The road trip
How many times have you traveled the B1 to South Africa? We’ve lost count but thought you might want to read about our latest return trip in a very strange little SUV…
The generous folks at Nissan were first to answer our request for a vehicle to take across the border and delivered a sparkling grey Nissan Juke a day before our planned departure. Yup, it’s that odd-looking creation which garners comments like “weird”, “squashed” and “frog”, often all at once and in that order.
This car’s looks are completely open to your interpretation but personally I respect Nissan’s bravado for building such a unique-looking vehicle. There’s a lot of design going on here, also on the inside, which is why you’ll be finding new shapes and angles for days; possibly weeks.
Only available as a front-wheel-drive with petrol, turbo-petrol or turbo-diesel engines, the striking Juke fits into the cross-over SUV segment well. With over 3,000km ahead of us, we were delighted to find that our grey specimen’s 1.5-litre turbo-diesel engine is the most economical in the range.
All Jukes are fitted with 47L tanks and this model claims average use of less than 5L/100km, although we already knew that with three people and luggage in the car, we weren’t going to match that in the real world. Stormy weather on the way up and 12 stop/go road works each way also affected our consumption.
Our average up to Windhoek was 6.8 and down a respectable 5.7L/100km, a brisk Namibian head wind further playing havoc with progress on our first leg. Speaking of which; although this engine is on the tiny side, it easily cruises at the speed limit and just needs a bit of forward planning to overtake.
The thinner air and reduced atmospheric pressure of Windhoek didn’t curb performance very much but, just like at the coast, the rev counter must read at least 1,400rpm for the turbocharger to do its job. Commuting around town is a breeze with a light clutch, sharp-ish brakes and good steering feedback.
In the vast Namibian South (think Keetmanshoop to Mariental) the Juke’s cruise control buttons on its steering wheel proved to be invaluable. Ride comfort is a bit choppy in town (especially at the back) but this bug-eyed Nissan offers good damping and exceptionally comfortable furniture for long distances.
As we left at stupid o’clock, those three pairs of lights fought against the stormy darkness as best they could. Dipped beam and fog light dispersal is commendable but we were a tad underwhelmed by main / high beam. The Juke’s instruments are easy to read and provide trip information as well.
Another unique feature of the Nissan Juke is its split personality Climate and D-Mode screen, which switches between ventilation settings and drive mode / more trip info. Exceptionally clever by design, it offers a lot of finger time in all but bright sunlight conditions – where it’s hard to read.
The three drive modes deliver exactly what they promise – Sport for extra vooma, Eco for saving juice (or retarding the engine’s low-speed clout) and Normal for everything in between. After experimenting with all three at various speeds, we chose Normal for its mix of decent performance and consumption.
The boot is a little small but offers an extra compartment below the floor and we also dropped one of the 60/40 split rear seat backs for extra cargo capacity. Whoever sat in the rear wasn’t exactly bathing in space but all of us (including my 6ft3 frame) found sufficient room back there for a nap and a makeshift tuck shop.
For your entertainment, we also packed our pair of GoPro cameras and took them on a long-deserved holiday. Usually consigned to filming instruments during performance runs, they ran off a combination of USB port and cigar lighter adaptor to create time-lapse videos of our journey.
My two fellow travellers were also kind enough to give their overall impression of the vehicle:
Passenger: “Baie goeie spasie agter, ons het baie gepak en ek het gemaklik gesit en ‚n bietjie geslaap. Ek het ook gehou van die spasie in die agter-deure vir mens se koeldrank of water bottels; ander karre het dit nie. Die lugversorging is baie goed en koel die hele kajuit af.“
„Die radio se klank is baie goed, veral met al die instellings wat jy kan maak om die klank van die goeie luidsprekers te verander.“
Second driver and passenger: “It (the rear) was a bit cramped for my height but had enough room for a nap. Leg room was fine at the back. I enjoyed driving it! You needed to plan some overtaking moves but otherwise it was fine. One complaint I have is that the headlights could’ve been better, especially with the rain. Wipers were good.”
“On fuel economy I cannot fault it; it is fantastic at an indicated 130km/h. The Juke is easy to park, small, manoeuvrable, has a nice ride height and not too much wind noise at speed. Excellent air conditioning and quite comfy; very comfortable seats. Driving a bit slower in Eco mode made a substantial difference.”
“The second boot floor is quite useful if you have small enough items to put in there. It (the Juke) was easy to drive on the long road, I didn’t feel tired from driving so far. I wouldn’t market it to families or five people, it will work for people without kids.”
To summarise, the Nissan Juke with a 1.5-litre turbo-diesel engine might look strange to some but it hides some very impressive attributes. If you don’t require vast amounts of space, you will find that this cross-over handles town driving and road trips with aplomb while offering good specifications and excellent fuel economy.
The Nissan Juke 1.5 dCi Acenta+ currently retails for N$273,900.