What is it?
This is the latest high-performance variant of Nissan’s distinctive and popular crossover, the 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 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 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.
Should I buy one?
The Nismo RS version of the Nissan Juke certainly has its talents and it is a slightly more evocative and entertaining prospect than before. It's also almost £700 cheaper than what's effectively its only direct rival, the Mini Cooper S Countryman ALL4 automatic.
If you're wanting something that majors more on practicality, neat features and flair - and the driving experience itself is a little further down the list - then the Juke's worthy of consideration. It's certainly no discredit to the Nismo brand, that's for sure.
That said, we would highly recommend opting for the manual version unless you need an automatic or the potential benefits of a four-wheel-drive system, the availability of which is one of the Juke's plus points versus other small hot hatchbacks.
The two-wheel-drive manual Juke Nismo RS, besides being £2100 cheaper, is faster, more efficient and 120kg lighter. Given that it comes with an LSD as standard, and with the additional engagement and positive nature of a manual powertrain, it's also likely to be considerably more fun to drive.
Buyers more interested in outright performance and engagement would still do best to look at more mainstream hot hatchbacks, like the aforementioned Fiesta ST, though - especially when you consider those can be had for as little as £17,395.
Nissan Juke Nismo RS DIG-T 214 4WD M-Xtronic
Price £23,750; Engine 4 cyls, 1618cc, turbocharged, petrol; Power 211bhp at 6000rpm; Torque 177lb ft between 2400-6000rpm; Gearbox CVT; Kerb weight 1461kg; Top speed 124mph; 0-62mph 8.0sec; Economy 38.2mpg; CO2/tax band 169g/km, 14 per cent