Review – Nissan Juke Nismo

Review Score

Handling 7
Performance 8
Price 9
Design 8
Economy 7
Safety 7
Fun 8
Practicality 8
Interior 7
Equipment & Technology 8

Overall: 7.70

nissan juke nismo front review

The Juke is already a well-known fixture on UK roads, but now Nissan have transformed it into a special edition Nismo version, aiming to offer affordable performance combined with race inspired styling. Although Nissan’s motorsport and tuning division Nismo (from Nissan Motorsport) has been around for about 30 years and is well respected in Japan, it’s only just starting to feature on road models in other countries, with the Juke being the first Nismo road car in Europe.

Nismo are headquartered in Yokohama and produce a wide range of motorsport vehicles, including electric race cars, GT Championship cars and Le Mans 24 hour race competitors. There are maybe more obvious places in the Nissan range to start making performance versions, but we were keen to see if they could work their magic on the Juke and get the formula right with their first offering.

nissan juke nismo review

Design and Styling

The standard Juke has undeniably broad appeal and already features some bold styling aspects, but on this version there are plenty of Nismo logos inside and out to remind you of its special designation. On the outside you’ll notice the distinctive Nismo signature styling cues such as the red door mirrors and detail lines, the special front grille and the Nismo aero package, which includes front and rear bumpers, side skirts and a spoiler. As with all Jukes, to keep the coupe-like styling, the door handles for the rear doors are concealed in the plastic trim in the top corner of the door, similar to those you see on some coupe-esque saloons such as the Alfa Romeo 156.

The Juke Nismo sits on specially designed 18 inch alloy wheels, which wouldn’t  normally be considered small, yet from some angles they don’t quite seem to quite fill enough of the extremely wide and deep wheel arches , the effect of which are magnified by the Nismo styling kit. Look closely at the Nismo wheels and you’ll notice they are a two tone design: mainly black but with a section of chrome on the outer end of each spoke. The rear windows are also given a touch of premium styling as well by being fitted with privacy glass. The styling package is finished off with a wide, single bore sports exhaust trim that emits a pleasingly throaty rumble once you start to get your foot down. But don’t be fooled into thinking it’s all just styling effects, this is certainly not ‘all show and no go’, if really does shift when you want it to.

Cabin

On the inside, there are Nismo logoed door sills and sports seats, which have two-stage heaters, and are cosily supportive, trimmed in suede with contrasting red stitching. Disappointingly, all seat adjustments are manually lever operated rather than being electronic so getting totally comfy can take a bit of fiddling, especially as the angle on the backrest doesn’t offer much degree of adjustment. Thanks to deep sports seats, getting in requires the driver to slide their thighs between the high sloped sides of the seats and the bottom of the steering wheel, but once you’re in position those gripping suede seats make you feel ready for action. Premium interiors are normally associated with heavily padded leather armchairs, but the shape and soft suede covering of the sports seats will gently grip you in place, rather than having to fear slipping about on leather seats when you get into a decent corner.

There’s seating for three in the rear, each with its own headrest, and respectable headroom considering the downward slant of the roof at the rear. Although life in the front is great, for those in the back it’s all a bit sparse and passengers could do with being treated to a few simple and inexpensive finishing touches, such as a 12 volt socket and climate vents: not the end of the world but the devil is in the detail.

nissan juke nismo cabin review

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Behind the Wheel

There are three driving modes to choose from: Eco, Normal and Sport; and of course in my mind, obviously Sport is the one you want and the others aren’t that important. It’s nice that the Juke actually remembers what mode you were in at the end of your journey, rather than trying to make you be good by switching back to Eco mode every time you turn the key.

Your fuel gauge is likely to drop quickly, not due to poor fuel economy but due to the Juke’s small fuel tank, which can only be brimmed with 46 litres. Even the modern Mini manages to squeeze in a 50 litre unit. This gives a fairly short range even in everyday driving, and will be considerably less if you keep your foot down hard and take advantage of that extra Nismo power. When driving it hard, I emptied the fuel tank frighteningly quickly, with the range indicator dropping like a countdown timer to my appointment with the man from Esso.

The Juke occupies a relatively compact footprint, being smaller than a Ford Focus in both length and width, making it easy to manoeuvre and park despite some chunky pillars and reduced visibility in places. Parking is made easier thanks to the reversing camera for judging the rear and the pronounced light clusters for judging how close you’re getting up front, but if you are concerned front and rear parking sensors are available on the options list at around £365 each.

nissan juke nismo start button review

Engine, Gearbox and Performance

You prod the orange glowing start button to awaken the Juke Nismo’s four cylinder 1.6 litre turbocharged engine upfront. Its power unit outputs 200 PS of power and 250 Nm of torque, all through the front wheels only remember, yet the Juke Nismo remains impressively composed despite all this activity going on. An overly enthusiastic pull away from standstill can sometimes induce a bit of twitching, but all is settled once more as soon as you’re into second gear and beyond.

The first time you feel the power surge the Juke Nismo forward, I defy you not to grin like a child at Christmas as it propels you towards its top speed of 134 mph, getting from 0-62 mph in just 7.8 seconds. The accelerator pedal is floor mounted, as you would more often find with automatics, and has the same ‘kickdown button’ at the bottom of its travel. As the travel on the pedal is quite short you’ll familiar with and get to like this button in no time at all.

