The Nissan Juke is a car you must look from few feet away, in fact I’ve never met a single person that has fallen in love with its design at first sight, not even on magazines or internet pictures. We can say that it is a “weird”, or more politely an “interesting” machine. Surely not a head turner beauty.
There’s a specific distance from where you stand, where when looking at it you can appreciate some details. With the condition you don’t get either too close or too far from it.
Too far means it just look, maybe not “ugly”, just purposeless on many points of view.
The design of the Juke doesn’t flow as you’d expect, the front fascia is already a weird mix of lines, lights and altogether it looks heavy, especially compared to the rear end that looks too simple and short.
The wide and sculptured rear arches make a pale attempt to give an optical balance to the sidelines coming from the complex front end.
In other words, it ain’t pretty.
Standing too close to this Nissan gives you a preview to what you’ll find inside of the Juke, various preposterously cheap and not very refined details that clearly show the economical origin of its platform.
On one hand Nissan has to take the merit of having been among the first brands to offer a small city SUV, fashion segment nowadays in Europe, on the other hand the reality is that on the market there are already many alternatives. Alternatives that most certainly offer a more traditional look and possibly a better quality within the same price range.
Despite the improvements brought by the recent facelift, quality remains a clear issue on the Juke, especially in its interiors.
Many bad things said already about this little Nissan, unfortunately I haven’t finished.
I open the door and the outside door handle remains stuck, so that even slamming it with brute force the door doesn’t close. Need to manually unblock the door handle from outside and then close the door from inside. This already seems to be a well known defect of this model.
Once seated behind the wheel it is hard to find the correct position, since the steering wheel can only be adjusted vertically, so if you’re taller than an average oompa-loompa you’ll have to seat too close to the pedals or too far to properly grab the wheel.
Be also aware that the headrest’s arms inside the seat bend forward and you’ll feel them pushing against your back, so for your safety please do not rest your head on the headrest. That’s sarcasm but also a quality and safety issue.
The instrument panel looks old and is not very functional, the information provided by the board computer is limited and not very user-friendly. The clima and vehicle setting display wants to be cool but it is neither clear nor functional. The navigation system looks like a cheap aftermarket unit, its display that also shows the rear camera image, is low-definition and the grand angular view is poor too, making this function almost useless.
Almost done with the bad news about the quality of the Juke. Almost.
The door panels are not only poorly made with hard plastic, as the rest of the dashboard and interiors, but are also poorly assembled. From time to time, the door-window console come off its place, leaving the buttons console hanging out its place.
The same happens with the central tunnel that occasionally come off when you touch it with your knee.
It’s like a Lego car in which you constantly find yourself assembling parts ant pieces.
Often when we’re deeply disappointed by a situation we try to look at it from a completely different point of view.
When this happens with a car I generally say, “Ok let’s just drive it” hoping I’ll find there a good sense for the machine. I want and I need to find a good point about this Nissan Juke.
For our peace of mind, we have to assume that the Nissan B platform is the same of the Micra and shared with others small vehicles of the “alliance” like the Dacia Duster and Renault Clio. So the base isn’t bad at all and that’s the reason why I’m pretty sure we’ll be greatly rewarded once selected the first gear.
Click. Here we have it.
The first gear has to be pushed in with a firm hand, it is like an old-school sport car feeling what we get from the long lever of this six speed manual ‘box.
Along the road, we will also find out that the combination between the very precise gearbox and smooth hp delivery helps to make clutchless operations extremely fluid. Very handy on B-roads and motorways where the third pedal becomes almost redundant.
Then comes the engine, the well known 1.5 turbodiesel Renault unit, good of about 105hp. We know this unit from a number of applications in all sort of models of the “Alliance”, it has always be well known for its good performance and low fuel consumption. However, this isn’t exactly the case on the Juke, where the Cx and the vast front section of the Juke do not help and some extra fuel has to be burnt to move it forward and through the air.
I’m still feeling some bitter aftertaste from the previous issues, therefore I’m pursuing something else now, some good vibes, a sense of purpose for this Nissan that is neither a small city hatch nor a 4WD little offroader, it’s a different breed.
To be honest the 18″ alloys with sport tires found on this unit do not help me to get its meaning either.
It sits high, fairly high, so it’s understandable to expect some body roll but on the other hand we have to say that it is always manageable with confidence, well before the intrusion of the ESP and TCS.
Finally, on the handling side there’s more good stuff. If you switch off these aids and use a bit of Finnish flick you can also put this Nissan sideways. Which isn’t that bad after all since these are some of the “good drive feelings” I was after.
All of this comes from a general dynamic balance, proper of this platform, but also from the work of the suspension settings that have been remarkably well tuned.
So there we finally get it. The Juke is just the “toy car” it wants to be. Funny and funky stile-wise but with a very good general handling that makes some people fall for it, more for its driving quality rather that for its details.
I would personally go for the more powerful Nismo Juke, to concentrate on its handling quality, since I would not consider it as a family car vehicle or an “autobahn tourer”.
Maybe the thirsty 1.6 turbo petrol engine of the Nismo is a bit anachronistic nowadays, but would undoubtedly make it drive even better.
After all the purpose of this car is to have fun with, also to forget and digest its quality issues.