Thinking outside the Juke box
Nissan's new Juke isn't afraid to make an impact, but it's definitely more suited to a couple rather than a busy family, writes Campbell Spray
As many a parent before me knows, there is little more emotional than welcoming your son or daughter at Dublin Airport after they have been away for a while studying or working on the other side of the world.
So there I was last Monday shortly after dawn waiting for my son to return from California. He was studying at the University of California San Diego while his girlfriend, who was also on the same flight home, was up the road at the same university's Los Angeles campus. I was picking her up as well as her parents were still icebound. Desperate to see her brother and after three months of relative peace in the house, my daughter also came along in her school uniform. When the returnees arrived there were hugs, tears and relief all round. There was also the matter of two large cases.
And this was when a fundamental weakness of the Nissan Juke was exposed. This funky looking young sibling of the massively successful Qashqai has style galore with echoes of motorbikes, bling and muscle-bound youth. But however attractive the package -- and the Juke is certainly a pleasant eyeful -- head must rule heart and families should be wary of this car.
It is far more suitable for an unencumbered couple than anyone who needs good load space.
On the ride from the airport the two suitcases just managed to get in but there was absolutely no visibility through the rear window and everything was very much squeezed. Long-limbed teenagers would also find very little space in the rear and I had to abandon attempts to sit in there when my driver's seat was back in its usual position.
Yet for much of the rest of the week the car was ideal. The high driving position gives great confidence and security. Big wheels accentuate its look and gave a very comfortable ride and the car coped brilliantly with the ice and snow. Yet don't push it. Even a four-wheel drive version will very definitely be a soft-roader. I loved the sweeping motorbike fuel-tank inspired console between the front seats. It makes a definite impression that delighted my daughter and set her searching for -- and finding -- the iPod connection.
But the Juke isn't afraid to make an impact outside as well. It never holds back from looking like it is on steroids with high arches, lights and curves galore. When so much of the motoring pool comes from central casting, it is great to have something that isn't scared about being different.
"I'm hip and proud," is its cry as it takes on the likes of the new Mini Countryman and the Citroen DS3 in a brasher format.
The Juke was a strong winner of the Continental Irish Car of the Year trophy last month. It is especially good that the 1.6 petrol unit squeezes into the second lowest emissions band. It is a perky engine that is better suited to this sort of car than the well-tried 1.5 diesel which is also available but costs €2,000 more. Save your money. The car was really pleasant to drive and encourages you to push it along although there will be plenty of use for the stubby little gearstick to make the best of the Juke's innate perkiness. I liked it a lot better than the new Audi A1 but I hope the Mini Countryman will be worth the considerable premium and be much better when a few niggles are ironed out.
You can get a well-specced Juke for a few pence under €20,000. I think there will be a lot of takers but, again, be warned on space. What you see is not what you get.