WHEN so many cars now look similarly bland, the Nissan Juke never failed to elicit some comment.
Whether it was to ask what it was or an expression of liking or disliking, the Juke certainly stood out from the crowd.
It has turned heads ever since it went on sale last autumn and it is arguably the most adventurous family car design yet from the creatively conservative Nissan brand.
The Juke has been an unqualified success for Nissan across Europe with its appeal to very style conscious owners who like the look of the car and want a simple and reliable mechanical package.
There are 14 models in the Juke series and they follow the now familiar Nissan trim levels of Visia, Acenta with Sport and Premium packs and Tekna based on 110ps diesel and 117 or 190ps petrol engines with five or six speed manual gearboxes and one CVT automatic, within a common bodyshell, and prices rise from £13,300 to £20,600.
The Juke Acenta Premium 1.6 manual sits mid-way in the range and is one of the most popular versions.
The engine is adequately powerful when used by the driver alone but its performance noticeably struggles as more weight is added, whether that’s people or packages.
It revs easily and smoothly but a long travel clutch and notchy five-speed gearchange do not serve it well and both engine and gearbox produce noticeable noise.
You can use Nissan’s Dynamic Control System to choose eco, normal or sport modes in the Acenta and these settings vary the power delivery, gear changes and steering weight with discernable effects.
I found myself reselecting the modes depending on prevailing traffic and road conditions and the simplicity and effectiveness of DCS was very impressive.
I also managed by doing these changes to gradually raise the overall consumption to 43mpg overall.
The centrally mounted multi-mode display dominated the fascia below the big in-car entertainment display and they are well lit and easy to read in any conditions. The Acenta is MP3 compatible as well with access immediately ahead of the gear-lever.
Heating and ventilation is also straightforward to control and the system works very well throughout the cabin, helped by four electric windows in the Acenta.
The secondary controls for main functions are close to the wheel-rim and work well. Oddments room is good throughout the cabin although the compartments tend to be on the small side apart from the glovebox and door bins.
At the back, the boot floor is higher than in most family cars and it’s a good size and shape and there is a 44 litre compartment beneath as well. The back seat has an offset folding facility and when everything is stowed the total capacity rises from 250 litres to 830 litres.
Access is good to the boot and also into the cabin but once inside the rear legroom is tight for a long journey and even the front seats may be short on legroom for taller users.
Ride quality is generally good, the Juke absorbing most bumps without complaint, but sometimes a series of potholes would catch out the springing and damping and it could roll around tighter turns although it stayed firmly planted on road.
Most Juke versions are two wheel drive but Nissan has covered the corners with a four-wheel-drive version at the top of the line up. Question is, whether there should be a lower level all wheel drive derivative at a more competitive price.
Vision to the back is reasonable but not exceptionally good, while forward, side and poor conditions reveal it has good visibility, helped by good lights and wipers. The brakes are nicely balanced, the steering too has a good turning circle and feel.
The Nissan Juke is eye-catching, whether or not you like the look of it is a matter of taste, but under the skin is a very practical car with useful room and technical features and it’s not going to be horrendously expensive to run.
With many cross-over models looking too similar, the Nissan Juke stands out in more ways than one.
Nissan Juke Acenta Premium 1.6
Mechanical: 117bhp, 1,598cc, 4cyl petrol engine driving front wheels via 5-speed manual gearbox