Mark Tisshaw
22 January 2013

What is it?

Another success story for the UK car industry: a new kind of hot hatch we can lay claim to as our own. The Nissan Juke Nismo is the go-faster performance version of the smash-hit supermini-sized crossover. More than a third of a million Jukes have been built at Nissan's Sunderland plant (now officially the largest car plant this country has ever seen) since 2010, and now the plant has a flagship performance model to produce.

The Juke Nismo is not just built in Britain; a significant amount of design and development for the model has taken place here, with Nissan's Paddington design studio and Cranfield technical centre assisting Nissan and Nismo engineers in Japan.

The result of this collaboration is a 197bhp 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol-powered Juke, with a host of revisions to the chassis and exterior and interior styling to make it worthy of the hallowed Nismo badge.

That Nismo badge also needs an introduction. Short for Nissan Motorsports, Nismo has been tuning Nissans and producing highly successful factory race cars for the best part of 50 years and has become enshrined in popular culture thanks to its presence in the Gran Turismo video games, the first of which appeared in 1997.

The thinking behind taking Nismo global now with volume products rather than high-performance niche models or aftermarket upgrades is that the Playstation generation has now grown up and, as now as a 20/30-something with a disposable income, has the funds to buy a car of their own, and a £19,995 compact crossover take on the hot hatch formula seems a good place to start for Nismo.

What is it like?

Something a bit different, but something that's really rather good. It's certainly the best and most involving Juke we've ever had to try, but it's a model that goes quite a bit deeper than that in being a very different kind of performance tool. 

Think of the Juke Nismo in terms of a Renaultsport Clio and sure enough it ends in disappointment. But it's a hot hatch that if driven quickly and smoothly at seven or eight tenths, and without ever really fully going for it in Michael Schumacher mode (ie, most of the driving you'll ever undertake on public roads) then it is a very accomplished and rewarding machine. Oh, and there's room for four and a fair amount of luggage, too.

Let's start with that engine. Nismo tuners have resisted the urge to turn the Juke Nismo into a torque steer special, rather offering small but noticeable increases in power and torque that give it an altogether more urgent character without descending into an aftermarket special.

The engine does have somewhat of a torque vacuum before the turbocharger fully gets involved at around 2000-2500rpm, but keep it above this and you'll find an urgent performer with pleasingly linear power delivery right through its six forward manual cogs. That urgency is still felt even when settled at motorway speeds, so a taller sixth ratio would be appreciated in this scenario. An all-wheel drive version hooked up to a CVT transmission is also available.

The ride is firm, but never uncomfortable; it feels as if great time and attention has been spent to cater for the most demanding UK buyers. Body control is excellent also, and the predictable body roll is well controlled, certainly when you drive within the car's limits.

Push the limits and you'll get understeer and front wheels that slip and spin, but to drive the Juke Nismo on such a ragged edge is to miss the point; it's a car to be driven quickly and smoothly to get the most from it, rather than to rag the hell out of it and be left wondering why you didn't order that Renaultsport Clio. It is not that type of car.

Where the Juke Nismo feels sufficiently sporty is inside the cabin. There are new sports seats which grip well and will give you a numb bum if sat in for long enough. The Alcantara-wrapped steering wheel and red and black-trimmed cabin are subtler mods but no less welcome, in a cabin where the real star is a new infotainment system mounted in the centre console that does a lot better job than the £19,995 price tag would have you think given its lis of standard functions.

Should I buy one?

Like the Juke? Then yes. The Nismo is the best Juke we've ever driven, certainly the most rewarding and now competitive and unique enough for you to consider whether you need to buy a hot hatch and except the sacrifices that usually entails (rear room, space etc).

The looks will probably still be the deciding factor here for you, but warm to them or see through them and you have a dynamic machine that's ever so rewarding when driven within its limits quickly and smoothly, if not one that'll give you as much satisfaction as a full-blown hot hatch in the Renaultsport Clio mould.

Nissan Juke Nismo

Price £19,995; 0-62mph 7.8sec; Top speed 134mph; Economy 40.9mpg CO2 159g/km; Kerb weight 1295kg; Engine 4cyls in line, 1618cc, turbocharged, petrol, Power 197bhp; Torque 184lb ft; Gearbox 6spd manual

 

Join the debate

Comments
35

Red ears...

1 year 31 weeks ago

Just made an ugly car uglier, the red ears are rediculous.

(yea... I know... I'm no picture and somone loves me...)

My friend works at Nissans

1 year 31 weeks ago

My friend works at Nissans Sunderland plant and tells me they ARE made in the UK..he is looking at them going down the line right now! Who is right?!

But the article states they

1 year 31 weeks ago

But the article states they are made in the UK at Sunderland?

Looks wise at least it has character which is more than can be said for most cars. Might date fast i suppose but i rather like it.

Mind you i like the Mini Countryman/Paceman which appear to be roundly hated hereabouts. That said nobody seems to hate Skodas and i suspect that relates to their very dull styling, much easier to be indifferent. I would have distinctive over boring anyday, even if it polarises opinion.

So tempted

1 year 31 weeks ago

I was sooo tempted to buy a Juke DiG-T but I need to drive an auto due and couldn't live with the CVT box (ignoring that the diff also eats into boot space on the 4WD, that never gets mentioned) The dash is very plasticky but for the price I thought it was a bargin but in the end I went for a Countryman Cooper S all4. If the top end Juke looked like this though at the time it may have been a closer call though. This is how it should of always looked. The standard DIG-T is far to understated for what it is trying to be, it has a standard pea shooter exhaust shared with the rest of the rage and makes no noise for example.

They should put a decent box on the 4WD and produce a proper mini GTR. They would sell so much more. 220bhp and a dual clutch. Winner.

