Clever Nissan. Back in 2007 it was first to spot that car buyers were getting bored with normal-sized small family cars, and that some people were getting increasingly uncomfortable in their large 4x4s. Hence, the crossover was born and Nissan christened it Qashqai. It was Ford Focus-sized, but with Land Rover Freelander attitude it even had four-wheel-drive if you wanted it.
Son of Qashqai the Juke is born
The Qashqai has been a runaway success and now clever Nissan is at it again with the Juke. Think of it as a supermini version of the Qashqai funky 4x4 looks in something just a little larger than a Fiesta. There's a 4x4 version, too.
If Nissan was brave with the Qashqai, it has been fearless with the Juke it has stayed faithful to the wild Qazana concept car of last year, with bulging front headlights, big wheelarches, a coupe-like roofline and hidden rear doors.
Inside, the car takes inspiration from motorbikes, with 'floating' instruments and a centre console that's styled to resemble a bike's fuel tank. It's a shame, then, that some of the plastics around the cabin feel a bit cheap.
This isn't a case of style over substance, though the Juke does all the things you'd expect a supermini-sized car to do. Four large-ish people can travel in reasonable, if not overly generous, comfort. The rear doors with their handles hidden in the window frame are rather narrow to climb through (or fit a child seat through), while the shallow windows make it feel more snug inside than it actually is.
The boot's an okay size, there's a hidden section under the floor, the seats fold down for even more space and the parcel shelf is cleverly incorporated into the boot door.
What's on offer?
So far so good. The Juke is reasonable value, too. Starting at £12,795, you get a car with a 1.6-litre petrol engine, alloy wheels, air-con, six airbags, stability control, electric windows and remote locking. You'll also be able to follow the current trend and personalise your Juke, but most will probably be happy to spend another £1000 to step up from that Visia model to the Acenta trim, which brings climate control, bigger alloys, Bluetooth, MP3-player connectivity and Nissan's new Dynamic Control System which allows you to alter the car's steering and accelerator settings depending on whether you're feeling sporty or eco-friendly. It will also let you control the on-board computer and the climate control.
Top-spec Tekna models get leather, a fancy navigation system, reversing camera and a keyless system, but then the Juke starts getting expensive at close to £16,000.
Most buyers will probably go for the 115bhp 1.6 petrol engine (a revised version of the engine found in the Qashqai). The cars we drove had the 108bhp 1.5 diesel and the all-new 1.6 direct injection turbo petrol model with 187bhp.
The diesel returns an unremarkable 55mpg and 134g/km of CO2 there's no sign yet of a PureDrive eco version. The engine's a little grumbly, but there's a reasonable amount of power and it's quite smooth although our car had a slight hiccup at around 1800rpm. It'll cost you from 14,145, which looks a bit expensive when the 1.6 (which will probably be nicer to drive) still gives you 44mpg.
Hotter news is Nissan's new 1.6-litre direct injection turbo petrol engine. With 187bhp, it'll propel the Juke from 0-62mph in 8.0 seconds. It's a smooth, refined and punchy engine that averages just over 40mpg. It doesn't exactly turn the Juke into a hot hatch, but it makes it fun and reasonable value at £15,695 in Acenta trim. The range-topping turbo model comes with an advanced four-wheel-drive system and a CVT automatic gearbox for just under £20,000. However, unless you really want four-wheel drive, it's a step too far for the Juke.
On the road
Given the Juke's tall stance it's only slightly lower than a Qashqai it doesn't roll around through bends. Don't go thinking it's sporty, though just a bit more fun than you might expect. Even with the Dynamic Control System set to Sport, the steering feels a little slack and the front end will run out of grip if you try to get through a corner swiftly. The ride isn't as comfy as a Qashqai's and feels a little over-firm at times. We'll have to see how that translates onto UK roads, but we'd hope it won't feel too bad because the car was designed and developed (and is built) in the UK.
In fact, but for the distinctly Japanese badge on the nose, the Juke is another British success story for Nissan. It's different enough to be interesting, good enough to drive and just about spacious enough for occasional family duties.
What Car? says
Is it the right car at the right time? It's got some other, equally striking small cars like the Audi A1 and Mini Countryman to contend with, but it offers a good value and hugely tempting alternative to both.