MSN asks Hollywood stunt director Dennis McCarthy for his perfect car chase recipe
Tested - Nissan Juke DIG-T
My first impression of the Nissan Juke was a very girly, 'It’s so cute it’s ridiculous!' and it really is. The Juke looks like a tiny Qashqai, a car already so brimming with style and trendy chic, it’s almost hard to look at without fervently wishing you owned one. The Juke manages to take those design cues and make them just adorable. Exaggerated haunches, a front end that looks just like a sweet smile and a 4X4 style ride-height combine to make a car that looks like jolly good fun all round.
The Juke was waiting for us at the airport when we returned recently from a family holiday in Joburg and, after exclaiming about its ridiculous cuteness, I started wondering where we were going to leave our luggage - there was surely no way we would get it all into this micro-cutie. I was wrong. The Juke may look tiny but it’s a full sized five door hatchback - it happily swallowed three medium suitcases, four people and four pieces of carry-on luggage and then looked around as if to say, 'Is that it?' I felt like I was witnessing some sort of optical illusion as we kept loading more stuff. Even the'fixed’ parcel shelf wasn’t an issue as the guys at Nissan have had the smarts to make said shelf flexible enough for a bit of extra cargo.
After an overnight stay in Cape Town, it was time for the 2 hour drive home and I was in the driver’s seat. Again I got the impression that I was part of a carnival magic act - when you are sitting in the little Nissan, it feels significantly bigger than you know it is. You get the lovely, high-riding feeling of driving an SUV while knowing that you are safely ensconced in a perfectly manageable hatchback which you will easily be able to park and manoeuvre whenever you need to - as a slightly nervous driver, I found this comforting and fun.
Leaving the mid-morning bustle of Century City, I was slightly disconcerted by the Juke’s power delivery - the model we have here is the top of the range 1.6 DIG-T Tekna and it has a turbo-charger, something I know very little about. So when I pulled off from the first traffic light, I gave her the same amount of foot as I would a naturally aspirated 1.6 and I got ... nothing. Apparently, there is little off the line power before you hit the turbo zone so you really have to push the throttle pedal like you mean it and make the turbo sing - when you hear the turbo sing (a beautiful cross between a whine and a whistle) you’re in the clear and moving.
Once we were clear of the traffic and out on the R27 heading up the West Coast, the feisty little Nissan truly got its shine on - accelerating with the greatest of ease in the highest of gears. I was amazed at its ability to pass trucks and other cars in 5th gear!! I’d never before been in a 1.6 litre car that wanted to go like this one did. I’m told this is, once again, because of the turbo zone and boost pressure and other things I’m not sure I understand but I certainly understood the'little engine - big power’ concept upon which I was soaring up the highway and I was loving it.
When I got home and looked at the fuel gauge, I loved it all just a little bit less and I was reminded that I have never really understood the point of putting a turbo charger on a small engine. They definitely have their place and it’s on a big engine which is probably going to drink too much anyway but is attached to a car too large for it to pull around effectively. One of the most appealing things about a small car is the fact that they’re not bank breaking to run around in. Not so, the turbo charged 1.6 in the Juke. A naturally aspirated 1.6 litre engine has no lag in power delivery off the line and, while the top speed may not be comparable to the turbo version, it can often be fun to drive anyway and it won’t leave you feeling broke and sad.
Back home and checking out the list of safety features turned out to be an exercise in light reading. In terms of basics, the Juke has got it all in all the right places - airbags, Isofix attachments, ABS, EBD, VDC and kiddy locks on the back doors - but that’s where it ends, which was, as always, a disappointment to me. I know I sound like a girl but I do think that, unless you’re designing a monstrous supercar which has only one [uncomfortable] seat and is just barely road legal, safety is an area in which a car designer should always be striving to improve. In fact, it occurs to me that monstrous supercars also require high levels of safety equipment but they’re not of the same variety as I would expect to see in a family hatchback or SUV.
I can, however, ignore both the thirst and the lack of innovation in the safety arena because the Juke is just such a fantastic place to be. The interior materials are all functional and durable without imparting the feeling that you’re sitting in a plastic box and the dashboard and centre console manage to look very chic and new age while actually being simple in a classic Nissan way. I especially love the way the dials are set deep inside two big round casings which look quite a bit like eyes so that the dial arrangement looks like a perpetually surprised cartoon character looking back at you.
The ride is excellent as well. Smooth as sailing and a lot less complicated, the Nissan gives the impression that it would be more than happy to drive all day and you’d still be happy at the end of it too.
Overall, the Juke is a brilliant little car. It’s affordable, fun and just about the cutest thing I’ve seen since my last baby was born. Would I have one? Yes please.
Fun value: 19/20
Liked: Cutesy good looks
Disliked: Turbo lag
Engine: 1618 cc 4-cylinder turbo
Transmission: 6 speed manual
Power (kW): 140kW @ 5600 rpm
Torque (Nm): 240Nm @ 5000 rpm
Driven Wheels: Front
Acceleration (0-100): 8s (claimed)
Price: R258 500