Nissan stays edgy with refreshed Juke

The 2015 Juke gets a redesigned front grille to match what is now the signature Nissan V-shaped front.

GENEVA -- Four years after introducing a small crossover with a polarizing design, Nissan Motor Co. plans to change as little as possible on the 2015 Juke.

Except to make it a bit more polarizing.

Concerned that competitors are now creeping into the Juke's segment, which some observers once criticized as odd looking boxes on wheels, Nissan wants to move deeper into the look – not mellow it out, says Andy Palmer, Nissan's global product planning czar.

Nissan unveiled the refreshed Juke at the Geneva Motor Show in advance of the car's European launch this summer. U.S. showrooms will receive it in the second half of this year.

"You love it or you hate it," Palmer told reporters in Geneva. "When we showed the original concept here a few years ago, nobody believed that we'd ever build it.

"Juke needs to describe what Nissan stands for -- which is a little bit left-field, a little bit different. Certainly not in the model of other Japanese and Asian rivals.

"It seems to be working," he said. "We did pretty well in the United States last month."

Intended as a low-volume niche vehicle that combined a crossover with a compact sports car, the Juke has exceeded Nissan's sales expectations. Worldwide, sales have totaled 420,000 in four years, including 38,157 in the United States last year.

Palmer said the Juke has become the brand's top-performing model for conquests, with 85 percent of its buyers migrating from other brands.

He said it was important to maintain the model's original sense of polarization.

"You have your mainstream cars, your Versa, Sentra and Altima," Palmer said. "But you also need some outliers that really demonstrate the identity of the car company."

The 2015 version gets a redesigned front grille to match what is now the signature Nissan V-shaped front.

Both the front and rear received more cladding below the bumper. The rear lamps were redesigned into a boomerang shape with LED lights, which also went into the door mirrors and daytime running lights.

The compact also picked up 40 percent more luggage space.

The Juke's inside trim and motorcycle fuel tank-inspired center stack are now available in a range of colors that can be separate from the car's exterior color.

"Since we launched the Juke, there have more than a few pretenders," Palmer said of other entries in the small sports-crossover segment since 2010, "although I don't believe any of them has come close to our edginess."

You can reach Lindsay Chappell at lchappell@crain.com

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