So, you like the ride height of an SUV, the performance of a hot hatch and the looks of a dog that’s been kicked up the rear? Then you’re a slightly peculiar person but you’re also in luck, there’s a new version of the Nissan Juke Nimso RS that will be right up your street.
The second version of this strangest of combinations has hit our shores and arrived at Scotsman Towers on the coattails of its altogether more macho relation the 370Z Nismo. While the Juke has a 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo rather than the Z’s 3.7 naturally aspirated V6, and has four seats and a usable boot in place of a parcel shelf, it does share some styling cues with the Z.
As with all Nismo production cars (including the bonkers Middle East-only Patrol Nismo), the Juke has been fleshed out with deeper front and rear bumpers, widened wings, bigger (18-inch) wheels and a roof spoiler. It’s also been treated to a splash of the signature metallic red on the wing mirrors and around the skirts of the car. Allied to our car’s optional pearlescent white paint this certainly helps the RS stand out from the standard Juke and makes its connection to the Nismo tuning team clear.
And make no mistake, the tuners have been as hard at work as the stylists. They’ve taken the 1.6-litre turbo petrol from the standard Juke and wrung 215bhp from it. They’ve also upped torque to 207lb/ft. While these numbers aren’t earth-shattering in the era of the 345bhp Ford Focus they’re still enough to create an entertaining experience behind the wheel. Keep the turbo on song and the Juke is a rapid, willing performer, bounding up the road with the enthusiasm of a good hot hatch. Let it come off the boil, though, and it’s a different matter.
Decent straight-line urge is matched by quick steering and there’s a mechanical limited-slip differential to help get all that torque down through twistier stretches. The Juke’s chassis, suspension and body have also been stiffened and the brakes upgraded to help its performance match its sporty pretensions. That extra stiffness shows in the firmness of the ride – tough but not unbearable – but there’s still a touch more body roll than in rivals due to the Juke’s extra height. The brakes are reassuringly strong at higher speeds but annoyingly grabby around town.
The LSD is only available with the two-wheel drive version, there is a four-wheel drive option but is best avoided. It only comes with the automatic gearbox which is an old-fashioned and sluggish shifter that makes you sound and feel like a bad driver. The front wheels can cope with the torque and the car feels far livelier with the six-speed manual.
It’s fairly safe to assume that practicality isn’t high on the list for most Juke RS buyers. This is probably just as well. While the boot’s an acceptable 354 litres, rear legroom is sorely limited and although there’s more space up front the lack of reach adjustment on the steering is massively frustrating.
The interior is, overall, a mixed bag. Our test car came with the optional Recaro bucket seats which hold you snugly once you get in but threaten to do you a serious injury on entry and exit thanks to unforgivingly high bolsters. It’s also well-equipped with NissanConnect systems offering navigation, Bluetooth and USB connectivity and a suite of extra apps through the 5.8-inch touchscreen. There’s a Tech Pack – featuring Xenon headlamps and Nissan Safety Shield with Around View Monitor 360-degree camera, lane departure and blind spot warning – and cruise control and keyless entry are also standard.
However, the NissanConnect screen is supplemented by a ridiculous secondary screen which shows either driving mode information or climate control details. It’s fussy and feels unnecessary given the presence of the main screen. There are also a few questionable plastics among the nicely finished switchgear.
For all its failings, though, there’s something faintly lovable about the Juke Nismo RS. It looks like nothing else on the roads and, while not up there with the most dynamic hot hatches, is an entertaining drive for those after something a bit different.
Engine: 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol producing 215bhp, 207lb/ft
Transmission: Six-speed manual driving the front wheels
Performance: Top speed 137mph, 0-62 in 7.0 seconds