Review: Nissan Juke Nismo RS.

The appearance of the Juke Nismo RS is fun and funky, or plain ugly, according to taste
The appearance of the Juke Nismo RS is fun and funky, or plain ugly, according to taste
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So, white is out. Grey is in. Those are the findings from sales of Ford cars in Europe last year. Mind you, with dozens of shades of grey it was always going to be a one-sided contest with white. As a matter of record, the first Ford Model T was offered in grey – as well as the famous black.

There’s daft socio babble via Ford (from “experts”) that we turn to grey, so to speak, in times of political and economic uncertainty. In that case why has it taken so long to be Number One on Fords?

Truth: grey is a flattering and versatile colour. It can be neutral or dynamic, depending on the paint mix and the body it is covering.

Anyway, back to white.

The Nissan Juke Nismo RS was white, with highlights of red and graphite along the edges – and red mirror shells. It had red brake callipers and dynamic blackish wheels with silvery tips to the wheel spokes.

The face was even more of a riot of shapes than a regular Juke, scooped and ducted, similar at the back, where a roof blade and lower diffuser accompanied the fat exhaust pipe. A Juke is never demure. You may call it ugly. I can’t argue with that. In design it is a small SUV cum crossover cum whatever version of hatchback you care to call it. It stands higher than, say, a Nissan Micra.

This is the main reason why the RS does not handle like, say a Focus ST. It rolls too much when changing direction and, despite an electronic differential, does not manage the power delivery cleanly through the front wheels. There is some scrabble but – more annoying – an initial steering tug left or right when you are giving it the works on a bend. That was on dry roads. On wet roads I have no idea what happens. Even here I can’t rely on rain.

The 1.5-litre petrol turbo has been tuned to give 215bhp (at 6,000 rpm) and 206lb ft of torque from 3,600rpm. On the one hand it will reach 60mph in second gear. On the other, the torque is peaking at the speeds where you may be doing a spot of spirited cornering – bringing on the steering tug, aka torque steer. It’s an unhappy combination. In a reasonably straight line and through long bends it feels better. The official 0-62mph time is seven seconds and top speed is 137mph. With the latest high impact speeding fines these max speed figures become even more troublesome. The answer is to set the Juke’s speed limiter.

Nismo refers to Nissan Motor Sport and it’s no idle showroom boast. Nissan has supplied the largest number of engines in the European Le Mans Series of races, including the flagship 24-hour event in June. Nissan-powered cars have won their class there in the last four years. The contract for the LMP2 class has now gone to Gibson (Zytek) of Repton, Derbyshire.

Nissan makes one of the fastest road cars, the GT-R. There has been a Juke version – another story. The RS has tuned steering and suspension, brakes and exhaust system. You can order it with 4x4 traction and an automatic gearbox – which possibly takes care of the steering twitch on the standard car.

Inside the cabin it was mostly black, with red leather bolsters on the Recaro semi-racing front seats, with light red stitching on the rear seats. Front passengers complained about the nearside seat bolster making entry awkward. Once in, though, you are held snug.

The rev counter dial was blood red and the leather wheel had a red band top centre – useful for orientation if you are twirling through hairpin bends. A dark suedette cap covers the dials to prevent reflections.

The car fires up with a pleasant burble through the sports exhaust. The six-speed gearbox is slick. Off you go. There’s a significant hum from the 225/45/18 Contisport tyres and the ride is hard – which is no surprise. There is also a faint whine somewhere up front, masked as the speed rises.

It is a practical car, seating five, with a false boot floor making a flat deck when you fold away the rear seats. There are five storage areas on the transmission tunnel.

The Sunderland-built Juke has been a huge success in Europe since 2010. The 4x4 version comes from Japan, which also supplies the Juke to markets beyond Europe. Juke design is divisive. Prices start at a reasonable £14,590. The question is whether you want a hot Juke costing around £23,000 plus £745 for the pearly white paint?

I wouldn’t desire any Juke because I do not like the exterior – that humpy body and those extravagant bulges for the front and rear lights are shy-making. It recalls the visual assault of the ugly Fiat Multipla, a useful six-seater which carried a rear window sticker saying: “wait until you see the front”.

The Nismo RS has the appeal of an outsider. It’s a lot of money for a car which is a weak challenger in the hot hatch sector.

Verdict: If you allow for its weaker dynamics and love the looks then it’s worth a try. It is a popular car. Also available in grey.

Other news: The Juke is being used to test a phone blocker. This will prevent the driver being distracted by text messages. It fits in the arm rest. Open the lid and the phone reconnects.