Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Nissan Juke is the modifier's car of the moment

IT WAS as tall as a wardrobe and some might argue about as pretty, but by gum it was quick. In the right hands, the Nissan Juke R could give most supercars a run for their money.

I'm not one of the journalists lucky enough to be given a go in the GTR-engined Ferrari basher but the first time I came across it I heard it before I saw it, an almighty, industrial roar, following seconds later by an unlikely black blur rocketing past on a private test track. Offering the sort of pace Porsche customers are more familiar with in a high-riding hatchback off-roader thing is, you've got to admit, an incredible engineering achievement.

But the Juke R's real success - and I know Nissan's marketing men are probably nodding smugly at this - is that the Juke seems to have become, out of nowhere, the modifier's car of the moment. On increasingly frequent occasions, pimped-out Jukes have become visitors at car shows. The quirkily-styled SUV from Sunderland is treading the same territory the Ford Capri, the Vauxhall Nova and the Citroen Saxo used to call their own.

This is unfortunate, because not only am I yet to drive a Juke (although I've got a little experience of the bigger, duller and even more ubiquitous Qashqai), but, two years on, I'm still struggling to form an opinion on it. One moment I hate its gawky face and faux Paris-Dakar wheelarches, but then the next I'm quietly admiring the direction the stylists took, because while you'll either love it or hate it, you'll have an opinion of some sort on it. Try saying that about the Volkswagen Touran.

But - and I think it's one of the few cars I can say this about - the Juke does seem to take the Pimp My Ride stuff in its stride. Those wheelarches, for instance, are so enormous they make the standard model look a bit underwheeled, but I've seen a couple with enormous alloys and whitewall tyres that look the business. It also, because it looks like a bit bonkers to begin with, seems to suit silly spoilers and tinted windows. I've no idea why, but it's increasingly becoming one of those cult cars that encourages all sorts of automotive creativity.

Which is a good thing. Let me know if you think yours is a bit of a blank canvas...

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