Let me start off with an apology here: I am so late to the game on this whole thing, and I don’t have a good reason why. This is hardly a secret, but if it somehow eluded me until I saw this tweet from a friend in China. I suspect that there may be others for whom this fact missed, and I can’t go on in good conscience knowing that I didn’t help to let people know that there was an Infiniti-badged version of the happily goofy Nissan Juke. It was called the Infiniti ESQ and it was only released in China, and I’m now convinced this tarted-up Juke is actually the Juke to have.
Well, I suppose I mean that if you can’t get ahold of one of these Jukes that’s painted just like my ’73 Beetle or the gleefully ridiculous Juke-R, with the drivetrain from the GT-R. But still, other than that, this improbable Infiniti-badged Juke has really captured my attention, mostly because of the inherent strangeness of the Juke’s design coupled with the fact that taking any lower-end-of-the-market car and dressing it up as a luxury brand is always appealing to me.
Mechanically, there wasn’t anything really that interesting about the first-gen Juke; it was based on the same Nissan B subcompact, cheap-car platform as the Nissan Cube or Micra or Versa Note. It was the styling that made the Juke notable, because it wasn’t like every other small crossover out there. It was a little weird, not exactly attractive, but by no means boring.
It was based on a 2009 Nissan concept called the Qazana, a car that, when seen, would make you do that old movie gag of looking at whatever you were drinking with concern before flinging the contents of your glass into a nearby shrub. See:
Yes, nice and weird. And, though the production model was toned down a lot, it still turned out nice and weird:
The one thing I didn’t expect anyone would be clamoring for, though, is an upmarket Juke, but it seems 2014 China had different thoughts, and the Infiniti ESQ was born. Significantly, 2014 was when the Juke got a facelift, so it seems like the ESQ may have been a way to get some new life out of the sheetmetal that the Juke molted.
Incredibly, I think this date-night Juke is significantly better, visually. Gone is the worst visual detail of the Juke, that awkward flat-bottom chrome V-shape Nissan was insisting on slapping onto every single car’s grille, replaced with a smiley full-width crosshatch-pattern griller. The lower air dam area is no longer a cheap-looking sea of black plastic, and the fender flares are now even more flare-y and body-colored. There’s LED driving lamps and some tasteful chrome trim and the whole thing looks a little cleaner and a little classier.
Around back it’s basically the same thing: a bit of extra brightwork, a center rear foglamp into a nicer rear lower bumper area, and those classy I N F I N I T I chrome letters on the tailgate. Just a few touches.
The interior was a bit upgraded, but not dramatically upgraded, but I suppose enough to make you remember you were in an Infititi, at least as long as you didn’t have a Juke next to you to compare.
The ESQ was at least based on the Juke Nismo, which had a 1.6-liter engine tuned to 197 horsepower and upgraded suspension bits. The performance aspects and the inherent weirdness aspects seem to be key to how the car was marketed, if this Chinese-market ad is any indicator:
So, the ESQ, with help from some little UFO spherical things, gives you sexy alien body and face tattoos or lets you grow copper feathers or leaves? And then you get to tear ass around backroads until you get to a remote warehouse? Okay, sure, why, not, no one else was targeting this specific market, so have at it, Infiniti.
All told, the changes are fairly minor. It’s a mildly re-styled Juke. It sort of reminds me of a car on the more exciting end of a really specific spectrum: the fancied-up cheap car spectrum, with the boring end being anchored by the Cadillac Cimmaron:
Anyway, I just wanted to be sure everyone was aware this thing – did the ever call it the “Esquire?” – existed. Also, if you have a first-gen Juke here in the US, I’d strongly encourage you to order an ESQ grille, bumper, badging, and whatever else you can to re-badge your goofy Nissan Juke as a classy-ass alien-attracting Infiniti ESQ. You’ll be happier.
Not sold in America at the time because the fleet managers at the major car rental firms would have been far too confused by its existence. Imagine back in 2014 that Enterprise rent-a-car would have had to create the “I-can’t-even” class of rentals, which most likely would have been comprised of about 87% percent “manager’s special” rentals.
I love all the high revs and squealing tire sounds that don’t at all match the juke footage in that commercial.
I like the Juke.
Nothing, not even the R can redeem a Nissan Juke.
I like luxury small cars too 😀
Small cars that don’t cost too much to keep on the road but also have luxury features and possibly even some prestige to impress your friends lol
I don’t know why I find it so amusing that they filmed the ESQ commercial in LA and didn’t even try to hide it. Was it really that much cheaper to ship the car to the US for filming than it would have been filming somewhere closer to China/in China?
They film Jeeps out in exotic locations, when it would just be cheaper and easier to film them at the mall down the road from the factory. Apparently showing things in their natural environment doesn’t offer enough ‘sizzle’.
In the front three quarters view it looks more like a Suzuki Swift but the ass is 100% Juke. I don’t like it at all.
The worst example of ‘tarting up’ a small car was the Aston Martin Cygnet. I’ve only ever seen one in the metal and it looked ridiculous: an Aston Martin grille and badge on the automotive equivalent of a golf cart, and the leather interior just looked as though they had tries to turn a pig’s ear into a silk purse.
Count me as one of the people that would really love to own a Cygnet just for the hilarity of it all. I actually looked into it about five years ago but I was too cheap to drop over $40k + shipping + import fees + trying to deal with the hassle of convincing the government that it’s “subtantially similar” in order to comply with the 25-year import laws.
Wow, taking away the bucktooth really helps. That interior in an Infiniti, though…woof.
I’m surprised they didn’t do a long wheelbase version for China.
“Infiniti ESQ LWB: Your chauffer never had so much fun driving you around!”
+1 came here for this
China loves their LWB small cars
Good analysis. Is there an Audi A3L or did I dream that?
That commercial was….something. Are they going into the space warehouse to fornicate and produce more aliens? Is it a death cult? Are they going to watch all the Alien movies? I really need to know how this shakes out.
Well, that’s interesting, and it kind of makes sense. Development costs are pretty much minimal, so even if hardly anybody wanted a fancied-up Juke, the company can probably still make some money off of it.
That brings up a fun question: Which car would you like to see an upmarket version of? I’ll go first. I want a Mustang dressed up in Lincoln badges or a Camaro cosplaying as a Cadillac.
I thought Ford missed a trick with the S197 Mustang. Take one retro-Mustang, stretch it a bit to differentiate it more, give it some chrome–new Mercury Cougar! Take the Cougar, upgrade the styling, give it a power-folding hardtop–Lincoln Mark IX!
You nailed it.
I’ve always thought Lincoln needs a halo car (that nobody will really buy but everyone will know b/c it appears in music videos, etc.) and imagined it being a convertible-only Continental based on the Mustang platform, perhaps with short-form suicide rear doors.
Something, something Blackwood comes to mind.
They almost did!
I guess the Juke’s on us.
Somebody had to say it.
No, no they didn’t.
Now I juked in my mouth.
Everyone plz stop, that’s an order!
What? There’s a moderator here how? As someone who makes $30 and hour trolling web forums, I’m outraged. Outraged!
Juke ‘ant tell me what to do!
Please don’t ban me.
Juke around and find out
The only good Juke is the Juke R, but even then still fugly
uh, nothing compelling enough to want to own one. if the CVT has not grenaded already, the rest of it is Cadillac Cimarron bad.
If forced to choose between taking buses & driving a Juke with Nissan’s awful cvt, I’d drive the Juke just long enough to find my way into a Cimmaron.