Time Well Spent : Nissan Juke Nismo RS – 9/10

Mike Humble:

The youthful Nissan Juke Nismo RS
The youthful Nissan Juke Nismo RS

Okay so I was converted. I was never a huge fan of the Juke until some first hand and tangible experience of one a little while back when we sampled the talented 1.2 turbo. The styling took a little while to sink in and after a few days of drawing the curtains to its surreal facial grin, I was taken in to its “off the wall” visual aspects. Other people may not be convinced (the other half remains one of them) but whatever your own opinion may be, its certainly striking, different and noticeable – not to mention very popular in terms of sales volumes… its certainly a hit in the showrooms.

The Nismo RS is a different case in point to the standard “cooking” models. Whilst the other trim levels of Nissans compact cross over are very good at what they do (our recently tested 1.2 being an example) they are not the kind of vehicle I would personally dip into my pocket and buy personally. The Nismo RS however, has once again changed my view point entirely from one of slight scepticism into big fan – this rip snorting and slightly surreal road rocket is compact maybe… but one hell of a large bundle of fun for the driver!

On paper, the RS barely raises an eyebrow with its turbocharged 1.6 transverse power unit, but read closer into the small print and you’ll find that big things can, and indeed do, come in small packages. At the command of your right foot you have almost 220Ps of power which is backed up with a healthy 280 newton metres of torque – albeit at a peaky 3600rpm. Add the aforementioned to the rather bonkers exterior fixture and fittings and the engine is home to a fun house that even Pat Sharp could fail to imagine possible. Big wheels, big brakes and some imposing splitter spoilers front and aft are visual cues to the extra performance the Nismo promises.

The dials are clear at night and for most of the daytime. Can be prone to reflections and the temp / fuel gauges are hard to spot at a glance in bright light.
The analogue dials are clear at night and for most of the daytime. Can be prone to reflections and the temp / fuel gauges are hard to spot at a glance in bright light. Buttons for panel dimmer and trip computer options (as seen) are fiddly to operate.

You can re-run the fun on the inside too with the aggressive looking sports seats trimmed in a convincing looking faux suede / alcantara upholstery. Despite the deep bucket styling to the front chairs, they are actually very comfortable, squidgy soft only where you need it and grip your torso correctly when you throw the car with gutso round corners or roundabouts. Not so convincing is the treatment to the pedals – they look a bit “Halfords Gift Voucher” and the sort of hideous things your daughters Saxo driving boyfriend would have. But at least they are tucked away down in the foot well out of the drivers sight for most of the time. It might just be a sign of me being the wrong side of forty perhaps?

Other RS trimmings to the inside include a grippy chunky suede and leather steering wheel and a liberal sprinkling of go faster (but unconvincing looking) fake carbon fibre appliques to the facia and gearknob. The usual Juke fittings are there to behold including the dual function climate / driver set up buttons which are a little bit on the gimmick side in appearance and functions – but the younger drivers will salivate at the mouth at this. Grumbles aside, the Nismo has an almost perfect driving position, an easy to comprehend satnav / info-tainment head unit, super comfy chairs and a decent sound quality to the wireless as well as being reasonably well equipped for the asking price.

Not sure about the faux carbon fibre or the dual function heater / driving style buttons below the dash screen but the seats are ultra comfy and supportive.
Not sure about the faux carbon fibre or the dual function heater / driving style buttons below the dash screen but the seats are ultra comfy and supportive. Alloy effect pedal upgrades look rather “Ripspeed” in appearance. An utterly superb gear-change quality by the way.

Once the Nissan / Renault MR16 turbo engine is kicked into life, you can hear the difference this 218Ps engine is offering. You can detect a subtle burble to the engine note – even at idle speed and possibly to subtle perhaps? I was expecting a little bit more audible aggression – but again… its all down to personal taste. Its eager, rev happy and when you sling the tacho dial eastwards never sounds too harsh, yes its more vocal than the smaller variants but its a happy sound. The power delivery takes a little getting used to, especially when pulling away as the RS feels like it just wants to point and squirt – but I guess this how the nature of the beast is meant to be.

Once accustomed to, the RS is good fun around town but the ride can be a little choppy and bouncy if your local roads are less than snooker table flat. Once a few numbers show on the black and orange speedo, the ride comfort becomes quite agreeable and at motorway speed it’s actually quite good. Its brakes come in the form of vented discs all round with a traditional lever type park brake. The ability to wipe off the speed brings no complaints either, they work well with progression and no undue sharpness and some hard fast driving brought no hint of fade. My only gripe with the brakes was the handbrake – this is very awkward to apply with the centre armrest in the down position.