Biased

1 year 31 weeks ago

I'm sorry but this article has a strong whiff o bias in it, starting with the pride of it being manufactured and partly developed in Britain. May I remind you that the brand, all benefits and most of the value-added elements (don't kid yourself about the engineering) still got to or are done in Japan? Then you go on to praise it for its "room for four and a fair amount of luggage, too". Excuse me? I don't know how tall you are, but anyone who takes a closer look at a Juke realises alsmost instantly how cramped it is in the back and what a small boot it offers, quite smaller in fact than most 5-door compact hatches on the market.

Finally you go on to praise it for its abilities at 7 or 8-tenths, while pointing out that it looses any decent handling characteristics when taken beyond that: How it that a good hot hatch rival? From the years that I've spent reading this magazine (and then on to the website), had you discovered this dissappointing behaviour when approching its limits on any other hot hatch you would have normally hung it from its thumbs, but not this one. Why the double standard?

I am franlkly disappointed at this test from a magazine that is normally quite frank about the downsides of a vehicle, instead of seeing it through rose-tinted glasses as on this occasion.

And how many are there??

1 year 31 weeks ago

Exactly,bought for fashions sake, which is fine for Nissan, the british car industry,and the person who ultimately buys one,so it's not pretty,as a species, we're all fickle,so, what do you want?, a perfect car?.....no such thing, is there?

Peter Cavellini.

Never mind the exterior ....

1 year 31 weeks ago

... it's the interior you spend all your time in; I'm struggling with a lot of the dash designs around at the mo, and this is yet another example. Is it space-age and snazzy, or just a re-hash of a 90's Panasonic midi-system? Think I'm veering towards the latter.

Wide cars in a world of narrow.

It appears to have been

1 year 31 weeks ago

It appears to have been designed for a purpose - to out Mini the Mini.

Well, more specifically, appeal to the people that like the idea of the Mini (in what ever flavour you'd compare this car too) but can't bring themselves to buy one for what ever reason.

From that point of view, I think they have done a cracking job.  Yes, the looks will split opinions but as a package, if you are looking for this sort of car, then it will do pretty much everything you could ask of it.

The biggest question has to be, should it have the Nismo badge stuck to it (aside from the marketing reasons)?  Is it focused enough?  From the report, think they are selling out a little.

 

 

It's all about the twisties........

TegTypeR wrote:It appears

1 year 31 weeks ago

TegTypeR wrote:

It appears to have been designed for a purpose - to out Mini the Mini.

Well, more specifically, appeal to the people that like the idea of the Mini (in what ever flavour you'd compare this car too) but can't bring themselves to buy one for what ever reason.

From that point of view, I think they have done a cracking job.  Yes, the looks will split opinions but as a package, if you are looking for this sort of car, then it will do pretty much everything you could ask of it.

The biggest question has to be, should it have the Nismo badge stuck to it (aside from the marketing reasons)?  Is it focused enough?  From the report, think they are selling out a little.

 

Theres only couple of issues, it's boot is half the size of the Countrymans and you have no space in the back. The Mini has a reasonable boot (350ltrs and you can slide the rear bench forward for a bit more) and theres loads of room in the back. The Juke has only just over 200litres and the 4wd version does without the under boot floor storage. Also I don't know how many of you have actually been inside a Juke but the plastics are dreadful, especially on the top of the doors and dash, no soft touch plastics in sight. Did really like the gadget at the bottom of the centre console though where can can switch between AC controls and driving controls.

The only thing going for it is that is is quite a bit cheaper but whole package to me is a class down to the Countryman. The Juke is being compared agaisnt hot hatches like the clio and the countryman gets compared to the Golf. Explains it all.

Regards to the Nismo badge. At least it is a proper tuning exercise. Unlike the way AMG/Mercedes have gone with the badge stuck to everything route.

dukebox9reg

1 year 31 weeks ago

dukebox9reg wrote:

TegTypeR wrote:

It appears to have been designed for a purpose - to out Mini the Mini.

Well, more specifically, appeal to the people that like the idea of the Mini (in what ever flavour you'd compare this car too) but can't bring themselves to buy one for what ever reason.

From that point of view, I think they have done a cracking job.  Yes, the looks will split opinions but as a package, if you are looking for this sort of car, then it will do pretty much everything you could ask of it.

The biggest question has to be, should it have the Nismo badge stuck to it (aside from the marketing reasons)?  Is it focused enough?  From the report, think they are selling out a little.

 

Theres only couple of issues, it's boot is half the size of the Countrymans and you have no space in the back. The Mini has a reasonable boot (350ltrs and you can slide the rear bench forward for a bit more) and theres loads of room in the back. The Juke has only just over 200litres and the 4wd version does without the under boot floor storage. Also I don't know how many of you have actually been inside a Juke but the plastics are dreadful, especially on the top of the doors and dash, no soft touch plastics in sight. Did really like the gadget at the bottom of the centre console though where can can switch between AC controls and driving controls.

The only thing going for it is that is is quite a bit cheaper but whole package to me is a class down to the Countryman. The Juke is being compared agaisnt hot hatches like the clio and the countryman gets compared to the Golf. Explains it all.

Regards to the Nismo badge. At least it is a proper tuning exercise. Unlike the way AMG/Mercedes have gone with the badge stuck to everything route.

"no soft touch plastics in sight." Who gives a monkeys duck! Anyone who has a family will tell you that it is the soft touch plastics which wear less well and pick up more marks/stains/abrasions etc. I just don't get the fascination with this; it does my coupon in!

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Our Verdict

SUV, coupé and even motorcycle styling meet in likeable compact crossover

With its exaggerated styling, the Nissan Juke takes the notion of a crossover in a new direction

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