Marmite car divides opinion

TURNING into the hospital approach road in my distinctive Juke, what was coming the other way at the lights? Yep, another one.

Two minutes later, looking for a parking space in a crowded car park I spotted... yes, another Juke, with space alongside. And in the same colour as the test car.

“Hope the owner doesn’t try to get into the wrong one,” was my first thought. My second was to avoid the car parked at the far end of my bay. Of course, it was Juke number four.

Which tells me two things (at least); that Nissan’s distinctive take on a crossover (a mix between conventional hatch and butch SUV) is both popular with the punters and not as unusual a sight as an owner might like.

Part of its attraction must be the way it seems to provide more car for your money, a product of being taller than most rivals and looking mean and moody at the same time.

Prices range from £13,395 to £20,295 and there’s a choice of petrol and diesel engines, manual or auto gearboxes and, on one of the pricier models, four-wheel drive.

Nearly every Juke will be front drive only and if an owner can find the £1,400 premium for diesel over petrol, ought to be fuelled by the smelly stuff – not only for its impressive fuel figures but also for the way it drives.

But before we get into the Juke’s road manners, there is the styling to consider. It surely dominates every possible owner’s buying decision.

This is a true Marmite car; you’ll either love its standout looks or think it resembles something from a child’s attempt at drawing mummy’s car. Happily for Nissan, there are thousands of people who think this Sunderland-built sweetie is the best thing since sliced toast (with Marmite, of course).

If the bulges and sweeping contours on the outside do it for you then you’ll probably enjoy a seat inside. Nissan talks about a motorcycle influence in the cabin and the shrouded instrument panel and petrol tank-like bulge between the front seats have a two-wheeler feel.

More sci-fi than biker is a dial that can tell you how much g-force you pulled round the last corner, which never moved in my company and looked like a waste of money.

Look beyond this gimmick and beneath the glitz sits a broadly conventional hatchback. Which is mostly good news, with its diesel engine sounding gruff from cold but turning quieter as things warm up and providing surprisingly punchy performance.

It drives with some precision, no doubt helped by a ride that can turn choppy on the worst roads.

My test car showed 56mpg on the trip computer, a much closer approach to the quoted Euro figure than most cars manage. The figure must have been helped by the Juke’s willingness to accept a high gear from low speed without the faintest protest.

There’s enough room inside for a growing family and the boot floor conceals a second luggage area, but no spare wheel (there’s a can of gloop instead).

Standard kit on my car included satellite navigation, reversing camera, cruise control, alloy wheels, six speaker sound system with Bluetooth and electric windows all round.