Sunday 18 February 2018

Juke plays all the hits

Lord I loved that song If I Didn't Have a Dime. I thought Tom Dunphy, Lord rest his soul, sang it beautifully. I can hear the lilt in his voice now as he sang: "If I didn't have a dime and I didn't take the time to play the jukebox." Look it up and listen on YouTube. I loved the melody and the rhythm.

Well I hummed it the best I could for at least an hour as I drove this week's test car. Talk about the association of words -- it was all because the car is called the Juke. I know, I know, that's stretching things, but who can account for the workings of the mind? Especially one like mine, which seems to dip into 'happy memory time' with increasing frequency. There isn't much else to cheer us up these days is there?

But you know what? As I hummed the jukebox song I realised the thing to do is, every so often, forget about all these monstrous months for a while. Otherwise it will all get in on us and we'll go mad. Don't let it happen.

Sweet God the depression was palpable as I hummed into the midlands on a couple of dreary, wet, miserable cold days.

I was in good form, considering everything. I think those who thought up the Nissan Juke foresaw that we'd need a bit of cheering up and went a bit mad with the design. Just for the hell of it, you know.

Does it work? My initial reaction was it didn't, that it was too much like a 'sawn-off' Qashqai (which, bluntly put, it is). The Qashqai, as you know, is the most successful crossover family 'car' of its generation and there is a waiting list for it -- hard to believe but true.

However, after several lengthy behind-the-wheel acquaintances with the Juke and many hums and haws as I circled its unusual frame, I got the feeling, and later the conviction, that it embodies the sort of daring and enterprise we so badly lack in so many other facets of life in the IMF family.

Others agree with me: this week it won the Continental Irish Car of the Year award.

I was disappointed with my 1.6-litre engine -- because it was petrol -- and with my five-speed gearbox. There is a 1.5-litre diesel (from €20,195, €156 road tax). I am now so hooked on diesel and six-speed transmissions I think I have a problem that no amount of 1960s classics will alleviate. The petrol is fine and so is the gear change with good pep in the former and a slickness in the latter.

Yet for all its avant-garde attempts, I don't think it will match the Qashqai's smooth aplomb on the rough, tumble, twists and turns of everyday driving. Rather, it develops a handling character all of its own which is a bit sharper but more prone to the rear wheels getting a tad nervous under pressure.

The cabin is fun, fun, fun and there's a lot more rear-seat room than you might think initially. And they have cleverly disguised the rear-door handles so this looks like a two-door SUV/Coupe . . . or whatever.

The boot isn't huge but we found great use of a nice little slot under the 'floor' that was ideal for stuff such as bottles, cartons of milk, squash and so on.

There is a simplicity to the instruments that I truly wish a large number of others would just look at. There were no technological cul-de-sacs; everything was simple.

I found my seating position reasonably alright, with good, clear views. Even with two on board in the back, the wide and deep wing mirrors kept me well informed. Decent wing mirrors are nearly a thing of the past in many cars now where design dictates yokes that look like stretched teardrops.

I will complain, though, about the miniscule amount of adjustment I could get on the steering wheel. It meant too much of a compromise on my ideal seating height -- otherwise the steering wheel would have been on my thighs. But then not everyone is bestowed with the sort of disproportionate frame with which God saw fit to bedeck me.

Still, I think you should check it out if you are interested. It is different, stylish in a post-modern fashion, roomy enough for mum, dad and the two/three precious, well priced (same region as Ford Focus, Toyota Corolla etc), and likely to be in strong second-hand demand for a trade-in.

I liked the way they mix fabric and plastic elements through the cabin. In mine, the red archipelago of a central console/cup holder lit up the place and gave the whole thing a 'sports' feel while in no way intruding on creature comforts.

Of course it is not everyone's cup of tea but it is hard not to like it. For example, I'm not mad about the bulbous headlights. God, they were strange sights when the lights were on and I was ploughing through the fog and rain. They were almost like two disembodied will-o-the-wisps. They are a Nissan trademark at this stage so I'll leave them alone and stop whining.

Instead, I'm going to revert to humming. In a way If I Didn't Have a Dime' is one of the most appropriate songs you could think of these days. A lot of people don't have a dime. But for those who do and who need a new car, then here's a Juke box that can play the hits.

What: Nissan Juke, 5dr crossover, 1.6-litre (1,598 cc, 117bhp, 0-100kmh in 11.1 secs, top speed 178kmh), 5spd gearbox, frontwheel-drive, consumption 6l/100km, CO2 of 138g/km; VRT is 16pc. €156 annual road tax.

Cost: From €18,195. Car tested is Sport (top spec), from €19,195. Delivery, related charges extra.

Target Market: Families, young couples, singles.

Plus: Design verve, cabin, space, price.

Minus: Looks not everyone’s cup of tea.

Standard Equipment: Air conditioning, several airbags, electric windows, two ISOFIX child seat points, electric power steering, ESP (helps avert skidding), 16in alloys.

Others to consider: Anything in the price range. This appeals across a wide range – from family hatchbacks to the MINI.

Star Rating: 87 / 100

Irish Independent

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