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Nissan Juke likely for Australia

The quirky Gen-Y Juke has been designed for the younger buyer.

The quirky Gen-Y Juke was initially only planned as a left-hand drive car for sales in Europe and North America but production in Japan has also made it a prime target for Nissan Australia. There is now a good chance the five-door crossover with the unusual looks will be part of a drive to put more personality into local showrooms, alongside the sporty 370Z and the funky new Micra.

“Two years ago we didn’t have space in our portfolio but now we do,” says the managing director of Nissan Australia, Dan Thompson. “We don’t think of it as a large volume role for us, more from a brand perspective to deliver a stylish sporty crossover. The Juke would sit below the Dualis and X-Trail but is designed as an entirely different vehicle focussed more at on-road performance than off-road capability. We already have the X-Trail for that and the Dualis all-wheel drive as well,” Thompson says.

The Juke is designed for a younger buyer, from its slightly weird frontal treatment to a motor-cycle inspired interior with plenty of colour-coded highlights around the snug cabin. It is powered by a turbocharged 140kW/240Nm 1.6-litre direct-injection petrol four that delivers the performance of a 2.0-litre with economy of a 1.4-litre. The engine is mated to Nissan’s All-Mode 4x4 system which has been updated to include torque vectoring, which can split torque from front and rear but also can move the torque from side-to-side, balancing driver to reduce understeer.

Nissan's vice-president of design and development in Europe, Jerry Hardcastle, says the Juke is being aimed at the same buyer who goes for a Mini. “We hope to repeat the Qashqai (Dualis) experience,” he says. It has been a runaway success for Nissan with more than 200,000 sold globally last year, although it took a re-think on pricing and the introduction of a front-wheel drive model to get it moving in Australia.

Thompson admits the Nissan brand has not been as “sexy” as he would like in Australia and the Juke has a chance to help change that. “We also have the 370Z, Murano and Dualis, and they are all heading in the right direction to deliver an emotional connection with the brand,” he says.

Thompson says a car like the Juke will help the brand connect with younger buyers and, with the all-new Micra and facelifted Dualis - now with seven seats available - arriving this year, perceptions are changing. “We are very much a commercial and SUV brand at the moment. But the plan is to change that by 2012 to get 10 per cent of market share with cars like the Micra.”

But the arrival of the Juke has effectively killed any chance of the square-rigged Nissan Cube coming to Australia. The Cube, a huge seller in Japan and has just reached Europe after the introduction of a second-generation model, was being considered for local sales because of its youth appeal.

But Dan Thompson believes the Juke is a better fit for Australian buyers, even the company has looked at the Cube "many times" while trying to build a workable business case. He admits the Cube has taken a hit because the Juke can do the same job better. “It’s really more in keeping with where we’re going," Thompson says.

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