Car reviews - Nissan - Juke - Nismo RS
Tight-hugging sports seats, notchy manual transmission, pointed steering, taut on-road dynamics
Room for improvement
Old infotainment system, lofty pricetag puts it up against very accomplished hot hatches, no manual all-wheel-drive option
Nissan's 160kW/280Nm Juke Nismo RS combines hot hatch thrills with SUV practicality
11 Oct 2018
By TUNG NGUYEN
The hot hatch market is getting crowded, with the likes of the Volkswagen Golf GTI, Ford Focus ST, the Hyundai i30 N newcomer and fresh Renault Megane RS on offer.
Hoping to stand apart from the crowd, Nissan has finally brought the Juke Nismo RS to Australia – after it was made available in international markets five years ago – to complete the performance sub-brand’s trifecta.
Sitting alongside ground-up sportscars such as the two-seat 370Z and fast-and-furious GT-R, the Nismo-tuned Juke small SUV sticks out even more than its standard siblings as one of the only small-sized high-riding high performers in the country.
Can the aggressive bodykit, modest bump in power and small mechanical tweaks justify the new Juke's Nismo badge?
Like or loathe its looks, there is no doubt that the regular versions of the Nissan Juke is a more engaging steer than some of its small SUV contemporaries thanks to its small footprint and eager dynamics.
Nismo’s tweaks to the Juke simply enhance its already fun character, adding a weightier steering feel, firmer suspension setup and beefed up anti-roll bars.
The result is pointy front end that is quick to react to direction changes, darting in and out of corners with a keen enthusiasm not yet seen in any mainstream small SUV.
However, the trade-off is that ride comfort takes a noticeable hit, and although it ever strayed into the uncomfortable territory that the 370Z Nismo often finds itself in, it is somewhat at odds with its small-SUV status.
A caveat here is that we were only able to test the front-drive, six-speed manual version through the Adelaide countryside, which showed high levels of grip thanks to its thick 225-section tyres.
However, approach a corner way too early and understeer can be found, but it never felt out of control or unpredictable.
The all-wheel-drive Juke Nismo RS that comes with an active torque vectoring system could fix these problems, but that will have to wait for another review.
Powered by the same 1.6-litre turbo-petrol engine as its Ti-S sibling, the Juke Nismo RS punches out 160kW of power at 6000rpm and 280Nm of torque from 3600-4800rpm – at least when paired with the six-speed manual.
With a continuously variable automatic transmission, power is down to 157kW and torque drops to 250Nm, with the latter available from 2400-6000rpm.
Although these outputs are only a modest bump over the Ti-S’ 140kW/240Nm figures, the Juke Nismo RS is the most powerful vehicle in the sub-$40,000 small-SUV class, while its torque figure is only bested by diesel engines.
The powertrain feels punchy and potent – at least once it reaches about 3000rpm and the turbocharger kicks in – but keep the engine in its sweet spot and the Juke Nismo RS could be a genuine warm hatch contender.
Keeping the revs up is no problem in the manual either, which is a delight to shift thanks to short throws and a notchy engagement.
The most obvious changes to the Nismo RS on the outside include its sportier bodykit, 10-spoke, 18-inch wheels and a larger diameter exhaust, none of which will help if you are not a fan of the Juke’s looks.
Some folks might think the best part of being inside a Juke is that you don’t have to look at it from the outside, but the Nismo RS’ cabin is great thanks to heavily bolstered sports seats, an Alcantara-clad steering wheel, red highlights and carbon-fibre-like trim details.
The sporty appointments to the interior, especially the form-fitting seats and soft-touch tiller, are right on the money, but the Juke Nismo RS’ cabin is let down by the old infotainment system.
Measuring 5.8 inches (smaller than some new smartphones), the infotainment screen feels small and low-resolution compared with newer offerings from the likes of Hyundai and Honda, but at least the system includes all the necessities such as satellite navigation, Bluetooth connectivity and digital radio.
In a vacuum, the Juke Nismo is a great vehicle. It’s fun to punt around corners, feels well put together and looks like an extra from The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.
However, its $37,490 before on-road costs asking price for the manual front-driver and $41,990 for the continuously variable automatic all-wheel-drive version are its Achilles heel.
This price point puts it right up against the wonderful $39,990 Hyundai i30 N and benchmark $37,490 Volkswagen Golf GTI Original, two cars that offer more performance and a bigger boot to boot.
Stacked up against warmed over light hatchbacks though, and the Juke Nismo RS starts to make a bit more sense, offering a bit more performance than the likes of the Suzuki Swift Sport and Renault Clio RS.
We feel the Juke Nismo RS is a genuinely good sporty car (especially surprising given its SUV roots) that rewards precise driving, features bucket loads of flair and is deserving of the Nismo badge, but some will be put off by the price.
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