12 February 2010

Juke: no joke

Nissan's quirky little quasi-off-roader finds another niche we didn't know existed... and nails it

Nissan Juke

You wait for ever for a sub-Golf-sized sporty five-door quasi-off-roader, then two come along at once. The Nissan Juke doesn't look like a Mini Countryman, but they're both aimed at the same (currently non-existent) part of the car market.

Nissan successfully carved a niche with the Qashqai, and now aims to repeat it in a smaller size. Like the Qq, the Juke was conceived in London and is built in Sunderland.

The Juke isn't just smaller - and cheaper - than the Qashqai. Its design pushes the boat out further. From the wheel-arches upward, the body is all a bit sporty. So's the top-of-the-range engine, a new 1.6-litre 160bhp turbo, driving a stepped CVT transmission and torque vectoring 4WD system. That last gadget is what a 911 Turbo uses to put the power to the wheel best able to use it and quell understeer. Nissan is serious about making this decent to drive.

Inside, the painted centre tunnel looks like a motorbike fuel tank. Dunno why, but it's cheery. The air-con, trip-computer and D-mode (throttle, steering and transmission response) are all controlled by a seriously twinkly button-and-colour screen arrangement below the satnav/stereo.

Meanwhile the high seating means a roomy cabin and decent boot. It's a useful little car. Odd, but useful.

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