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Driven: Nissan Juke Nismo RS. Image by Nissan.

Driven: Nissan Juke Nismo RS
An even hotter version of Nissan's high-powered Juke.

   



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Nissan Juke Nismo RS

4 4 4 4 4

Good points: great looks, great performance, great interior

Not so good: handling not quite up to the best in class, expensive

Key Facts

Model tested: Nissan Juke Nismo RS
Price: Nismo RS from 21,995; 22,695 as tested
Engine: 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: front-wheel drive, six-speed manual
Body style: five-door crossover
CO2 emissions: 168g/km (Band H, 295 VED first 12 months, 205 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 39.2mpg
Top speed: 137mph
0-62mph: 7.0 seconds
Power: 218hp at 6,000rpm
Torque: 280Nm from 3,600- to 4,800rpm

Our view:

Since we last drove this oddball hot hatch (yes, you've got to try and think of it as a hot hatch; Nissan doesn't do a conventional B-segment vehicle that it could spice up, as the alternative to a Juke is the Note), Nissan's tuning arm Nismo has had another fettle of the fastest Juke going - save for the mental, one-off R specials. Power and torque from the same 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol four are up to 218hp and 280Nm, from 200hp and 250Nm previously, meaning the 0-62mph time tumbles 0.8 seconds to 7.0 seconds flat and top speed is up from 134- to 137mph. The Juke's body has been strengthened, the front brake discs have increased in diameter by 34mm, the rear items are now ventilated, a limited-slip differential is fitted to the front axle and the spring and damper rates are tuned to suit the extra capability.

The resulting car gains 2,000 on the old model's list price and the letters 'RS' in its nameplate, to give us the Nissan Juke Nismo RS - the company's third hottest machine after the GT-R and 370Z. And it looks bloody splendid. Never the biggest fans of the Juke's idiosyncratic mush, slathering the car in 700 Storm White paint and adding in a beefy body kit, red detailing and some black alloys transforms its appearance in our eyes; the aggressive stance and appearance goes well with that boomerang-eyed face to create a cohesive, appealing whole. Seems like the plan to widen Nismo's appeal in the UK by letting it loose on this incredibly popular crossover is working, too, judging by the knowing stares the RS got while out and about on the roads.

Things are just as good within, the star attractions being those gorgeous Recaro front buckets. The Juke's high hip point does mean the side bolster of the base nips at the back of your thigh as you get in and out, but once you're in place they're comfortable, supportive and capable of being dropped down a long way relative to the car, giving the driver at least some semblance of feel that they're behind the wheel of a performance car, rather than in something riding on stilts.

Standard equipment includes a whole load of Nissan's Safety Shield technology, touchscreen satnav on a 5.8-inch console screen, keyless entry and go, cruise control and a reversing camera, among more; although the Nismo details are what really lift things. The steering wheel with Alcantara grips, the red dials in the instrument cluster, the brand's badges in just the right places, carbon-effect trim and that weird little lozenge of Alcantara on top of the dash on the driver's side are all great - as is the system for selecting between drive modes and climate in the lower centre console. The six buttons illuminate differently according to which system you're using and the screen between them shows either the interior temperature or nerdy things like boost pressure and g-force. It's a neat way of integrating the two things together, without installing a secondary TFT display costing the Earth.

There's good space in the back and the revised Juke has a 354-litre boot with all the seats in place, so it's also practical - and its 'hidden' rear door handles confused one friend and his wife, as he tried to tilt the front passenger seat forward to allow her ingress to the back. It can therefore convince you, and the unwitting, that it really is a three-door hot hatch, despite its jacked-up ride height. Fuel economy during our 800 miles behind the wheel (a proper mix of long motorway journeys and local-roads-hacking-about) was a fantastic 37.2mpg, and we used the Nismo's acceleration plenty of times during the week as well.

This Nismo RS was a six-speed manual model, which we'd definitely recommend over the alternative: it's a CVT. Good lord, no! Not only that, but the Xtronic automatic adds 2,105 to the Nismo's list price, junks the limited-slip diff for electronic torque vectoring and reduces the torque back to the old pre-RS figure of 250Nm; the only benefit being the Nismo RS Xtronic is four-wheel drive, where the manual is front-driven.

So unless you crave a crossover hot hatch but you live in a very slippery area, stick with the manual. Because, despite the basis vehicle, the end result is dynamically brilliant. It cannot quite match the exceptional talents of the more conventional stars in this class, like the Ford Fiesta ST or the Peugeot 208 GTi by Peugeot Sport, but if you drive it back-to-back with a Volkswagen Polo GTI or Renaultsport Clio 200 EDC, you'll be smitten.

