Text: Vince Pornelos / Photos: Kelvin Christian Go | posted March 07, 2016 08:25
The Prince of Cool
This is the Nissan we've been waiting for.
For quite a while now, Nissan's presence in the Philippines was missing something. They have a line up of nice, practical, and comfortable automobiles, and that's all well and good. But they lack spunk, verve, and all those other things a car company needs to attract a younger and increasingly growing customer base.
Enter the Juke, Nissan's small crossover that's meant to appeal to a funkier bunch.
How they derived this little ute's 4-letter name itself is quite intriguing. Is it from duke? Well, it certainly seems dressed like one. Some say Juke is a derivative of "ju-kyu" (Japanese: 19) to indicate its target fuel economy. Some say it's simply short for juke box. It's definitely no joker, but whatever the case, the Juke is the new wild card in our market on looks alone.
I grabbed a chair and just sat down in front of the Juke when it arrived for testing simply because I wanted to figure out which ones the headlights were; the car had LEDs on the leading edge of the hood paired up with the massive round lamps on the bumper. The fascia of the Juke is unusual and appears to be inspired by the 370Z, albeit in crossover form. And yeah, the rounds ones are the headlamps.
The Juke is a 5-door, but the rear passenger doorhandles are concealed into the C pillars to create a 3-door look and with a tailgate that seems more shooting-brake than crossover. The passenger cell may be small, but the wheelarches do stick out quite a bit much like on a performance car. Still, the Juke is small; no this won't compete against the likes of the CR-V or RAV4, but will definitely go up against the smaller crossovers like the HR-V, Kia Soul, Chevrolet Trax, and even the Ford EcoSport.
Funky as the outside may be, so is the cabin as Nissan's designers must have really let the creative juices flow. The dashboard and panels are very unusual, shedding much of the conservatism that most of Nissan's models are known for, using some rather unique details such as the glossy center console, the unusually shaped piano black center panel, among others. It's all pretty much black in here, but there are some accents to break up the monotony, along with red and blue lighting on the LCDs and other intruments.
The driver's seat is quite cozy given the Juke's proportions, but it's a nice place to be in and offers good visibility all around. The rear seats offer a decent amount of room, and it still has 251 liters of cargo space to spare. If the rear seats are folded flat, the trunk space balloons to 851 liters.
The Juke only comes in one spec, and I have to say, the spec sheet is pretty good to balance out the price point. Automatic climate control, a 2-DIN audio system, the smart keyfob, Bluetooth, cruise control, the usual power features and more. What's unique about the Juke is I-CON, or the Integrated Control System. It's just below the audio system, and it's basically a multi-mode panel that allows the driver to contol either the drive settings (Eco, Normal or Sport) and the climate system. It's an interesting trick to show your buddies, but it can get confusing if you try to adjust temperature or fan speed but forget to switch between drive and climate modes.
There is only one powerplant available for the Juke; a 1.6-liter twin cam 16-valve inline four motor matched with a CVT. It's got 116 PS available on tap along with 154 Nm of torque; not class leading figures, but it should be plenty. And that CVT should make for some interesting fuel economy numbers if driven properly.
The Juke performs very well in the city, even when factoring in how other similarly-sized crossovers perform in urban driving. Short wheelbase cars aren't particularly good on our rutted concrete roads, but this one is better than most when it comes to balancing handling and comfort. Noise reduction is quite good too, even when faced with the loud exhausts of local motorcycles and PUVs. And it's a head turner too.
With regards to fuel economy, the thing about most CVTs is that consumption numbers can vary dramatically depending on the way the driver modulates his/her right foot. On one test with the Juke, the vehicle was delivering 7.5 km/l in moderate to heavy traffic (20 km/h average) when driven casually. With the drive set to Eco mode and with a bit more control of the throttle pedal, the fuel economy improved significantly to 8.8 km/l (22 km/h average). On the highway, the Juke improved significantly too, able to cruise while returning 12.9 km/l (93 km/h average). Coaxing more out of the Juke on the highway is very possible by cruising at lower speeds at around 70-80 km/h, but that's too slow on our new expressways now.
On an open stretch of mountain road, the Juke delivers a nicely balanced drive. The steering is electrically assisted, but it's weighted properly for a spirited drive. Body control and roll control is good, showing off the driving capability of a nicely sorted hatchback rather than a taller crossover. The engine and transmission perform surprisingly better than expected, but you would need to be more liberal with the pedal of the 1.6L Juke if you're fully loaded and going uphill.
At PhP 980,000, the Juke is a great addition to the crossover line-up, undercutting much of the competition for price yet offering a competitive level of kit; a surprising balancing act given that this Japan-made crossover doesn't benefit from JPEPA tax breaks. The performance, potential fuel economy, and overall feel of Nissan's new prince of cool is indeed a breath of fresh air, easily standing out in a crowd of the conventional.