DRIVEN: NISSAN JUKE NISMO
Nismo's European debut is a 200hp crossover - is this the end of the hot hatch as we know it?
new Juke Nismo. Take a guess which... Take a guess...
Now, while it may seem absurd that Nissan would lay on a circuit and not let us drive around it in the debut Nissan Motorsport product for Europe in a haze of tyre smoke and toasted brake pads, this does in fact reflect the kind of car we're dealing with here. A blazing, upright alternative to the next Clio Renaultsport this is not.
Instead, the Juke Nismo is a rather likeable warmed over version of a quirky urban crossover, which will no doubt help Nissan maintain the absolute stranglehold over a segment the Juke basically created in the first place. The outcome of all this is rather better than it appears - promise.
Driving it in Spain, the augmented engine feels usefully urgent from moderate revs, duff noise or not, while the steering - though undeniably artificial - offers convincing enough evidence about what's happening to make the surprisingly playful relationship between available power and grip easy to judge. There is quite a bit of weight transfer to deal with if you cock it up, but in the name of mass-market appeal the Juke is of a deliberately forgiving nature.
a 344hp 370Z this summer , and the aforementioned extra-enhanced Juke variant, which might just end up circuit-biased. Eventually, Nismo is aiming to be the glue that runs right through the regular Nissan range to the GT-R, suggesting a Nismo Note and Micra might even be possible. Although, actually, that rather makes us shudder.
Anyhoo, back to this Juke. For just under £20K you also get an aerodynamically optimised (it says here) bodykit, a ton of toys - the new Nissan Connect 2.0 infotainment system is standard, complete with bigger 5.8-inch screen and a Google "send to car" feature that allows you to do route planning on your computer, for example - and some Alcantara. It has the word 'lifestyle' written all over it.
Possibly not the PH lifestyle. That would have involved the track. But for Nismo in Europe it's a curiously compelling if not exactly earth-shattering start.
NISSAN JUKE NISMO (FWD MANUAL)*
Engine: 1,618cc 4-cyl in-line turbo
Transmission: 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Power (hp): 200@6,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 184@2,400-4,800rpm
Top speed: 134mph
*Slower, heavier, CVT auto four-wheel drive version also available, priced £22,195; does get multi-link rear suspension and torque vectoring by way of compensation. We weren't offered the chance to drive it.