ROCK on, there is a new hardcore punk player ready to hit the SUV dancefloor.
Nissan has launched its Juke urban crossover and despite compact dimension it's poised to make a big impact.
Bold and aggressive styling ensures it stands out from the growing SUV crowd, and early indications are that Nissan may have underestimated its appeal.
While initially thought to primarily turn Gen Y heads, after only a week in showrooms it's already attracting broad age group interest.
Nissan says it will appeal to those looking at something like the Hyundai Veloster or even a Mini, but key competition comes from a fledgling sub-compact SUV segment that includes the Holden Trax, Peugeot 2008, and soon to be joined by the Ford EcoSport and Renault Captur.
The Juke starts from $21,990, which should translate to a drive-away price of less than 25 grand.
Nissan hasn't stopped with the funky exterior. The highlight of the cabin is a curved, motorcycle tank-inspired centre console which is available in silver or red hues.
All three trim levels offer a simple set-up, although getting your head around the Dynamic Control System can take a brief tutorial.
The system enables you to toggle between sport, comfort and eco driving modes, but if you hit the climate button it alters the small screen to provide air-conditioning options. It's actually pretty cool once you get your bearings.
The driver has to make do with height-only adjustment of the steering wheel, yet finding a comfortable position was simple. Pews are comfortable in cloth or leather trim with reasonable support in the right spots.
Being mindful this is a compact offering, four adults can be housed so long as those up front are accommodating and shift forward.
On the road
Surprisingly dynamic with a direct steering feel, the Juke's fun persona translates once you start the engine.
There are two powerplants; a four-cylinder petrol partnered to a five-speed manual or a continuously variable automatic as well as a burly turbocharged four-potter mated with a six-speed manual or the CVT.
Around town the naturally aspirated option is capable with reasonable acceleration, but if you can stump up the extra cash for the turbo model it's well worth the outlay.
Creamy and strong, its acceleration is not neck-snapping, but smooth and willing to work. The auto will rev just shy of the 7000rpm redline without sounding thrashy.
Overtaking or punching into a hole in traffic is a breeze with power at the ready.
Steering turn-in is accurate with a responsive feel for the road, although there is a hint of vagueness through centre and some torque steer with the manual turbo.
What do you get?
Given the groovy interior design the base ST doesn't feel like you've skimped.
Standard gear includes 17-inch alloys, cruise control, multifunction steering wheel, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, climate controlled air con and five-star safety with stability control and six airbags.
The ST-S gains sat nav, automatic wipers and lights, along with a 12.7cm colour screen.
Get into the range-topper and there's leather trim with heated front seats, manual mode with the automatic transmission and all-wheel drive.
Fuel consumption of both units hovers around seven litres for every 100km, but premium unleaded is recommended.
Capped priced servicing is available for the first 12 services or six years. Insurance should be we reasonable for the base 1.6-litre engine, although the turbo may prove expensive with some companies.
With a space saver spare in the floor, the boot is not massive. But drop the 60-40 split fold seats flat and there is reasonable space for awkward items and sports equipment.
You actually get more space in the base models due to the multi-link rear suspension in the Ti-S (830 litres compared to 786).
There are two cup holders in the console, and each door can handle a bottle. It could do with a better spot for phones and other things like keys and MP3 players in the console, although that's the price you pay for the stand-out styling.
In silhouette the Juke looks like an athlete on the starting blocks.
The roofline tapers from the windscreen, with pumped-out wheel arches along with the sculpted fender bulges and lights.
From all angles it's an arresting looking thing…but design opinions are divided.
There are seven exterior colours and two internal hues.
This is a car with personality. Nissan calls it an urban crossover, but it has ample rural appeal.
While you would never tackle anything more challenging than dirt roads, it's comfortable on the highway, searching country roads and around town.
Nissan may well have undercooked the Juke. It's going to have far-reaching appeal with great styling and fun driving characteristics…although the turbo is the pick for those who love some willingness under their right foot.
What matters most
What we liked: Cool exterior lines, strong power delivery from the turbocharged engine, fun to drive.
What we'd like to see: Extendable plastic sleeve on sun visor, extra storage spots up front.
Warranty and servicing: Three-year 100,000km warranty with roadside assist. Six years capped price servicing, every six months or 10,000km. Average price for base model is $314, the turbo average is $348.
Model: Nissan Juke.
Details: Five-door front-wheel and all-wheel drive sub-compact sports utility vehicle.
Engines: 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol generating maximum power of 86kW and peak torque of 158Nm; 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder 140kW and 240Nm.
Transmission: Five-speed manual, six-speed manual (ST-S) and continuously variable automatic.
Consumption: 6.0 litres/100km (manual, combined average), 6.3 (auto); Turbo - 6.9L/100km (m), 7.4L/100km.
CO2: 139g/km (m), 145g/km (a); Turbo - 159g/km (m), 169g/km (a).
Bottom line: ST $21,990 (m), ST $24,390 (a); ST-S $28,390 (m); Ti-S $32,190 (a).
Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.