Nissan may not have been able to fit wider wheels and tyres to the Juke Nismo RS even if it had wanted to, given that small, front-engined cars and wide wheels are notoriously incompatible for packaging reasons.
By choice or not, the RS runs the same 18in rims and 225-section Continental tyres as did the Juke Nismo. In light of that fact, given that the less powerful version of the car suffered with limited traction, it should come as no surprise that the Nismo RS feels similarly hamstrung.
And yet the shortage of traction under this car’s front wheels is so serious that it couldn’t fail to surprise most who drove it. We figured the car on a fairly chilly day, but on drying asphalt it took plenty of attempts to balance the laggy power delivery of the engine against the easily breached adhesiveness of the driven axle.
A bit of deliberately managed wheelspin is what you want for the optimum getaway, but that can be devilishly hard to come by in the Juke Nismo RS – a fact evidenced by its inability to outpace the 7.5sec 0-60mph time set by its predecessor (on an admittedly tackier surface).
The 1.6-litre DIG-T petrol engine has been overhauled, and it now produces 215bhp and 207lb ft – 18bhp and 23lb ft gains on what it made in the old Nismo, and just enough to position this car among the fiercest hot superminis of the moment.
Turning up the boost on the 1.6-litre turbocharged engine has done more harm to response and drivability than you may think it’s worth in outright performance terms. The RS’s motor feels lethargic at anything less than 2500rpm, and while potent from there to around 5000rpm, it is also considerably less willing to work over the final 1500rpm of the rev range.
As a result, keeping the car going at full tilt requires too much concentration on the tacho needle and staying within the confines of a fairly narrow rev band.
Gone, too, is the nicely composed soundtrack of the regular Juke Nismo. From the driver’s seat the RS’s bigger-bore exhaust is too often drowned out by the hissing and fizzing of the engine’s hard-working turbocharger, leaving the Nissan with a thin and underwhelming audible character. It’s less modern WRC contender, more handheld vacuum cleaner.