ROAD TEST: Nissan Juke 1.6T Tekna
You could never accuse Nissan of being a predictable car manufacturer. I find it hard to believe that the same company that builds the fire-breathing GT-R and rip-roaring 370Z also builds the painfully dull Tiida, the cute-and-cheerful little Micra and the decidedly chucknorrisy Navara.
I can almost imagine them having a whole bunch of design departments scattered across the globe and with no network access to each other.
The Juke, though, would clearly hail from a different planet altogether.
Whether you think it looks like a warthog crossed with a moon buggy or a futuristic off-road racing machine for the road, you can't deny that it's either going to elicit a love-it or hate-it reaction from most people.
I like the concept of this 'urban SUV', but I'm still on the fence about its execution. Wouldn't it have looked a lot neater if they had positioned both sets of front lights further down - those pointy top ones blending into the grille and those round 'eyes' being further down on the bumper? Then again, that might just make it look too normal, defeating the object of it altogether.
BREAKING THE RULES
The Juke's rule-breaking personality continues under the bonnet, where Nissan has fitted the range-topping Tekna model with a fire-cracker of an engine considering the vehicle’s size - it's based on the Renault Clio platform and fits into that size league.
Sophisticated too, the 1.6-litre petrol engine boasts direct fuel injection and a turbocharger allows it to churn out 140kW at 5600rpm and 240Nm at 5000. That makes it more powerful than a VW Polo GTI.
It's a truly sweet motor - it's smooth, has big guts at every corner of the rev range and pulls with more force than you'd ever expect from a small SUV-ish contraption (the Juke is only sold in front-wheel drive format in South Africa, so crossover is a far better description than SUV).
Against the clock, it's not quite in the same league as the hot hatch pack though, our sister publication Star Motoring recording a 0-100km/h sprint time of 8.3 seconds at Reef altitude.
Same can be said of the handling. Sure, it feels agile enough in most situations, but that high centre of gravity robs it of the stability and pin-sharp accuracy that you'd enjoy in a Corsa OPC or Clio RS. A softer suspension set up is also a factor here, meaning the Juke at least provides an acceptably comfy ride.
IT’S NO MOM’S TAXI
Given its outlandish design, don't expect the Juke fulfil the practical 'Mom's taxi' role that crossovers are normally laden with. Sports kit and shopping bags will really have to fight for space in its rather tiny 250-litre boot and taller teens will knock their heads against the roof (given the Juke's rather limited head room) but the rear legroom situation is not too bad.
In the front of the cabin, the Juke continues to shout the daring lingo of its exterior, with a sporty steering wheel, deep instrument cowls and 'floating' cover. Strangest of all is its lower centre console that resembles the fuel tank of a motorbike - it's even painted in the same colour as the car. The overall is certainly sporty, but not so classy.
It's also comfortable enough from the driver's seat, my only gripe being that the steering wheel doesn't adjust for reach.
As mentioned, chances are you're either going to love or hate this little Nissan and if it does happen to make you feel all tingly inside, rest assured that there are more than enough logical reasons to buy it.
You see, it is (a bit) more practical than the average small hot hatch and exponentially more fun than your usual small crossover. I can think of many worse ways to spend R258 500.
Bungee jumping off Vic Falls - R925
Mini Cooper S Countryman - R347 907
Renault Clio RS - R259 900