Nissan Juke NISMO RS: Driven

Hands up, who has dismissed the Juke NISMO RS already? Thought so. Too ugly, too tall and too, well, crossovery. But don't be so hasty. While it won't unseat the hot hatch hierarchy there's much more fun in the Juke than you might imagine.

It doesn't get off to a brilliant start though. The optional Recaro seats feel great initially, grabbing where required and setting the mood nicely. If they could just go a little lowe... Oh. They don't. That's OK, the steering wheel will adjust to compensate... Ah. Rake only. The Juke's driving position is a real shame given the wheel and seats are individually very, very good. Still, at least there's a third pedal down there...

Nope, even a pretty sunset won't help
Nope, even a pretty sunset won't help
Manual labour
Renaultsport fans won't be pleased to hear it, but the Juke NISMO's manual would be superb in the Clio Trophy. In any fast Clio in fact. The clutch is precise and has good weighting, while the shift itself has a distinctly Renaultsport feel to it: quite long in throw but accurate and satisfying, gears changing as quick as you can move the lever. The pedals are set up well too, even if the angle of attack feels more akin to playing a piano.

And, unexpectedly, the good news continues on the road. What's key to appreciate with the NISMO RS, obvious though the statement sounds, is that this isn't a conventional hot hatch. Regardless of NISMO's work, this is still a tall and quite heavy crossover. The laws of physics can not be entirely beaten, however much engineering work is thrown at them.

So the RS will lean and pitch more than a conventional hot hatch. There's also a sense that, effective though the limited-slip diff frequently is at improving traction, it has quite a job on its hands. Occasionally when you would expect the diff to hook up and launch the NISMO out of a corner, there's some scrabbling and the car is unsettled before finding traction.

Lots is good - shame about the driving position
Lots is good - shame about the driving position
RSing around
But for the most part though, the Juke is quite a pleasant thing to hustle along. The ride in particular is laudable; while the body does move more than you might expect, its motions are well controlled and it's always much more comfortable and assured than a Fiesta ST. The brakes have good feel as well and, on the road, easily sufficient performance. Before you know it, you'll be stroking along a B-road at seven-tenths and probably quite enjoying the experience.

The engine is probably worth a mention too, given it's ostensibly the same spec as in the upcoming Clio Trophy. 218hp and 206lb ft are the headline stats, with 62mph in seven seconds and 137mph placing it right amongst the conventional B-segment alternatives. Given the entire market is turbocharged now, it will take something exceptional to stand out. The Juke isn't that. There's more noticeable lag than in some rivals, but it's certainly keen once beyond 2,500rpm or so. As always with these small turbocharged engines, there's little point holding on for every last rev, particularly with the Juke's droney engine note. But it's always fast and responsive enough without ever coming across as a class leading engine. Over to you Renaultsport...

Unfortunately the biggest issue with this Juke NISMO is a philosophical one. Or rather a marketing one. For those NISMO fans (and there must be many) introduced to the brand through Gran Turismo, placing 'NISMO' and 'RS' on the back of the car promises an awful lot. Drive the Juke like you would any other vehicle from any other manufacturer badged RS and it doesn't quite stack up. Those final few tenths where the best performance cars shine is not a happy place for the Juke - it loses precision, becomes quite ragged and feels rather flustered. Perhaps to be expected from a crossover made into a hot hatch, but not from a car with NISMO affixed to it.

Not bad, but 'normal' hatches do it better
Not bad, but 'normal' hatches do it better
Target market
How many Juke NISMO RS customers will know of 400R Skylines and Z-Tune 350Zs? Few, you would imagine. Though a generalising statement, NISMO fans probably aren't Juke fans and vice versa. It's a strange idea in principle to bring them together and one that's equally bemusing on the road; some parts feel encouragingly NISMO fettled and others still feel like a Juke.

The Juke advocates will want the fastest and most expensive version of a very popular crossover and probably won't be disappointed. Those after a hot hatch will be pleasantly surprised but left craving a more exciting drive. As for a true NISMO RS, let's see. There's certainly promise in the Juke, but what's required is a more suitable base product. A front-engined, rear-wheel drive coupe perhaps, with a V6 up front...

1,618cc 4-cyl turbocharged
Transmission: 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive, limited-slip differential
Power (hp): 218@6,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 206@3,600-4,800rpm
0-60mph: 7.0 sec
Top speed: 137mph
Weight: 1,315kg
MPG: 39.2 (NEDC combined)
CO2: 129g/km
Price: £21,650 (basic OTR, £24,550 as tested including £900 for Tech Pack (xenon headlamps, Around View monitor, lane departure warning, blind spot warning and moving object detection), £1,300 for Recaro seats and £700 for Pearlescent paint).



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Comments (60) Join the discussion on the forum

  • wingman0401 26 Mar 2015

    I thought the Recaros were standard on these?

    I'd probably take the xenon light option, I saw a model with these and it did stand out.

    Whether or not I'd buy one is another question. The lack of adjustability in the driving position would no doubt grate over time, and there's a fair premium for this car over the other competition.

    I'd still consider this over the Fiesta for the comfort points alone, but that's down to personal preference, I'd happily exchange bonkers cornering ability to give my back a rest. Must be getting old! frown

  • filski666 26 Mar 2015

    I feel dirty just thinking it, but I actually quite like it.... a I am not going to buy it but as a casual observer kind of way....

  • GravelMachineGun 26 Mar 2015

    Hm. I don't know whether I like it.
    I don't dislike mind you.

    I'd never buy one though, not unless I was a dogger who wanted a nippy car.

  • Neith 26 Mar 2015

    Agreed about the target market. I honestly can't see many long-time Nismo fans being interested in the Juke and likewise a lot of typical Juke customers probably don't know about the previous offerings from Nismo.

    To me Nismo has always represented the best factory tuned versions of Nissan's sports car range as well as the motorsport involvement. Sticking a Nismo badge on a Juke makes the badge somewhat less meaningful I think.

  • Truckosaurus 26 Mar 2015

    I've just picked up one of these on a 2yr Lease to replace my M5 Touring.

    I was looking for something 'left field' as anything sensible would pale into insignificance compared to the M5.

    The Nismo Joke (as my Dreadful Mates have christened it) is amusing around town and whilst making progress on the open road (short gearing means it is in its power band in 6th gear at 60-80mph).

    It Torque-Steers like nothing else (and I've had several turbo Saabs!) which its entertaining at first as it makes the car seems 'lively' but in the wet it might catch people unaware.

    For Good or Ill, I bumped into my Gay Neighbour in the street last week and he was very enthusiastic about the Juke, whereas he's never mentioned any of my other cars.

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