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Driven: Juke arrives in local Nissan showrooms at last

Funky appeal: Nissan Australia says early indications are that the Juke will have a more mainstream appeal than it first thought.

Nissan Oz aims at small SUVs and Mini Coopers alike after finally launching Juke

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23 Oct 2013

NISSAN Australia says it has been taken aback by the type of interest it has received on the funky Juke crossover, launched locally last week three years after it appeared in Europe.

Initially pitched as an oddball, quasi-SUV aimed squarely at fashion-conscious younger buyers, Nissan says it has received interest from the “gamut” of society, from trendy teenagers to retirees.

The company is steering clear of discussing internal sales projections, but says it would be reasonable to expect the Juke to be more than a mere niche player in the small crossover market.

A runaway success in markets such as the UK, the Juke’s better-late-than-never arrival in Australia gives Nissan a toehold in the burgeoning sub-light crossover segment, which is set to explode with a raft of new models coming on board.

As well as the just-launched Holden Trax and Peugeot 2008, Ford will throw its EcoSport into the mix from November, while Renault’s Captur will be in Australia early next year.

Adding the Juke also gives Nissan near-total coverage of the still-growing SUV market, with a range including Juke, Dualis (to be replaced by the new Qashqai in mid-2014), X-Trail (likewise due for replacement early next year), Murano luxury crossover, seven-seat Pathfinder (new-generation due next week), Navara ute and two-generations of Patrol.

Interestingly, Nissan also considers the Juke a legitimate rival for the style-focused Mini Cooper, because unlike other offerings, the Juke is available with a hotted-up turbocharged engine.

As a result, interim Nissan Australia managing director and CEO Peter Jones this week said the “polarising” Juke would “bring a brand new type of customer to the Nissan brand”, adding that early reaction from dealers had been overwhelmingly enthusiastic.

Priced from $21,990 plus on-road costs for the naturally aspirated, front-drive 86kW/158Nm ST variant with manual gearbox ($2400 extra with a CVT auto), the Juke is priced on par with its small crossover rivals, but $3000 more expensive than the roomier Pulsar hatch.

This Euro 4-rated powertrain develops peak power at 6000rpm and maximum torque at 4000rpm, uses 6.0 litres of fuel per 100km (6.3L/100km for the CVT).

The 1.6-litre 140kW/240Nm turbocharged ST-S, meantime, is priced from $28,390 with a six-speed gearbox, positioning it amongst a bevy of lower-riding designated hot hatches such as the Volkswagen Polo GTI five-door ($29,190) and forthcoming Renault Clio RS ($28,790).

The turbo engine, which also features in the Pulsar ST-S and SSS warm hatches, develops maximum power at 5600rpm and maximum torque between 2000 and 5200rpm with either transmission. Manual versions use 6.9L/100km, CVT versions use 7.4L/100km.

The final member of the streamlined, three-variant Juke range – the Ti-S – comes in at $32,190, and comes with the same turbo engine as the ST-S but adds extra equipment, a CVT automatic (no manual option) and the added surety of all-wheel drive.

This AWD system comes with a Torque Vectoring system that splits torque up to 50:50 between the front and rear wheels, and can also split torque from side-to-side across the rear axle.

By monitoring vehicle speed, wheel speed, gear position, steering angle, lateral G forces and vehicle yaw rate, torque can be increased to the outside rear wheel in corners to help reduce understeer and enhance the car’s cornering feel. In total, up to 50 per cent of the total available engine torque can be sent to either rear wheel.

Nissan Australia marketing general manager Peter Clissold says it is too early to tell which of the three variants will be the top-seller.

Standard features across the range include fog lights, Bluetooth audio streaming, steering wheel audio controls, cruise control and speed limiter, rake-adjustable (not reach) steering column and remote keyless entry.

ST-S variants include a five-inch colour VGA LCD display, satellite navigation, six speakers and push-button start, a rear-view camera, rain-sensing wipers and automatic headlights. The Ti-S adds, over-and-above, partial leather seats with heating in the front.

Safety equipment includes six airbags, with the non-turbo attaining a five-star ANCAP safety rating (turbo versions are untested but have the same structure and safety gear).

Dimensions are a diminutive 4135mm long, 1765mm wide and 1565mm high, riding on a 2530mm wheelbase. Towing capacity is up to 1250kg braked and the fuel tank is 46 litres (50L for the Ti-S).

Underneath the oddball bodyshell sits a MacPherson strut front suspension setup with either a torsion bar rear (ST and and ST-S) or Multilink (Ti-S), and a speed-sensitive electric steering system. Ventilated discs are used both front and rear.

Like all Nissans, the Juke comes with a three-year/100,000km warranty and three years of 24-hour roadside assist.

2013 Nissan Juke pricing*
ST 2WD$21,990
ST 2WD (a)$24,390
ST-S 2WD$28,390
Ti-S AWD (a)$32,190
*Plus on-road costs

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