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First look: Nissan’s new baby Juke 4WD is no joke

Urban animal: Nissan is renowned for its expertise in bona fide off-road vehicles, but the Juke will be more at home on city streets.

Nissan lets its sub-Dualis Juke mini-SUV out of the box ahead of Geneva world debut

11 Feb 2010

NISSAN is set to broaden its portfolio of crossover vehicles with the new sub-Dualis Juke, moving into a mini-SUV segment with a model it describes as a “funky alternative to the conventional urban hatchback”.

Not on the agenda for release in Australia at this stage, the Juke has emerged in production trim from Nissan’s European design centre in London (after some refinement at head office in Japan) ahead of its world premiere at the Geneva motor show on March 2 and its European release in the final quarter of 2010.

Just as the Murano was built as a city slicker, and the Dualis followed as a crossover competing with traditional small cars, the even smaller Juke has the same high-riding sports flavour but with exaggerated, blokey body styling which is in stark contrast to other models in the “sober, safe” (Nissan’s words) B-segment.

That much is evident in the first official pictures released this week ahead of the Swiss show.

But to ram home the point, Nissan’s press material is peppered with references to the Juke’s “tough solid body”, “maverick design” and “masculinity and dynamism”, while the designers admit to drawing inspiration from rally cars and motorcycles – and the cabin’s high-gloss centre dash stack is meant to look like a motorcycle fuel tank.

Unsurprisingly, Nissan says two thirds of its sales in Europe are expected to come from “urbanite male customers” who are “disillusioned at the lack of excitement in the small-car sector in Europe”.

12 center image “Juke brings a sense of adventure to the car market – it’s light, nimble, urban, reactive: qualities designed to grab a younger audience,” said Nissan Motor Co senior vice-president of product planning, Andy Palmer.

“It offers something entirely different to the traditional B-segment vehicles and cements Nissan as a car-maker prepared to do something different.” Where comments like that leave the Micra, one can only imagine. There will doubtless be a fresh barrage of spin from Nissan when it unveils the new-generation baby car alongside the Juke in Geneva, just ahead of its production debut in Thailand in March/April.

Nissan Australia head of corporate communications Jeff Fisher has confirmed to GoAuto this week that the all-new Micra will debut at Geneva, with Thai-built versions to reach Australia in the fourth quarter.

As for the Juke, which will be built in England and Japan, Mr Fisher said: “Juke is not in the plan at the moment – but we’re watching.” The Juke is built off the same Renault Nissan Alliance B-Platform as the Micra and other models such as the Renault Clio – an architecture that enters a new stage, beginning with the new Micra, known as the V-Platform – but the crossover’s underpinnings have been lengthened, widened and strengthened.

It has a 2530mm wheelbase, and measures 4135mm long, 1765mm wide and 1570mm high. To enable the fitment of 17-inch wheels and 215/55-section rubber, the front and rear track have also been widened to 1525mm.

The suspension is a conventional MacPherson strut front and torsion beam rear design, with a new cradle-type front subframe introduced to enhance the lateral stiffness of the assembly.

Four-wheel drive versions benefit further from a new multi-link rear suspension, which Nissan claims will place the Juke’s handling “at the top of the class” in spite of its higher ground clearance.

Bolstering the claim is the introduction of a new ‘torque vectoring’ 4WD system, which as seen on other models, including Volvo’s all-new S60 also debuting at Geneva, is designed to reduce understeer during cornering.

Based on Nissan All-Mode 4x4i system, the torque vectoring capability enables up to 50 per cent of the total available engine torque to be sent to either rear wheel.

Three engines will be available with the Juke in Europe from launch – and also provide a pointer to the available powertrains for the new Micra – with the headline act being a new 140kW/240Nm 1.6i ‘MR16DDT’ direct-injection turbo-petrol.

The Euro 5-compliant 1.6 turbo combines with a six-speed manual or a new M6 XTronic CVT with manual shift control – the latter combination being the sole to offer 4WD at launch.

The other engines available are an 81kW/240Nm 1.5-litre ‘K9K’ dCi turbo-diesel (with six-speed manual) and an updated 86kW/157Nm 1.6-litre ‘HR16DE’ naturally aspirated petrol (with five-speed manual and updated XTronic CVT).

Apart from the aforementioned centre stack design (which Nissan dubs ‘motorbiketank’), the Juke cabin is a largely conventional affair.

There are chrome fittings, relatively high-grade trim material, sports-oriented colour choices (depending on the grade) – red or gunmetal grey for the centre console, black, silver or red accents to leather upholstery, and honeycomb fabrics – and the door armrests are shaped like flippers used by scuba divers (to “reflect an active outlook”).

Nissan claims that, unlike the Qazana concept shown at Geneva 12 months ago and into which the Juke has formed, the production car is a full five-seater. It describes front headroom and rear knee room as sufficient for “most occupants”.

The luggage compartment has a maximum volume of 251 litres and, on two-wheel drive versions, includes an underfloor storage area. The rear seats are split 60/40 and are said to fold in one simple movement for a “totally flat” loading floor.

The European model line-up will run along the established Visia, Acenta and Tekna grades, with “expected items” including climate-control air-conditioning, leather trim, a rearview camera and keyless entry.

More “unusual” features, as the Japanese car-maker describes them, will include a revised central command and display unit dubbed the Nissan Dynamic Control System. This will allow the driver to alter drive settings as well as make changes to more oft-used functions such as the air-con.

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