By Antony Dickson
When you hear the name Nissan, vehicles like the Titan, Armada, Maxima, 370Z, Murano and of course, the mighty GT-R, come to mind. All these vehicles are pleasing to the eye in terms of design. If you were asked to pick the odd one out from all of Nissan’s line-up, it is without a doubt, you would pick the Juke out. To a majority, the Juke is an eye sore. They can’t really tell what it is. Though it’s difficult to categorize, the Juke should fall into the crossover category. A friend of mine went as far as saying “that is the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen on the road.” That’s the kind of initial reaction the Juke evokes. The key here is don’t judge a book by its cover.
This week, we will be taking a look at Nissan’s ugly duckling — the Nissan Juke AWD. It’s front end, with its bulging light array, gives it an impression of a frog staring at you, with a smirk. The top section of the lighting section takes care of indicator and marker work. The main headlight system, that comprise large saucer-eyed lenses, is found further below the grill, with an additional set of fog lamps even further below. Tail lamps seem like they’ve been taken straight out of the 370Z’s rear end and do give a sleek look to the Juke’s behind. You almost think the Juke is a two-door until you see the rear door handles neatly concealed into the black trim of the C-pillar. Nissan equips the Juke with good looking 17-inch wheels. Overall, the Juke is one strange looking vehicle. But during the week I had it, the looks actually grew on me and I actually began to like the way the Juke looked. It does grow on you real quick.
On the inside, the Juke provides enough room for four adults, though a little cramped for rear seat occupants. If you have child seats installed, you’ll definitely feel your child’s feet nudging the front seats more often than not. Storage room in the back is impressive. We had our weekly groceries and a child’s pram neatly tucked away in the boot. The seats can be folded down for more storage space, but not before sacrificing one or both rear passengers. Seat material is impressive.
The dashboard maintains the two-dial look — one for the tach and the other displaying the speed. Between these two dials, you had the usual information display. The tester we had was equipped with navigation, premium sound system, rear view camera, satellite radio and wireless connectivity. The Juke also has an in-dash display system that switches from climate control to vehicle dynamics readouts such as G-force meter and turbo boost gauge among others.
So how does it drive? It drives great.
The Juke four-cylinder 1.6 litre turbo-charged powerhouse churns out a cool 188 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque that makes the Juke a quick little crossover. The tester was an automatic CVT gearbox that was quite responsive to my right foot. Throw it into Sport mode and the Juke keeps the revs in the higher zone and sharpens steering response for some spirited driving. Even with the occasional spurts of driving hard and a combination of city and highway driving, the Juke gave me a fuel efficiency of 10.2 litres per 100 km. A button can switch off the AWD if needed. The Juke comes in standard version also.
The Juke shares its platform with the Versa and the Cube and is a slightly stiff ride. But it can squeeze out of tight corners effortlessly and park as easy too. At high speed cornering, body roll is minimal and road grip is impressive. If pushed hard, under steer is likely. The Juke, not surprisingly, is a head-turner, obviously not for its good looks. Overall, the Juke is fun to drive. The looks might put you off initially, but like I said earlier, it grows on you. All this for a price of $30,973 as tested (taxes not included).
Nissan has definitely scored with this gamble by injecting the fun factor into a crossover, that are usually dull. You have to remember, one of the world’s fastest cars — the GT-R — happens to come from the Nissan stable. So don’t be mistaken. The Juke may resemble a frog on the outside, but there’s a prince on the inside.