Nissan’s new market niche

AutoTrader NZ
Published 3 September 2020

than have it taking up residence in the back lot, they decided it’d be
better that the likes of us have a drive. And the reason it’s appearing
here and now is because it genuinely surprised us. So much so we thought we
should tell you about it right away, rather than wait till January when the
bulk of Kiwi cars start arriving.

The Juke, we suspect, is what some might refer to as a ‘grower’;
a car which upon first inspection seems odd; compromised; ugly even. But after
time spent in and around it, one starts to see other aspects of its nature.
Clever; beguiling; fun.

The frontal styling will polarise, for sure. We reckon it’s down to
the oversize fog lamps that sit like cartoon rouged cheeks on the Juke’s
face. Assessing it from stem to stern it’s a bit like a Micra wearing
hiking boots: a small car with big car wheels and arches. It is in fact a pretty
faithfully rendered production version of the diverting Qazana showcar Nissan
debuted at the Geneva Motor Show in 2009.

The more you walk around the Juke and assess it from all angles, the more
its proportions reveal themselves as well-executed. And here’s a thing:
the design actually works. The three-quarter rear angle, for example, is as
tidy and as sporty (and okay yes; as cutesy) as you’d want. The spiky
taillights and the ‘hidden’ rear door handles help give the Juke
the demeanour of a tall coupe, as does the way the roofline falls back from
a peak at the a-pillar down a gentle slope to the c-pillar. Its side profile
silhouettes that of an eager pup.

Inside the cabin, Nissan has added more to distinguish the Juke from anything
else on its fleet. The centre console is colour-coded and set high like a sports
car. The gear knob is a CVT swizzle stick (more on the transmission in a bit),
but the position of both seating and stick resembles that of a performance-orientated
roadster rather than a suburban supermini. The whole unit is designed to resemble
the fuel tank of a motorcycle, as is the dual-cowl instrument cluster ahead
of the driver. Again: on paper it sounds a bit misguided, but in practice it
works. From a tactile point-of-view, and despite the ride height, Juke feels
closer to 370Z than Micra when you’re sitting inside.

Oh, one other caveat: our test car featured a 1.5-litre petrol engine, whereas
New Zealand spec Jukes will all boast a 1.6-litre petrol. Other than that though,
the tester featured the same set-up as Kiwi buyers can expect early next year.

The 86kW 1.6-litre four cylinder is new to Nissan’s local line-up and
provides a fizzy, free-revving feel at highway speeds. Juke also boasts an improved
Xtronic CVT transmission with a wider ratio spread than other CVT units. It
shows too, offering a more satisfyingly stepped feel to the ‘gear’
than the nerve-frazzling rung-out nature of other continuously variable trannies.
In our opinion the new Juke ‘box is second only to Subaru’s application
of the technology in their Boxer-engined cars.

Juke will also come with dual front, side and curtain airbags, Bluetooth hands-free,
an intelligent remote key and push-button ignition, a choice of 16″ or
17″ alloys and a button-festooned steering wheel. Also on offer will be
a three stage Dynamic Control System changing throttle, gear and steering response
between normal, sport and eco modes. Not bad for this end of the market.

So the only real unknown at this point is price, which Nissan New Zealand
won’t be drawn on. Obviously it’ll need to be sharp and, if so,
we reckon the Juke might just hit the ground running. Yes it’s a bit odd.
Yes it seems like a compromised package in terms of its size. Yes it’s
got a weird name…

Sound familiar? You see, Nissan has been here before. When you first saw pictures
of the Qashqai, did you think it would be a winner? Did you think it would carve
itself a new market niche and establish itself as a volume seller? We were skeptical
then, and proven wrong. But Juke is quirky, fun to drive, well-built and comes
with a decent array of kit. We’d like to think we won’t get fooled