Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Juke of Funksville

On test… Nissan Juke 1.6T Tekna

Any one heard of Bootsy Collins?. You know… Bootsy… the guy with the hair, the glittery clothes, platform boots and crazy sunglasses? This guy ....

He made his name as James Brown’s bassist before becoming universally recognised as the funkiest man ever to walk the planet. Bootsy has more unadulterated funkiness on one of his rhinestone-encrusted fingers of his than the rest of us put together.

The Juke reminds me a lot of Bootsy.

What you’re looking at here is without doubt the funkiest car on the road today. It’s not the coolest, it’s not the most sophisticated, nor is it the most sensible. What it is though, is a tyre-shod funkfest that will make your head bob up and down like the legend himself was slapping his bass in the back seat.

And I’m not just talking about the looks here. Yes, the slanty headlamps, the wildly flared wheel arches, the 370Z-like tail-lights, and the B-segment-hatch-meets-small-SUV-meets-Dakar-racer vibe does all give it a distinctive groove, but it’s the rhythm section under the bonnet that holds it all together. The 1.6-litre turbo engine is flippin’ brilliant.

SA buyers will have an option of two engines – a 86kW 1.6 and a 140kW turbo’d 1.6. This test car had the later and it’s a total eyebrow raiser. The little powerplant gives the Juke proper hot-hatch performance with a quoted 0-100 time of 8 seconds and surprisingly good handling to match. There’s touch of turbo lag, but the excellent short-throw 6-speed gearbox (5-speed in lesser models) allows you to remain hooked in. There are AWD models available overseas, but for the moment our Jukes are front-wheel drives and as the car will spend its life on the asphalt, that’s no prob.

Interior space was always going to be an ergonomic challenge in a car this size – that sloping coupe-like roof doesn’t exactly make things easy. But it’s not bad actually. Two adults can sit comfortably in the back (another will be a bit of a squeeze) and upfront it’s kind of snug… more like the car wraps around you than being cramped. The boot capacity is a modest 251 litres, but there’s also a nifty hidden compartment beneath it, and the 60/40-split rear seats also fold flat… should you need to transport, say, a bass guitar.

This car is a real niche-busting game changer and I reckon Nissan’s sales staff are going to be having more customers than stock. The car is that good.

And, yes, it will take you to Funkytown.

Prices start at R198 000 for the 1.6 Acenta, up to R253 000 for the 1.6T Tekna

As appeared in the December 2011 issue of the Kulula in-flight magazine