The gears on the six speed manual box change with a satisfying preciseness, each needing a firm pull but slipping into place and seemingly sending a manly clunk up your arm, even if it’s not actually there audibly. The forward gears move with a short throw, making lightening quick changes possible when you need them, with the reverse gear being a collar lift. Opt for the seven speed CVT automatic gearbox and you can get four wheel drive, but there isn’t an option for a manual four wheel drive setup. There are pros and cons to both available setups, and maybe in an ideal world a manual rear wheel drive would be the ideal combination for the Nismo.

Boot Space

The boot space should be enough for most people’s needs, but it isn’t what you’d call massive at 251 litres, plus 44 litres in the nifty additional storage area under the removable boot floor.  Should you need some extra space the rear seats do a 60/40 split, giving you the option to increase luggage space to 550 litres to the waistline.

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Suspension and Steering

The Nismo comes with speed sensitive power steering, with a wheel that can be tilt adjusted, but doesn’t adjust for reach. The sports steering wheel itself is a pleasure to use, and hints at its performance credentials with the ring of red leather at the 12 o’clock position. This is intended to help you keep track of where straight ahead is when spinning the wheel round whilst executing a sporty manoeuvre. And then when you want to hold on to it the areas left and right, where your hands go, are trimmed in a soft, but grippy, Alcantara. The wheel also features buttons for cruise control, audio and telephone functions, meaning you can keep your hands on the wheel for more of the time.

Although you sit in an elevated driving position with a more SUV like view of the road, in terms of handling you feel connected to what’s happening down at tarmac level; sometimes a little too much. The ride is firmer than you’d expect from a crossover thanks to the sports suspension in all driving modes, so on anything less than smooth asphalt you really feel the lumps and bumps of our winter-damaged roads coming up through the sports seats.

On a race track or a smooth new section of motorway, where the surface isn’t going to bother you and you can stretch its legs, you’ll feel chuffed to bits with the sports setup. All we need to do is get the rest of the roads sorted out and Nismo drivers everywhere will be rejoicing.

nissan juke nismo review

Safety and Security

Circular fog lights on the standard Juke are replaced by a horizontal strip on LED daytime running lights, which add the overall presence and premium feel, as well as increasing its visibility to other road users and pedestrians. Six airbags keep occupants inside the Juke safe in the event of an accident, plus there are additional conveniences such as automatic lights and wipers.

Prices, Equipment and Options

The inset touchscreen monitor deals with navigation and entertainment, as well as displaying the feed from the colour rear view camera, when in reverse gear of course. The unit features a built in CD player, radio and Bluetooth phone functions, plus there are auxiliary audio and USB ports. The sat nav also features traffic warnings and has options to display icons for a wide range of points of interest. Audio is fed through a six speaker system that is actually pretty good, with a pleasant, non-tinny tone to it.

Beneath the infotainment screen is another multi-function unit with its own small colour screen. From here you can control the single-zone climate control functions, select which driving mode you want to be in, and get various driving data and graphs including my two favourites; the Sport mode boost display and a G force meter, both of which will cause a sudden and unexplained heaviness in your right foot. Apparently, there’s also some other stuff in there about fuel economy and what have you.

As there is an impressive level of standard equipment with the Nismo edition Juke, you shouldn’t need to leave room in your budget for tons of extras as you would with some marques. The on the road price for the Juke Nismo is currently £20,395, with the only optional extra on the test car being the metallic paint at an additional £700.

nissan juke nismo review

Cost of Ownership

Certain marques laugh all the way to the bank by changing you an absolute fortune for their performance division branding, even if it’s just for a bit of carbon fibre tinsel with a performance brand logo on it, without any actual improvement in performance. With the Nismo you get the full package: bold styling, upgraded equipment and improved performance, all for a modest increase over the standard model’s price. For this reason alone I wouldn’t feel at all disappointed in spending twenty grand on the Juke Nismo. Your on-going running costs should also be reasonable, with the official fuel economy on the combined cycle at 40.9 mpg with 159 g/km of CO2, meaning road tax is a middle of the table Band G, costing you £175 per year.

Conclusion

The performance and overall equipment package is great value for money, with some tempting manufacturer finance deals currently available. Maybe the styling on the test car is a little brash for some: the combination of black wheels, bright white paint, red mirrors and sports seats is not all that subtle. Plus there’s a body kit, roof spoiler and shouty exhaust added into the package, but remember opting for the black paintwork is a tad more subtle. I’m guessing that if you’re attracted to a Nismo edition, you’re not going to be that bothered about what people think of a body kit or a spoiler. Plus, by the time someone who takes life a bit too seriously has finished tutting, you’ll be miles away.

The fact that Nissan are introducing Nismo editions to different models across their range is something to be celebrated, and I for one am itching to get in some more of these editions as the positive aspects of enhanced performance and specification strongly outweigh any negatives such as some slightly brash styling and overly firm suspension, all at a great price.

I’m pleased the Juke exists, just in normal guise and especially so as a Nismo edition. A reasonably practical, performance focused vehicle, at just over £20,000 on the road equals a lot of car in a lot of different ways. I really do think a lot of people would imagine it costs more than it actually does, and how often does that happen?

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