Road Test: Nissan Juke 1.6 DiG-T Acenta Sport

Lets get things straight from the start; Autoblog UK likes the Juke with Tom and Nic first getting their hands on Nissan's baby crossover. But what about me? The week I spent with this £16,736 1.6 DiG-T Acenta Sport was my first introduction to this car and I hoped it lived up to the hype.

So what is the Juke? Well, you could dismiss it as a baby brother to the Qashqai, a car which took Nissan in a very successful, less conventional direction. To me, it's much more than that; with concept car styling inside and out, borrowing DNA from other types of cars and bikes.

You'll either love or hate the concept car looks, but this Nissan couldn't be mistaken for any other car. Personally, I like the fact it appears to have made the jump from concept to production pretty much unchanged.

A design highlight has to be the front, with what look like the foglights being the headlights and what I thought were the slim, slash-like headlights and indicators which were in fact foglights. Confused? I was, but I think the overall look is great.

It doesn't stop there, as the sides are dominated by the bulging wheel arches. Move to the back and I couldn't fail to be impressed by the way the rear light clusters followed the rear window line and wheel arch.

Sadly, the curvy styling does cause visibility problems at both the front and back of the Juke. It's worse at the back, with the thick rear pillars and small screen. Front and rear parking sensors are on the options list and a wise buy.

Our test car was fitted with the most powerful engine available, a 1.6-litre, four-cylinder petrol turbo engine with 187bhp. Emissions of 175g/km and 40.9mpg fuel consumption figures are good, but not amazing considering the performance.

The Juke's electrically-assisted steering is responsive, making changing direction fun. However, it's a shame that Nissan didn't dial out the artificial feel which is at its worst just around the straight ahead.

I liked the fact that there was plenty of grip, but the Juke's taller stance means it leans more than I'd have liked in corners. The ride is hard on the 17-inch alloys and the Juke seems to find every road imperfection and amplify them through the cabin.

The build quality of the Juke is a big improvement over the last Nissan that I drove, the current Micra. Sadly, it's still not a perfect result, as some the plastics on the doors and dashboard were already marked in the test car and some of the switchgear felt a bit cheap considering the £16,000+price.

Still, I'm sure that the Juke will uphold Nissan's reputation for reliability with tough mechanicals.

The 1.6-litre petrol turbo engine certainly sounds sporty enough; the turbo induction noise is obvious when accelerating. Thankfully, because it's turbocharged this engine proves to be very flexible and Nissan's Dynamic Control System is fitted as standard to alter its feel.

The screen near the air-conditioning, mounted far down the Juke's dashboard, also doubles as a visible way of telling you which mode you're actually in. Select Sport and the steering and throttle response are definitely keener. Other modes include Normal and Eco. Normal is the least satisfying mode as the Juke felt soft and sluggish, Eco is for the greener driver and restricts the throttle opening – it's only marginally less annoying than the Normal mode.

The manual gearbox is snappy enough, but somehow it manages to feel clunky too and it's less fun than it should be working the Juke through its six-gears. Acceleration to 60mph is strong at 7.7 seconds and on to a 134mph top speed.

Interior space is where the Micra underpinnings become most obvious. There's plenty of room in the front of the Juke with its excellent, lofty driving position. Space in the back is adequate rather than spacious, but the biggest disappointment has to be the tiny, shallow boot.

I struggled to get my son's buggy in the boot, as there's just 207 litres with the seats up. It's much smaller than rivals such as the Skoda Yeti which has 416 litres.

Still, like the exterior the interior looks cool with the metallic red inserts for the trim and the centre console that looks as though it was styled like a bike petrol tank.

Perhaps surprisingly, the turbocharged Juke is reasonably frugal with a Combined consumption figure of 40.9mpg.

Our test car was in the mid-range Acenta trim with Sport pack, which included 17-inch alloy wheels, climate control and cruise control. The only options fitted were metallic paint (£400) and carpet mats (£40).

Sat-nav is not available as an option, which is a surprise. The standard fit CD/radio system has adequate sound quality, nothing amazing though.

To sum up, if you're after a car that looks a bit different from the norm, has enough power to be entertaining in DiG-T form, is well-equipped and reasonably priced, then you should be looking at the Nissan Juke. Just make sure you can live with the tiny boot and hard ride.
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