Be ready for a heady mix of sports and 4x4
One of the smaller 4x4s on the market, Nissan's Juke is also one of the boldest.
Aggressive looks that blend SUV and sports car design cues will help it stand out from rival small cars.
Although 4x4 models are offered, the Juke is designed primarily to offer a sporty drive on the road with most cars making do with two driven wheels. The Kuro (Japanese for 'black') adds a touch of limited edition exclusivity.
To look at the Juke, you'd think it had just come off a stage of the Paris Dakar Rally.
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The big wheels, extended ground clearance and body protection clearly hint at some all terrain ability but much of the effort that has gone into developing the car was actually focused on creating a sporty feel on the road.
The MacPherson strut front suspension is tuned to optimise ride comfort and handling with a cradle-type front subframe included for extra lateral stiffness.
Although the front-wheel-drive versions of the Juke have a basic torsen beam at the rear, the all-wheel-drive models get a special multi-link set-up, of a type not usually found on a car this compact.
The 4x4 set-up itself is Nissan's advanced All-MODE 4x4-i torque-vectoring system.
As well as distributing power between the front and rear axles, it can also split drive between the two rear wheels, reducing understeer and increasing general stability in corners.
Whether front or rear-wheel-drive, the Juke has the ground clearance and chunky tyres to help it cope with the high kerbs and traffic calming measures that litter our urban centres.
Still, as you begin to realise when throwing this Juke around the country lanes, the cleverness of modern engineering means that unpromising statistics like these can still be converted into a car that delivers a satisfying steer.
Nissan has had to adopt a pretty stiff set-up to make it all work but it's a bearable compromise, creating a car that rides not too badly around town and rolls little through tighter bends.
And you can adjust its demeanour to suit either environment thanks to the switchable Eco, Normal and Sport modes. 'sport', as you might expect, offers weightier steering and sharper throttle response.
'Eco' introduces a throttle remap so you get less go for a given throttle opening.
Personally, I'd have traded all this gadgetry for a slightly slicker gear change and slightly more feelsome electric power steering.
There seems to be a huge amount going on with the Juke's design but against the odds, the various elements do mesh together in cohesive fashion. The look is highly adventurous with two sets of headlamps staring out from the front end, vast bodywork bulges over the wheels and the striking dogleg roofline that slopes away violently from the top of the windscreen.
The interlocking circles cut into the under bumper, the rear door handles integrated into the C-pillars, while the boomerang-shaped rear lights add yet more points of interest.
Nissan would like you to see the Juke as a cross between 4x4 and sportscar, a macho alternative to a supermini for youthful urban motorists, roomy yet compact, robust yet dynamic and practical yet playful. The Juke is certainly all of these things.
True, it won't appeal to everyone but that's because it isn't supposed to. If you love it, you'll really love it. But even if the opposite is true, you have to admire Nissan for having the courage to do something different. Very different. But with 'different' becoming a more common sight on our roads, of course, a little differentiation can go a long way and that's where the limited edition Kuro comes in.
Even more so than the regular Juke, it makes other supposedly 'funky' small cars – the Kia Soul, the Toyota Urban Cruiser, even the MINI – look rather dull and compromised. Here at last is SUV-like style for the small car sector without any SUV-like compromises, precisely the same trick the company's bigger Qashqai model pulled off in targeting bigger family-sized models in the larger market segment above. It's an approach that's worked once more here and one that will doubtless be much-copied, just as the Qashqai was. But this is the original. And if you're either young, or young at heart, I can see why you may also think it be the best.