WHAT is the ultimate symbol of fame?
Is it your own TV show? A fragrance with your name on it? Your own star on Hollywood Boulevard?
No. It’s got to be having your face on a banknote.
Only Her Majesty and the absolute creme de la creme of British historical figures appear on our legal tender.
For example, Winston Churchill, Charles Darwin, James Watt, Jane Austen, JMW Turner, Alan Turing.
So hats off to Matt Weaver, 49, from North London, who designed the Nissan Juke.
I’ve always known Juke was a good crossover but they love it so much in Cambodia it is depicted on a 500-riel banknote.
Worth about 10p but an achievement all the same.
Weaver said: “I have the banknote at home somewhere.
One of the guys came back with it from holiday.
“It shows a Juke crossing a bridge.
We always thought Juke was on the money. Turns out it really is. I’ve just written a Sun headline there, haven’t I?”
More importantly, Juke continues to make big money for Nissan, 12 years after the bug-eyed original invented the crossover segment. Global sales have topped 1.2million.
Juke is designed, engineered and built here — so it’s a proper British success story.
As is Qashqai, Weaver’s other smash-hit.
Now Juke 2 is going hybrid (no cable needed) to keep it fresh for those more mindful of the world around us.
I’ll keep it simple.
First gear is pure electric drive. It’ll do up to 80 per cent of town driving as an EV and up to 34mph.
So, low emissions.
Born to be different
And the 1.6-litre petrol-electric combo is 20 per cent more fuel-efficient than a plain old petrol Juke. It also has a bit more oomph.
The electric motor adds 49hp to the 94hp petrol engine — total output 143hp — and you get an even bigger dollop of torque.
That’s why you see me here in the Sahara Desert driving this one-of-a-kind Juke hybrid rally car.
You won’t be able to buy one with a roll cage, roof lights or a hydraulic handbrake — that’s the fun stick for big skids — but the hybrid powertrain and gearbox are untouched from the road car.
It was a lot of fun.
Juke 2 is much sportier than Juke 1 — lighter, stiffer, quicker steering — and I’ve always said the chassis could easily handle more grunt.
More than this, if I’m honest.
Weaver tells me Juke was inspired by beach buggies and off-road rally cars.
That’s why the 2015 Gripz concept, which previewed Juke 2, was painted red and black — as a nod to the legendary Datsun 240Z, winner of the 1971 East-African Safari Rally.
That’s also why this Juke hybrid has a black bonnet and roof.
It looks the mutt’s nuts.
Nissan won’t say but I reckon there’s got to be a special edition in the pipeline.
Or at the very least, give us the option of a black bonnet.
After all, Juke was born to be different.
Weaver said: “I think it’s cool. It’s got a genuine skunkworks look to it and turns up the volume of what’s embedded in the car already.
“If someone wanted to put a black vinyl wrap on it, you’ll see the guidelines are in the hood ready to fit it too.
“I can imagine someone would do that.”
When Weaver retires and spends his days pruning his rhododendrons, he’ll be able to tell his grandkids he is crossover royalty.
And he’s got the banknote to prove it.
Q&A WITH JUKE DESIGN CHIEF MATT WEAVER
WHERE does the name Juke come from?
American football. It means to dodge, to move out the way. To juke someone. That, for me, symbolises the car and its design. It captures the character of the car. It tells you it’s unpredictable. It might shift, it might move.
WHEN Juke 1 arrived in 2010, there was nothing else like it on the road. How did you pull it off?
Qashqai was working and the “wise man” might have thought maybe we should just make a smaller version of that. But one of Nissan’s strong points is that each car has its own character.
From the get-go, everything with Juke was completely different. Everything was contrary. Do it a different way. Every other car had two headlamps. We had four. There was just a feeling it could be a little bit more light-hearted, a bit more bubbly and boisterous.
The idea of a beach buggy is quite light-hearted and captured the off-road but in a different way. It became so popular we had to add another shift at Sunderland to make it. It doubled predictions.
NOW Juke 2 has at least 24 rivals.
Interestingly, for me Juke is still the centre of the market. Everything is compared to or assessed next to Juke. It’s the benchmark.
Gen-two is a more premium offering, the quality is a lot better, and I think it has surpassed our expectations again.
Perhaps gen-one was more polarising. Some people see it as more of a “female” car.
I think gen-two covers a broader customer base. It has lots of Juke cues. It’s quirky enough but also sporty, with a good stance.
THE next Juke will surely be electric. Does it worry you that EVs will become white goods or mobility pods?
The reason I get up in the morning is to try and make sure they don’t. There are many reasons why they can – because of legislation and aerodynamics and costs.
But actually, within design at Nissan, even our executives, it is very clear that we try to carve our own path.
Always things are selected based on, “We haven’t seen that before, that could be quite cool, let’s give it a go”, rather than: “Oh yeah, I feel easy with that.” So we always take that contrary route.
Juke will always be the provocative one, something that will break new boundaries.
KEY FACTS: NISSAN JUKE HYBRID
Price: £23,500 est
Engine: 1.6-litre petrol with e-motor
0-62mph: 10.1 secs
Top speed: 103mph