The honour of being the first non-hatchback entry into our Big Guy, Small Car series goes to the Nissan Juke.
But then, that’s not really right, is it? I mean, the Juke is a hatchback, right? It’s hardly any taller than a VW Golf, after all…
That’s the thing, though. Nissan has to be commended for being one of the first manufacturers to really popularize the subcompact crossover segment (or micro crossover, or urban utility vehicle, or….). That is to say, small crossovers based not on compact but subcompact platforms; the Juke, for example, actually shares its platform with the Nissan Micra as opposed to the Sentra, which underpins the Juke’s big-brother Rogue. Since the Juke was first released for the 2011 model year, Mazda, Honda, Jeep, Fiat and Chevrolet have all jumped on the bandwagon in North America.
So, it stands to reason that the Juke is seeing a lot of popularity in European markets where these micro-crossovers have been weaving their way through narrow city streets and alleys for quite some time now (it also gets a diesel engine there, which Europeans love). So you knew it would work there, but what about here in Canada? Is there more to the Juke that its modest 2014 sales figure of 3,641 suggests?
Well, considering there are some choice additions for 2015 – and this year’s Juke sales are on pace to double last year’s – maybe there is something here for you or the Big Guy in your life.
Oh, and let’s get the “ohmigod, it looks like a frog” thing out of the way, right now. Unless you look real closely and spot the subtle “this is a Nissan detail” – the V-shaped front grille bars, the rear taillight lenses – I wouldn’t blame you if you spotted a Juke with no markings and thought it was something else. It’s unique, it’s distinctive and while I can’t say it’s pretty, I’m not sure it’s supposed to be.
Further, strange lines or no, you gotta’ like the Cosmic Blue paint job, especially when it’s given white accents as ours was, though those do come at a cost.
The Knee Test
So you’re walking up to your Juke and taking in those lines; the bug-eye DRLs (those little round things below the lights mounted atop the fenders? Those are your headlights), the subtly flared fenders and the almost coupe-ish profile (since the vertical rear door handles are camouflaged with the rear windows), and you prepare to step in.
By different criteria: Comparison Test: Affordable Everyday Fun Cars
Of course, you’re conscious that this is a small car. So, wanting to keep your hairdo intact and your forehead bruise-free you’re careful to duck as you step into the car. The step itself isn’t a big issue – you actually step down into the Juke – but that’s only half of it.
As any Big Guy driver knows, it’s not enough to just duck and be done with it; you have to watch out for your elbows against hard armrests or your knees against hard door cards and centre stacks.
Well, your right elbow should be OK, because the Juke – even in top-spec SL trim – doesn’t have any front armrests. Of course, that presents other issues, but we’ll get to those in a minute. Your legs should be okay too, because the Juke has a surprising amount of room between the seat and steering column/lower dash, so there’s room aplenty for your legs. If you want more room, then the wheel manually tilts, although it does not telescope.