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by Tim Beissmann

Three weeks out from the Geneva Motor Show, the highly anticipated Nissan Juke has been previewed in production-ready form ahead of its fourth quarter 2010 European launch.

To be built in the UK alongside the its big brother, the Qashqai, the controversially styled small crossover was created at Nissan Design Europe in London and refined at Nissan’s Design Centre in Japan in a partnership that involved seemingly little compromise.

Nissan says the Juke’s bold styling, while highly individual, draws inspiration from a number of past and present Nissan vehicles as well as rally cars and motorbikes.

The bottom half looks like a classic SUV with generous ground clearance, big wheels and tyres, broad shoulders and black plastic wheel arches, but from the waistline up, the raked windscreen and sloping, coupe-like roofline is more reminiscent of a sports car.

Inside this sports-SUV design battle continues, most poignantly with the centre console which, finished in high-gloss paint, resembles a motorcycle fuel tank. Even the door armrests have been shaped like scuba diving flippers to portray and active, sporting attitude.

With space for five and a 251-litre boot, Nissan quite honestly says front head room and rear knee room will be “sufficient” for “most occupants”.

Sharing the Renault Nissan Alliance B-Platform with the Nissan Tiida and Renault Clio, the Juke stands at 4.14m long, 1.77m wide and 1.57m tall with a 2.53m wheelbase, and Nissan says the whole platform has been strengthened and lightened for the Juke.

Five drivetrain options range from a sipping little 1.5-litre diesel to a four-wheel drive turbocharged 1.6-litre petrol version.

Power starts at 81kW/240Nm in the diesel and increases to 86kW/157Nm and 140kW/240Nm in two tunes of the 1.6-litre petrol. Five- and six-speed manuals as well as an updated version of Nissan’s XTRONIC CVT (including six-speed manual mode) are specific to each engine.

Following the recent trend, equipment and accessories are all focused on customisation and personalisation.

Rear view cameras, intelligent keys and automatic headlights will make production, as will the Nissan Dynamic Control System. It allows drivers to alter dynamic settings (including Normal, Sport and Eco driving modes) as well as control more standard interior functions, all the time flowing through a range of different colours and displays.

Owners can choose to make it more like an SUV with underbody protectors and additional storage areas or more like a sports car with a roof spoiler, exhaust finishers and special interior illumination.

Nissan believes the Juke will attract a younger, urbanite audience, with two-thirds expected to be males below 40 who feel a sense of disillusionment towards the lack of excitement in Europe’s small car sector.

At this stage, the Nissan Juke is only destined for European, Japanese and US markets.