The Nissan Renault MR16 engine goes like a bullet and is ecologically friendly while still punching out almost 220Ps. Its refined for most of the time but the torque drops pff very quickly. RS has this engine cover that other Jukes don't benefit from - it makes the underbonnet view look more finished.
The Nissan Renault MR16 engine goes like a bullet and is ecologically friendly while still punching out almost 220Ps. Its refined for most of the time but the torque drops off very quickly at lower revs. RS has this engine cover that other Jukes don’t benefit from – it makes the underbonnet view look more finished.

The handling and power delivery never tires you. There’s a dash of torque steer and a soupcon of understeer but its all manageable and laugh out loud fun when you go a bit sporty. You’re blessed with steering with sensation that’s also eye blink quick too at speed and the turbo lag sends your mind back to those early days of wait for it… wait for it… NOW! turbo power delivery – a whole week with the RS must have taken twenty years off me. And yet not once did the urgent nature of the Nismo become a chore… as Cupid Stunt would tell us weekly back in the 80’s: “its all done in the best possible taste“. Hang on a moment, maybe that’s it… could the Juke Nismo RS be the nearest thing to a 21st century 80’s hot hatch?

To play the numbers game, Nissan claim an acceleration sprint to sixty comes up in 7 seconds and I am happy to agree with that figure along with a potential maxima a cats whisker shy of 140mph. As you would expect, its all about revs and its here where the RS does its business with great success, if you’re expecting it to be able to lug around at low revs and have stump pulling bottom end torque you may be in for disappointment. It needs a few numbers on the dial to get its best and it would be a good idea to treat the Nismo as a racehorse rather than a workhorse. Once the power drops off it does so rather quickly and sometimes you have make use of the six speed gearbox – which is no bind as the quality of the shift action is brilliant.

Bigger wheels that hide bigger wheels and some go faster styling detail makes the Nismo RS a fun car to throw around thanks to some neat suspension upgrades and chassis re-enforcement at the suspension mountings. Passenger room in the back is tight for grown ups but the car does well for its compact dimensions – head room is very good. Its much more than a power and badge job – its very well engineered indeed.
All in all the Juke Nismo RS is very refined for its occupants, only when you paddle its bottom does the engine note intrude into the snug cabin – I actually would have liked a little more rattle and hum inside the car… once again though – it’s all about preference. Just don’t buy the Juke for a bona fide family car, the rear space is very tight for adults and the boot is a wee bit small – but it makes good use of its compact overall dimensions to be fair. A point worth mentioning is that its reasonably economical too. I managed to average over a week a decent 34mpg which is not a million miles away from the makers quoted combined average, and at just over £21,000 on the road its a hell of a lot of power for your pound!

The Nismo RS is a cracking little motor that confirms the Juke’s no joke.


The Humble Opinion:

Well… I loved this car for its contagious blend of road manners, performance and refinement. As mentioned its keenly priced, British made and economical too for a car with well over 200 horses to reign in. The normal Juke question marks that include a slight feeling of penny pinching here and there are noticeable if you look hard enough but for this price you cannot go wrong.

They promise to be reliable and the dealers can be renown for their four square attitude towards customer care – all you need to be a happy motorist. The Nismo brand will also go some way to shrug off the pedestrian image Nissan have rather unfairly gained – if you are a younger driver or are keen to kiss the occasional apex, the Juke Nismo RS is a riot out on the road.

If you can relate to different styling… you’ll love this little road rocket!

Model Tested: Nissan Juke Nismo “RS”

Produced by: Nissan Motor Manufacturing Sunderland

Price on the road: £21,650

Engine: 1618cc transverse turbocharged intercooled petrol

Power: 218Ps with 280Nm of torque

Gearbox: FWD 6 speed manual

Brakes: All round upgraded vented discs & lever handbrake

Economy: 39.2mpg combined* (34mpg on test)

Emissions: EU5 – 129G/Km

How Fast: Maximum speed 137mph*

How Quick: 0 – 60 in 7 seconds

* = Manufacturers claimed data

So what’s hot? Superb performance – Road manners – Communicative steering – Super comfy seats – Keen price tag – Good economy – Credible emission output – Well equipped – Refined – Excellent gear-change – Headlamps are powerful and cut through the dark like a rapier – Body shell and chassis tweaks give superb stiffness that you can really feel through the seat of your pants and your fingertips.

And what’s not? Power and torque drops off quickly – Styling not to everyone’s taste – Some penny pinching evident – Horrible sporty pedal upgrades look nasty and aftermarket – Rear passenger room poor – Bone hard dash plastics – Some driver information control features are a bit fiddly to operate.

For more information on the Nissan Juke CLICK HERE

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