equipment Highlights: Dual zone climate – Leather trim – Reverse parking camera – Cruise control – Alloy wheels – Auto wipers / lamps – All round power windows – Trip Computer – Sat Nav – Aux inputs for MP3 and other media sources.
Engine: 1197cc 16v Turbo Intercooled petrol
Power: 115Ps Torque: 190Nm
Gearbox: FWD 6 speed manual
Brakes: All round discs with lever type park brake
Suspension: All round coils
Economy: 50.4mpg* combined (claimed) with 42.5mpg on test
Emissions: 129 G/Km
How Fast: Maximum speed 111mph*
How Quick: 0 – 60 in 12 seconds (on test)
* = Manufacturers claimed data
So… What’s Hot: Lovely performance – Bold looks – Good to drive – Refined – Well equipped – Comfortable seats – A real “feel good” car – Decent road holding – Cruises well at speed – Good value for money – Good brand reputation for customer care and dealer network.
And… What’s Not: Rear passenger space very tight – Some ergonomic worries – Messy under-bonnet view – Boot is a little on the small size – Feels cheap and low rent in a few areas – Some incidental gauges and features poorly sited.
For more information on the Nissan Juke: CLICK HERE