“Juke is a segment buster. It’s something between a sports coupe and a crossover.” That wasn’t Nissan marketing-speak. The five-passenger Juke is a member of the fourth largest small crossover segment– an arena that combines urban practicality with style. The Juke is expected to be cross-shopped with Mazda3, Mini Cooper, Toyota Matrix, Scion tC and Suzuki SX4.
And just what is this name, “Juke”? In keeping with the sporty appeal of the brand, Juke is a take-off on movement, such as the fake-out in football or dodging obstacles.
Juke’s look crosses between cartoon, euro-cool, new age and edgy. At 162 inches long (6 inches shorter than the Nissan Versa), along with 17-inch alloy wheels, a wide stance and wheels pushed out to the corners, the Juke looks different than any Nissan we’ve ever seen.
That could be a good thing. Features, including “boomerang” shaped tail lights that mimic the Nissan 370 and “crocodile headlamps” (like the reptile’s head peering out of the water) and an interior console designed like a motorcycle, give this unibody crossover market buzz potential.
“For the instrument panel, what designers had in mind was an athletic figure with a wetsuit,” remarked Drongowski. “The Juke has a rally car kind of look; we were trying to put a very expressive face on it. The center console is a motorcycle driven design.”
Take note: the red interior of the manual Juke was over the top cool! Positioned for the 18- to 34-year-old male who makes $45,000-plus, Nissan is gearing the Juke towards guys who are into sports, women and gaming. Nissan is a proud sponsor of the NFL, where they plan to let loose a slew of Juke advertising.
“When we were product planning, we worked with the team to pick out a person or amalgam that exemplifies the vehicle. This person was a 20-something guy,” Drongowski explained.
Truly I think the Juke could play on either team, male or female. The cheeky vehicle is full of personality, buzzing with road noise and fun to drive.
The driving experience is dynamo. A 1.6-liter direct injection gasoline turbo aluminum-alloy 4-cylinder (from Nissan’s alliance with Renault) puts out 188 horsepower with a noteworthy 27 miles per gallon in the city. A six-speed manual transmission for the front-wheel drive is available.
“Nissan is about expressive design, a passionate driving experience and friendly technology,” noted Drongowski.
I asked, “Is this design too far from what your customer expects a Nissan to look like?”
Drongowski replied, “In an ideal world people would check out a car when it rolls down the road and remark, `What is that?’ And then they’d say, `Oh yes, that’s a Nissan!'”
The 2011 Juke S starts at $18,960. With an added moonroof the Juke SV starts at $20,260 and the Juke SL pumps it up with leather-appointed seats and a navigation system for $22,550. — Holly Reich, Motor Matters
Manufacturer photo: “Nissan has always been a company willing to stretch the envelope, to combine seemingly contradictory principles and make it work, such as `affordable’ and `performance’…. Juke is about to shake up the market with a boldness, style and sense of fun that it has never seen before — at a time when segment sales are expanding with buyers looking for just such a combination,” said Al Castignetti, vice president and general manager, Nissan North America, Inc. (show car pictured).