Nissan skips the hustle-and-bustle of next week’s Frankfurt auto show by lifting the covers off its second-generation Juke in simultaneous launches across Europe on Monday.
Longer, taller and boasting more interior room, crucially with an impressive 23 ins. (583 mm) of rear-passenger legroom, the new Juke nonetheless lacks the “wow” factor that greeted the first model when it was launched in 2010.
Yet, speaking exclusively to WardsAuto at the U.K. launch in London’s hip East End, Matt Weaver, design director at Nissan Design Europe, stoutly defends the Juke’s new, more grown-up looks.
He argues that, visually, Juke has been victim of copycat designs from many manufacturers of compact crossovers with coupe-like styling.
“Juke was the first of these and now there are some 23 cars like that, probably 25 or more by the end of Frankfurt, and so Juke owns this look,” Weaver says. “For example, Juke came along with a full quad headlamp setup and in that market now, it’s full of four-headlamp setups. So, rather than Juke looking like something else, I tend to feel the market has drifted towards the Juke’s looks.”
Weaver also says the new Juke seeks to satisfy a perceived customer demand for a more sporting and premium product, possibly even lifting the Juke into a higher segment.
“In the case of Juke 2, we have taken some of that original DNA while trying to make it more sporty, while lifting the premium feel of the car, which are more mainstream traits that customers like,” he says.
“Market-wise, yes, we are seeing the crossover from B-segment to C-segment hatchback or (CUV). It’s worth remembering it took nine years for the market to fully digest Juke 1 and now the market is looking more for quality and user interfaces with the car.”
Efficiency figures high in the Juke’s ambitions, offering at launch a diminutive 1.0L turbocharged gasoline 3-cyl. boasting 117 hp at 5,250 rpm and torque of 133 lb.-ft. (180 Nm) delivered between 1,750-4,000 rpm. Performance with the 6-speed manual gearbox is a claimed 0-62 mph (100 km/h) sprint time of 10.4 seconds – 11.1 seconds with the 7-speed dual-clutch auto transmission – and a top speed of 112 mph (180 km/h). Wheels start in 16-in. steel with the entry-level Visia model but rise to 19-in. alloys in the range-topping Tekna and Tekna+ models.
The car is 166 ins. (4,216 mm) long, 71 ins. (1,803 mm) wide and 63 ins. (1,600 mm) tall with a wheelbase of 104 ins. (2,642 mm) and tips the scales at 2,666 lbs. (1,209 kg). While the interior is spacious compared to the outgoing Juke, it’s also sports-focused, boasting race-like bucket seats up front with the option of head-restraint-mounted speakers as part of an eight-speaker Bose audio system.
Speculating on where vehicle design is likely to lead Nissan, Weaver says: “Personally, when you start to look at cars, the way they are driven and the powertrains they will have, it’s going to have an effect on the way the car looks.
“A well-designed product should be designed towards the way it performs in (terms of) form follows function. I think that will trickle down with the EV powertrains and the aesthetics of cars will change.
“Technology is also likely to direct the look of interiors and that will be the moment we will be leaning towards more use of screens,” he says, “but we can see this is going to be a transition period and we are already thinking of concepts as the next stage after that.
“I think you’ll find that, particularly with Nissan, when the herd moves in one direction, we are a company that tends to go in our own unique way.”