What is it?
This is the latest high-performance variant of Nissan’s distinctive and popular crossover, the Nissan Juke.
It supersedes the Juke Nismo and benefits from a host of upgrades, including a more powerful engine, a reinforced body shell, retuned suspension, steering modifications, bigger brakes and numerous cosmetic tweaks.
Both two- and four-wheel drive versions of the 1.6-litre turbocharged Nismo version of the Juke continue to be offered, with a six-speed manual or CVT respectively.
The manual now comes with an LSD as standard, while the CVT has gained an extra ratio in its 'manual' mode - bringing the total to eight - and its torque vectoring system has been tweaked to bring the rear of the car into play more often.
In either instance, the modifications should serve to make the Juke Nismo RS a more focused, interesting and engaging car - vital elements for a car like this.
What's it like?
We headed to the Laponie Ice Driving School to get our first experience of the new Nismo RS; we only drove on a high-speed ice circuit as a result, in a car fitted with studded tyres.
Consequently we’ll have to wait for the imminent European launch for a proper assessment of the car’s on-road performance and handling capabilities, but there was still much that we took away from the opportunity to test the car.
What stands out is that the Nissan Juke's fine body control remains; on rough surfaces, or when being thrown around aggressively, it's composed and controlled. Even when pushed its responses remain predictable and well judged, instilling an awful lot of confidence in driver and passenger alike.
The revised steering still appears to not offer a great deal of feedback, taking a little polish off the Nissan Juke's dynamic edge, but it is accurate and fast acting, and aided by a comfortable, pleasingly tactile and well-sized steering wheel. Likewise, the Juke's brakes appear effective and stopping power is easily moderated.
Over the roar of the studded tyres on the ice it was hard to discern the true vocal nature of the 211bhp turbocharged 1.6-litre engine, which benefits from a new, larger diameter exhaust system, but if it's like its predecessor then it should prove enjoyable, as opposed to annoying, to listen to. It was unquestionably smooth, although it does require some stirring before it really starts metering out the power.
A 0-62mph time of 8.0sec - 0.2sec faster than the outgoing Juke Nismo - isn't shabby either; a Fiesta ST may dispatch the same in 6.9sec but it's a considerably less practical car and doesn't suffer the weight and frictional penalties of a four-wheel drive system. The more powerful, manual, front-drive Juke Nismo RS completes the same benchmark in just 7.0sec though, so that's the one to turn to if acceleration takes priority over traction and stability.
One notable gripe with this particular version of the Juke is its continually variable transmission. While it delivers the engine's power to the wheels in a more positive and direct-feeling fashion than those that have gone before it, it still has the tendency to send the engine's crank speeds soaring - and for unpleasantly long durations - when you pin the throttle open.