Nissan Takes a Risk on Radically-Styled New Juke

By Andy Bannister

02.20.2010

Nissan Juke

The wraps have come off Nissan’s new European-designed small crossover, the oddly-named Juke, and it’s certainly not hiding its light under a bushel.

Due to be launched at next month’s Geneva Motor Show, the Juke represents the bold new spirit of Nissan, a company whose European reinvention seems to have paid off in terms of bucking the continent-wide sales downturn.

The Juke is one of those love-it-or-hate-it designs which is bound to divide opinion. The massive front end is particularly unusual, with six lights of various shapes and sizes widely spaced out, and an expansive version of the corporate front grille. Head-on it looks rather bug-eyed.

Nissan Juke side viewThe side view is dominated by wildly exaggerated, almost cartoonish curves above the wheelarches, and details including concealed rear door handles.

The bland interiors of past Nissans have also been consigned to the rubbish dump, with the passenger compartment dominated by a centre console painted to match the outside colour scheme.

Young buyers are clearly in the company’s sights, and the styling has come from Nissan’s design centre in Paddington, London, which supposedly has its fingers on the latest urban trends.

The Juke name is an interesting choice. It is presumably inspired by a juke box, although British pronunciation means it will easily getNissan Juke interior confused with Duke, a peer of the realm. It’s only one consonant away from Joke, of course. And not that far from Junk.

The company is aiming the repeat the unprecedented European success Nissan has had with its larger crossover, the Qashqai (the European version of the North American market Rogue).

The Qashqai was a big gamble at the time, replacing the dull-as-ditchwater old Almera (an inferior Focus/Golf rival) with an entirely different type of car.

If the new model alienated some traditional pipe-and-slippers customers it certainly didn’t hurt Nissan, as a huge group of new buyers made a bee-line for the company’s showrooms.

Nissan Qashqai 2010

The Qashqai, just facelifted, is now Nissan’s bestseller in many European countries, and has left rivals including Ford, with the Kuga, struggling to play catch-up.

Like the Qashqai, the Juke is being produced at Nissan’s plant in Sunderland, England, which proudly boasts that it is Europe’s most efficient car plant.

While the Qashqai has played it fairly safe in looks department, Nissan clearly feels a bolder approach is needed for its little brother.

It’s no exaggeration to say the Juke is the company’s most distinctively-styled smaller model since those unintentionally bizarre early Datsuns of the 1970s, like the Sunny and Violet, which the company would no doubt rather forget.

Nissan Juke front viewThe Juke replaces the small Micra hatchback on the British production lines. The next generation of the Micra is moving to lower-cost India, so the UK workers will be particularly pleased to have secured this potentially more profitable replacement. A Japanese plant will also build a version of the Juke for non-European markets.

The Juke boasts a versatile interior with a sizeable luggage capacity, and in Europe will feature a 109hp 1500cc diesel and two 1600cc petrol engines including a 187hp turbo. Most versions will be front-wheel-drive, but a 4X4 option is available, although this car seems likely to be more at home in the city than pottering along country lanes.

Underneath, the Juke cleverly utilises a wider version of the platform shared with partner Renault, used on the Micra and Clio small hatchbacks. The compact overall dimensions this dictates will be another advantage in tight city spaces.

As with any company whose new model pushes the usual design envelope, Nissan is treading a thin line. It will be hoping the Juke is seen an edgy and different new car whichPontiac Aztek urban customers will love, but there’s always the risk of deploying a styling quirk too far. The infamous Pontiac Aztek serves as a warning that these things don’t always go to plan.

Seeing it in the flesh will be the real test, but so far things look promising. Deliveries will start in Europe in October, and Nissan will be hoping to steal sales from cars as diverse as the new Mini Countryman, and Vauxhall/Opel’s clever new Meriva.

COPYRIGHT Autosavant – All Rights Reserved

Author: Andy Bannister

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6 Comments

  1. I’m not too excited about the exterior, but I like the interior. But regardless of what I think, I’m glad to see they’re taking chances. I wish more car companies would take chances with the design of their cars.

    There will be some misses, but I think there will be more hits than misses, and for the public, everything won’t kind of look the same, as it does now.

  2. If the car is a success, the bad nicknames won’t even happen.

    If it’s not successful, it will be the Nisaan Joke. Or the Nissan Junk. Or if their customers tend towards undesireable personal characteristics, it will be the Nissan Jerk, in the same vein as the Toyota “Pius”, instead of the Toyota Prius.

    It’s got a certain appeal, sort of like a squat little beetle. I wouldn’t call it attractive, but it is interesting looking.

  3. The interior looks very good. It looks like it has a lot of carrying capacity.

  4. While the interior looks interesting, the exterior seems to have gotten hit with the “ugly stick” a few times on its way through the design studio.

    Nissan needs to liven up their product lineup, but this may be a bit too off-the-wall to attract buyers in meaningful numbers.

  5. Believe it or not the larger Nissan Qashqai CUV seems downright huge by European standards, even though it is similar in size to the US market’s Nissan Rogue.

    Europe, as the US, suffers from the trend of many urbanites putting off marriage until their thirties. And then once they do marry (or join in union) one kid is all they have.

    With their active lifestyles these urbanites often hit the mountains or beach for outdoor activities – and roads aren’t always paved. Therefore the greater clearance from the road is useful.

    If the first 3 years reaction of Europeans to the Qashqai does cross over (pun intended) to the Juke it should be a major success.

  6. Well it’s ugly, sure. However, it’s “Quirky Ugly” rather than “dull as ditchwater Toyota/Honda ugly”, or “oh my god what were they thinking Aztec Ugly.”

    Nissan gets credit for at least designing a car that does’t look like either a box with wheels or a half melted bar of soap.

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