October 30, 2012 5 Comments
Pic blatantly nicked from Autotrader.
Of late, motor manufacturers have adopted the “blue” motif for their efficient diesel vehicles.
VW have the ‘Blue Motion’ which sounds like a stool sample taken from a Smurf. Mercedes has ‘Blue Efficiency’ which was originally the name of a German porn film. Nissan brings us the Pure Drive, which whilst eschewing the word ‘blue’ and being completely disingenuous, is presented proudly on a blue badge on the back.
The motor manufacturers were canny to avoid going for the obvious “green” moniker for their efficient diesel vehicles, as there’s not much that’s green about spewing carcinogenic 10 micron soot particles into the atmosphere (PM10s).
As a died-in-the-wool petrolhead, I should have no business saying anything at all positive about either diesel vehicles (which I detest with a passion most reserve for their football team’s arch nemesis) or lifestyle vehicles, which my prejudices tell me are driven by mums, idiots and metrofags.
All told then, it’s as much a surprise to me as anyone else that I find myself quite taken with my latest rental cart – a Nissan Juke 1.5DCi.
While I didn’t take to the looks when it was first released – but then few ever do love anything radical until it’s had time to sink in – I have found the shape growing on me. It has all the hallmarks of dynamic ‘moving while stationary’ characteristics that were once reserved for the likes of BMW with their Hoffmeister kink.
So powerfully is this effect embodied in the Juke, that twice in a day I found myself thinking, while stood close to the car (fuelling, unloading), that the car was rolling forwards. Both times I checked my head, and then checked that the handbrake was on and the car was in gear. No drugs were involved in the experiencing of this car. Sadly.
When I arrived at the car rental place, I perked up when I heard them muttering about a Juke, given that I had expected (knowing the place) to end up with an Astra or some horrific Chevrolet p.o.s. The best I had hoped for was a Seat Leon, and that prospect didn’t provide much more cheer than piloting a Chevy Daewoo. So, I was already up on the day before I even got in the car.
This was clearly the poverty spec Juke. Cloth seats, basic stereo, no cruise control. The seats proved remarkably supportive and comfortable. The basic stereo is poor, although I was thankful for a 3.5mm AUX input, and that the speakers seem able to deliver fairly robust bass without farting. The cruise control was really missed, given the 400 miles that lay ahead of me. All of this could be fixed with a browse of the options list, I suspect.
This review is based on a single day of using this hire car, to do a ~400 mile trip from Berkshire to Hertfordshire, via central Manchester. I was in the morning rush hour leaving Berkshire, and in the evening rush-hour leaving Manchester. I also heroically negotiated a 45 minute traffic jam, which meant 15 minutes reading twitter, then half hour of crawling, sighing loudly, and jockeying for position to make sure I didn’t get stuck behind the gap-leaving milquetoast idiot in the Volvo/Passat/Insignia/Saab etc.
On with the detail then. I like the looks. This car was black. Probably not metallic black, but black nevertheless – and it suits the car. If it were my money, I’d probably go the force red, and I’d avoid the ‘Haptic Blue’ on the assumption that it’d vibrate each time I touched it.
The cabin quality cannot be faulted – by me anyway. The plastics feel robust and high quality – with the notable exception of the plastic cowl around the gear lever. The ergonomics are first class. The instruments are clear and effortless to read. The seating position is perfect.
The car corners with very little roll for something that sits so high on the road. The corollary of this is that the ride on the motorway is a little firm. Not BMW firm, and certainly not Audi firm, but firmer than I was expecting for this sort of car. It’s not at all unpleasant though. The steering is apparently electrically assisted, but until I looked it up, I thought it was traditional hydraulic system. Although light, it provides decent enough feedback from the road for a car of its type, and inspires much more confidence than the system used by VAG.
It’s a light car, the Juke. Surprisingly, for its size and shape, it’s a relative bantam-weight at 1285kg (kerb) in the 2-wheel-drive manual configuration. That’s the kerb weight of a Honda S2000.
The engine… well. It’s a 1.5 litre diesel engine, so what are we to expect? It’s a little gutless, that’s for sure. With just 110bhp, it has less than a third of the power of my daily driver. It’s the only diesel powered car I’ve ever driven where you cannot pull away from a standstill on the clutch without touching the throttle. If you don’t give it enough gas and it bogs down, there’s a terrible knocking sound of oil starvation at the bottom end. That may not be what it is, but that’s what it sounded like to me and either way, it cannot possibly help the longevity of the engine.
Once you’re on the move, though, it’s responsive enough so long as you make decent use of the 6-speed gear box. This is not such a trauma: the gear change action, while not entirely perfect, is better than anything BMW or VAG can offer by way of a manual gearbox. In normal motorway traffic, the Juke will mix it with the Teutonic hoarders of the outside lane without ever feeling overwhelmed. Just remember to get out of their way when the lane clears – they’re probably in a hurry, and much more important than you.
In terms of efficiency, I can’t really fault the car. The on-board computer reported an average 47.4MPG after ~400 miles of mixed driving. This is remarkable for anything driven by me, who is short on patience and leaden of foot. I was taking it reasonably easy for the first 300 miles or so (70ish MPH), but as the night drew in, I found myself thinking ‘sod this for a laugh’ and applied some anvil to the situation.
Make no mistake: if you floor it, economy will plummet (relatively) but if you’re prepared to sit at 60-65mph all day, expect to see north of 55mpg – maybe even more.
All this talk of efficiency is for the birds of course, but the geek in me is unable to resist the MPG readout on the dash.
Much of what I learned about the Juke is, with hindsight, unsurprising. As an adherent to the old Primera, which was by far the best car of its kind for the enthusiastic driver, I should have expected a quality cabin, decent seats, good ergonomics and a proper gear-change.
The shocker is that I was unable to find myself disgusted by the diesel engine. It suits this car – I wouldn’t expect the petrol engine to be up to the job of providing the torque to move this thing around with any passengers or luggage– at least anywhere near as efficiently. If I was speccing a Note or (God forbid) a Micra, I’d go for the petrol version every time, but for the Juke, the diesel makes perfect sense.
So would I buy one of these? The head says yes. It’s a great package and Nissan dealerships could teach VAG dealers an awful lot about service, just as Nissan’s engineers could teach VAG a lot about reliability. Until I get to try out a Nissan Juke-R though, the heart says no.
But…… If it was a choice between this and some Seat/Skoda/VW thing in the list of company cars, it would be an absolute no-brainer for me.