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Where’s Stephen Bayley when you need him? Here we are, photographing the outlandish new Nissan Juke in the Gateshead car park that starred in cult 1971 gangster flick Get Carter and CAR’s debonair design critic is nowhere to be seen. We’re sure an aesthete like Stephen would unravel the Brutalist values of concrete jungle and car alike, but in his absence us mere amateurs are left in stunned silence to stare in wonder. God they’re both ugly.
The Juke feels at home here. A latticework of angular concrete soars above, like some evil henchman’s vessel in an early Star Wars film set, only this one swaps Hans Solo’s radar-dodging matt grey for the mottled sludge-brown of ageing cement and old people’s shoes. The demolition men arrive in 12 hours to raze one of the nation’s most iconic car parks and ours is the last car to set wheel on its ’60s ramps and walkways.
There’s a spiritual link between car and concrete. The Juke’s built just a dozen miles away in Nissan’s Sunderland plant and, on a clear day, you can see the factory from the 12th floor. Is there a deeper artistic connection? Gateshead’s Trinity Square civic car park was designed in 1962 by Owen Luder and proved divisive from day one; we’d wager that even its biggest fans won’t find the new Juke beautiful either. Striking, perhaps. Unlike anything else out there, certainly. Something quite unprintable, most likely.
Where Brutalist architecture favoured perpendicular lines, bare concrete edifice and an honest exposure of a building’s innards, the Juke has an altogether more modern DNA cooked up in Nissan’s London design studio. From those extraordinary front lights – big dinner-plate headlamps down below, thin slivers of day running beams up top – to the ‘wine rack’ grille and mash-up of coupé glasshouse mated to SUV bottom, the Juke is wantonly different. It’s like wearing a t-shirt with a rude logo; you may as well jump up and down like a toddler and scream, ‘Look at me! Look at me!’

Nissan reckons there’s a breed of young man out there who craves such attention and the marketeers have even coined a name for this group: urban players. Yep, sounds like Nissan’s gunning for the pushy geezers who drive estate agent Minis and lower-league German fayre around our trendier districts, iPhones clamped to their ears as they chew gum and chat up birds. They’ll certainly stand out in the Juke, a car whose discord Chris Bangle would surely applaud.There’s reason behind the stylistic chutzpah. Nissan has become something of a crossover pioneer in recent years; it by no means invented the genre, but with the Murano, Qashqai and now Juke, not to mention Infiniti’s FX and EX, the Japanese have easily the widest – and wildest – range of road-biased SUVs in Europe. The runaway success of the Qashqai in particular spurred Nissan on to experiment with a smaller crossover. It’s sold three quarters of a million Qashqais in Europe in just three years and 80 per cent of customers are new to Nissan. In the mainstream car business, that’s gold dust.
This was the backdrop to the dramatic Qazana concept car, which surprised the 2009 Geneva motor show. We were met by angular proportions, a face that even its mother would find challenging and its squat roofline angled like a GTR’s. Is it over-egging the pudding to say the Juke has stayed true to the concept? These days most show cars are designed after the production vehicle has been signed off. They’re a warm-up act to the main event.

 

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