There are cars that just epitomize cool. They draw you in with a tantalizing X-factor you just can't explain. The Top Gear TV show had a segment they called "Cool Wall." On it, they would decide--often arbitrarily--which cars fell under the cool and uncool categories. Now, I would like to present--for your consideration--just why I think the new Nissan Juke is unequivocally, irrevocably and irrefutably cool.
Ever since the Juke was launched in other countries, I have always looked at it with fondness. From someone whose first car was a second-generation Toyota RAV4, the Juke just evoked a sense of compactness that really tickled the part inside of me that loved funky cars.
Some of us at Top Gear actually felt that the Juke would be too weird for Filipino tastes, but Nissan Philippines knew something we didn’t.
The Juke has always been an enigma. Nissan is a company famous for such oddities as the Murano Cross-Cabriolet (a convertible SUV), and it didn't pull any punches when it came to the exterior design of the odd-looking crossover. The first things that strike you are the three pairs of headlamps arranged across the front of the car. Looking more aftermarket than stock, the light cluster gives the Juke a very rugged and unique frontal appearance that guarantees it will turn heads wherever it goes.
The side profile is even better than the front--it took me an embarrassingly long time to realize that the compact thing actually had four doors. From the lines of the roof and the angle of the rear window, it had me fooled into thinking that it was a coupe. This look is complemented by what seems to be the most aggressive set of rear taillights we have seen outside of supercars.
All in all, the exterior is one of the main selling points of the car. It is provocative, distinctive, but more important, polarizing. Some might hate it, but most will love it. Either way, stares will follow you wherever you go, and for this, we have to commend Nissan for coming up with one of the most unique crossover designs we've seen in years.
Stepping inside, you are greeted by one of the nicest instrument binnacles you'll see in a car of this price. The interior is adorned by Mini-esque circular motifs, from the gauges to the air-conditioning vents and the buttons on the center console. Everything is round and pleasing to the eye and touch.
The only negatives in the interior would probably be the fact that--this being a crossover--the rear headroom leaves a lot to be desired. That, and the fact that the front seats hurt my rear after just 30 minutes of driving due to a lack of support. Take note, though, that this is probably because I am 6'2", so there’s no guarantee that this discomfort will extend to someone of average height.
Here's where the Juke's biggest letdown comes to light. The lone variant's 1.6-liter engine is paired with what is probably one of the worst choices of transmission possible: a CVT. Now, don’t get me wrong. I have tested decent CVT’s in other cars, but there’s just something lacking in the one Nissan put in this crossover.
When you floor the accelerator, you get what I can only describe as a "rubber-band effect" in which there is a pause while the transmission calculates the optimal ratio to serve before any power is transferred to the wheels. This is mitigated a bit by switching the car into "sport" mode, but the feeling of hesitation never quite leaves you.
The Juke did return an extraordinary 15.6km/L in city driving, so at least the CVT didn’t entirely go to waste.
RIDE AND HANDLING
The Juke swallowed up corners with aplomb. The short wheelbase, together with the relatively compact feel of the car, makes the crossover handle impressively in the corners.
We should also commend Nissan as the Juke seems perfectly tuned for the sad state of our roads. It has just enough sportiness to be fun, but not too much that it would be uncomfortable in daily driving.
For a car that costs just under P1 million, the Juke has some of the best features we have ever tested. From the cool transforming buttons--when you switch from climate to drive modes, the buttons switch as well--and the seamless integration of the head unit's Bluetooth, to the steering wheel-mounted switches and the standard cruise control, there’s just no beating the value of this car at this price.
The smart key entry and the start/stop system are particularly handy, working flawlessly during the time we tested the Juke.
Yes, the Juke has its problems--most notably the transmission--but (and this is a big but) I want one. Buying a car is seldom a rational decision, and often a decision fueled by passion and gut feel. This is one of those times. I have never felt so attached to a car in such a short period of time.
The Juke completely grabs your attention and refuses to let go. Carmakers, take note: Yes, creating and selling polarizing cars is a risk, but when the risk turns into something as awesome as this, you owe it to your fans to give it a shot. It is incomprehensibly cool, and that’s no Juke.
SPECS: NISSAN JUKE 1.6 UPPER CVT
Engine: 1.6-liter DOHC I4 gasoline
Power: 114hp @ 5,600rpm
Torque: 154Nm @ 4,000rpm
Drive layout: FWD
Photos by Carlo Chungunco
UPDATE as of June 9, 2018: With four new vehicles and the GT-R Nismo launched this year, Nissan Philippines is heating things up. The Japanese carmaker has revealed its new price list for 2018. Big news for Nissan was the recent launch of its midsize SUV—the Terra. The Terra's body is modeled after the Patrol, and it shows. Up front, it has Nissan's signature V-Motion grille accompanied by boomerang headlamps. Muscular haunches run along the sides, while the rear also gets boomerang headlamps. Unlike the China-spec five-seater, our market's edition gets seven seats. And like all new Nissans, it comes with the Nissan Intelligent Mobility suite of safety features like lane departure warning, blind spot warning, intelligent around-view monitor, moving object detection, smart rear-view mirror, hill-descent control, and hill-start assist.