Nissan Juke Review

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Nissan Juke Tested July 2010

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3 stars

Quick Summary

Average. Nissan has aimed its diminutive crossover at an imaginative new niche, but can it replicate the success of the all-conquering Qashqai?

Road Test

With the Murano and Qashqai already in place, Nissan completes its crossover range with the Juke - a car aimed squarely at the crowded small car market.

The competition couldn't be any tougher. The Juke's broad shoulders will have to make some space alongside several household names, and unlike the ultra-successful Qashqai it does not have the benefit of being the new kid on the block - cars like the Suzuki SX4 and Kia Soul have already introduced the nation to the concept of a pseudo-SUV appearance in a supermini mould.

Nevertheless, Nissan - fast becoming a master at finding a gap in the market - believes it has found an unexplored niche to squeeze the Juke into. Rather than positioning the car as a straight crossover, the manufacturer is punting the idea that its new model is a seamless blend of compact SUV looks and sports car character.

The design makes the car seem bigger than it really is. The Juke is built on the same platform as the Micra, albeit a lengthened and widened version. The crossover feels reasonably roomy inside, and there's certainly enough space in the back to carry two more adults. Nissan's adventurous sense of styling also extends to the cabin, where the centre console is reputedly modelled on a motorbike's fuel tank.

The vast majority of Jukes sold will use Nissan's conventional front-wheel drive chassis, but the car will also be available with a slightly more sophisticated all-wheel drive system which includes torque vectoring traction control and multi-link rear suspension rather than the standard torsion beam.

Like most crossovers, the Juke has no off-roading pretensions whatsoever so Nissan has been free to keep the centre of gravity low and concentrate on limiting body roll in fast corners. As a result the car handles with a bit more aplomb than you'd expect from a high-sided model. A sports car it is certainly not, but the wider track and firm suspension do at least make quick progress a reasonable prospect.

Half-decent pace is assured by the brand new 187bhp 1.6-litre DIG-T petrol engine Nissan has introduced with the Juke. The turbocharged lump is specifically designed to jam a finger in BMW's eye and provide the Juke with enough pep to compete with the forthcoming Mini Countryman, the car closest to the Juke in concept, if not price.

A less powerful petrol engine is also available beneath the range topper, as well as the trusty 1.5dCI diesel lump which suits the Juke's temperament better than you might think.

As Nissan has cleverly cast the diminutive crossover into its own little niche, it's difficult to characterise the car in an entirely satisfactory way. It isn't as good to drive or as handsome as a Ford Fiesta or a Mini Cooper or a Citroen DS3, but the Juke's distinctiveness is likely to appeal to people in a way those cars don't.

The Qashqai sold like hot cakes against the Ford Focus and the VW Golf off the back of respectable handling, sensible pricing and unique styling. The Juke enters the fray holding the precisely same trump cards. Bet against it at your peril.

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