New Nissan Juke Heads For Success


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By Henny Hemmes
Senior European Editor
Amsterdam Bureau
Thh Auto Channel

PARIS, February 11, 2010. Wednesday night, Nissan unveiled the Juke, its new small crossover for a group of European media. The concept car for the new model was shown at the Geneva Salon a year ago as the Qazana, which already promised some unique styling features.

In that respect the Juke does not disappoint, and it does live up to its name too. Because ‘juke’ in American football means ‘putting somebody on the wrong leg’ and going around them.


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The Nissan Juke raises the question: is this an SUV..? Especially since the lower part of the new model gives it the looks of an SUV, with bold shapes, large wheels and black moldings around the wheel wells and on the door sills. Its off road image is enhanced by big round head lights, that might make you think the Juke is bound for the Monte Carlo Rally.

Alfonso Albaisa, vice president of Nissan Design Europe, based in London, said: “We did not want to do something that is evident in this segment, like a copy cat. What we wanted was to create a design that is not common in this segment, bold and sporty. Something, that people like at first sight.”

So, the bottom part of the Juke was combined to a sporty upper part with a dropping roof line, broad shoulders and boomerang tail lights, that all hint to Nissan’s popular 370 Z.

Albaisa points at the upper section of the doors with their somewhat convex shape and says: “This is not only a styling cue taken from the Z, but it also provides more interior space.


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That he is right, is soon evident when by some colleagues (1.80 m or 5.91 ft) sit in the back. They have enough space for their legs, but also an inch of air between their hair and the roof lining. You would not have expected that with the low roof line in the rear.

The interior looks fresh and the materials used for the seats are contemporary with mesh in a contrasting color on the outsides of the seats and back rests.

Albaisa also points at the center console of the juke: “This was inspired by the fuel tank of a motorbike.”


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New is the soft cover for the luggage compartment that is attached to the hatch and moves upward when the hatch is opened. The advantage of using soft material is that it will not rattle when the trunk is completely full. Another new feature is de luggage floor: you lift it up and by moving it vertical, it slides out of the way between the back rests of the rear seats and the trunk. That way you can use the depth of the luggage space that under the floor panel is divided in smaller compartments.

Brave

Nissan is brave to come up with a new look, as the funky Juke will be both much appreciated but also disliked, as so often is the case with new and/or extravagant designs. In any case the Japanese manufacturer hopes to move the small car segment, like it did with the Qashqai in the mid size class. When that crossover SUV was launched in 2007, Nissan hoped to be able to sell 100,000 Qashqais on a yearly basis, but last year they did 200.000 units. In June 2008, Nissan already had to use a third shift to meet the large demand and within a couple of month, the plant in Sunderland in the U.K. has to add a third shift to meet the demand for the successful model.

Of the total production in this plant of 338,000 cars, 60 per cent was the Qashqai.

In the meantime Sunderland is preparing to switch production of the current Micra for the Juke. The new generation of the Micra will be made in India and is due to arrive by the end of this year. Nissan does not expect to Juke to meet the success of the larger Qashqai. But since the small car segment is growing, I would not be surprised if the new model does very well.

The official premier of the new Juke will be at the Geneva Motor Show on March 2, while the North American debut will be at the New York Auto Show in April. The Juke will hit the European markets in September and can be expected in North America in fall. During our first test drive, we will find out if the driving experience is as exhilarating as Nissan promises. But we do not expect to hit the road with the new crossover before the summer.

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