Ironic, really, that it shares its engine with the rapid Renault (indeed, the Clio 220 Trophy's unit is in the same state of tune) yet actually proves to be the more entertaining steer compared to a car that was once the benchmark in this segment. There's plenty of sensation of the steering wheel tugging in your hands under power in the Juke Nismo RS, but that's just the diff trying to apportion torque to where it's needed most. Tune into that counter-intuitive manner of driving an LSD-equipped front-wheel drive machine - in which you put the power on almost pre-apex, just when you think you're running out of grip - and the Juke will reward you in spades.

It has mammoth traction in the dry, the engine is incredibly muscular and tractable and the steering is wonderfully informative and weighty, in a way many other cars in this class should strive to emulate. It's apparent from the first few metres that the Nismo RS is very stiffly sprung and firmly damped, so the ride is never what you'd call cushioned, but neither is it uncomfortable and it's a well-judged set-up that allows the Juke to breathe with the road surface, rather than skittering all over it like an excitable, startled deer. The Nissan cruises reasonably well too, with the noises of the engine, wind and tyres all suppressed to a high standard.

It's not perfect, of course, with the caveat to continually bear in mind being its dynamic excellence has to be couched in the terms of its status as a high-riding vehicle. Body control is good, but at 1,315kg the Juke is portly compared to rivals and you can feel that extra mass/higher centre-of-gravity coming to the fore as you set the car up for corners. There's more noticeable weight transfer than you'd get in any of the normal hot hatches. That weight also blunts the performance, because while it's quick for a crossover and sounds all menacingly bass-rich when charging hard, a seven-second 0-62mph time is hardly class-leading in this day and age.

Still, it's an impressive showing and there's a final plus point for the Juke Nismo RS, which is a set of phenomenally powerful, fade-free (on the road, at least) brakes that have perfect pedal progression and masses of bite; commit hard, stand on the middle pedal and the Nissan sheds speed with real alacrity, so with the epic stoppers coupling to the strong chassis it proves to be a really quick point-to-point machine.

It has become more expensive than it was before but the tweaks that have turned the Juke Nismo into the Juke Nismo RS are worthwhile. It's technically in a class of one (go on, name us another B-segment crossover with 218hp, firm suspension and a limited-slip diff), but in reality it has to be compared to similarly priced hot hatch rivals. In the end, it finishes short of the best-in-class on that score, yet its USP of being a crossover with a commanding driving position makes it tempting. The only barrier will be whether you think 22,695 is too much cash for a Nissan Juke; drive it, and you'll thoroughly adore it.

Alternatives:

Ford Fiesta ST: always there when it comes to compact hot hatches with circa 200hp. Always brilliant. Mountune it for 212hp and the more expensive Nissan is, regrettably, totally outmanoeuvred dynamically.

MINI Cooper S: five-door model starts from 19,440 and is another ungainly looking thing, especially in profile. Cooper S no longer as sparkling to drive as it once was, hence pick the Nismo RS instead.

Volkswagen Polo GTI: the cultured choice; pick it if you don't want your neighbours to disapprove. If you like a bit of fun in your life, however, the Nissan is better.


Matt Robinson - 26 Sep 2015



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2015 Nissan Juke Nismo RS. Image by Nissan.2015 Nissan Juke Nismo RS. Image by Nissan.2015 Nissan Juke Nismo RS. Image by Nissan.2015 Nissan Juke Nismo RS. Image by Nissan.2015 Nissan Juke Nismo RS. Image by Nissan.

2015 Nissan Juke Nismo RS. Image by Nissan.2015 Nissan Juke Nismo RS. Image by Nissan.2015 Nissan Juke Nismo RS. Image by Nissan.2015 Nissan Juke Nismo RS. Image by Nissan.2015 Nissan Juke Nismo RS. Image by Nissan.



2015 Nissan Juke Nismo RS. Image by Nissan.
 

2015 Nissan Juke Nismo RS. Image by Nissan.
 

2015 Nissan Juke Nismo RS. Image by Nissan.
 

2015 Nissan Juke Nismo RS. Image by Nissan.
 

2015 Nissan Juke Nismo RS. Image by Nissan.
 

2015 Nissan Juke Nismo RS. Image by Nissan.
 

2015 Nissan Juke Nismo RS. Image by Nissan.
 

2015 Nissan Juke Nismo RS. Image by Nissan.
 

2015 Nissan Juke Nismo RS. Image by Nissan.
 






 

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