They say that looks can be deceptive. Take the rear door handles on this Nissan Juke, for example, nestled cheekily into the c-pillar to fool your eyes into thinking there are only three doors on this five door crossover.
Whilst compact on the outside, the sense of space whilst sitting up front is impressive and the gap in between the front seats is apparent in a way that reminds me of the first Range Rovers. Spartan, utilitarian, but comfortable. I drove the base model, and whilst all manner of electrical gadgetry is available as you tick more boxes and progress up the Juke range but it was actually relief not to be inundated with things to press, turn, click and learn. In contrast with other new cars I’ve driven recently this kind of back to basics driving experience provides a purity that just allowed me to, well, drive. Isn’t that what driving should be about?
Peering out over what looks like a giant mechanical frog’s head (every child of sane mind has envisaged piloting a gigantic mechanical frog at some point, surely?) you find yourself sitting up nice and high as if you were in a large off-roader, just without the unnecessary exterior bulk, which is compounded by the chunky and tall gear shifter which falls nicely into reach from the bolstered seats. Nissan say that the way the lights are positioned atop of the bonnet aids with judging where Juke’s corners lie whilst manoeuvring and the large mirrors that look over the muscular rear wheel arches, which are always a winner when it comes to vehicle styling cues, certainly help with seeing what’s going on at the rear. Of course, the Nissan Safety Shield pack has got all of this covered for you straight from the centre console should you choose it as an option on the Acenta model and it comes as standard on the top level model, the Juke Tekna.
Staying inside, the organic shape of the shade that covers the main dials is almost like a the wing of a beetle (that’s the insect kind) and floats over the rest of the dashboard, adding another pleasantly quirky little feature to the cabin. Interchangeable heater surrounds and dashboard trim pieces allow you to add your own touch by way of colour accents and the indicator stalks are shaped in a curious way that is really compelling. Stay with me here, I haven’t gone completely mad yet. They’re beautifully sculpted with recesses for where your fingers will fall when twisting and pushing, it’s an organic shape that reminds me of the sort of form you’d mould from clay autonomously when your mind is drifting, although it seems entirely purposeful here in the Juke’s interior. It sounds ridiculous, but instead of just using a thin, cylindrical stalk with a bulbous bit on it they’ve put some real thought into its design and I appreciate that level of ergonomical awareness. A lot.
This model uses the outgoing 1.6 litre petrol engine but newer, 1.2 litre turbocharged petrol versions are now available that put out the same power with less emissions. Four wheel drive versions are available in Acenta Premium and Tekna models and for those of you who aren’t fussed about being frugal there’s a 190PS 1.6 turbocharged version that’ll sprint to 60mph in under 8 seconds.
Overall, I’d say that the Nissan Juke is deceptively accomplished for what really isn’t an expensive car. I had to double check that none of the figures had fallen from the price board that was on the back seat that I noticed shortly after leaving the forecourt at Freelance. £10,995. That’s it, just under eleven grand for a compact crossover SUV. Will people judge you for having a vehicle that many would perceive is unnecessarily big, even though it really isn’t? Will the neighbours think you’ve spent a fortune on a new car when you really haven’t? Who cares what they think, it’s got low emissions, it’s more compact and costs less than it might appear. Looks can be deceptive after all.