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Nissan’s relaunched Nismo model shows dynamic promise, but it’s no substitute for a proper hot hatchback on handling.

Our Verdict

Nissan Juke Nismo
The Juke is a compact crossover with punch and presence

Performance arm Nismo targets a new generation of hot hatch fans

What is it?

A car about which there’s a whole heap of pressing questions to answer: the Nissan Juke Nismo, just landed in the UK. Is this a ‘proper’ hot hatchback? Is it quick enough; serious enough? Is it really meant for petrolheads like you and me – to be taken as seriously as the more obvious ways to spend your £20k amusement budget?

You won’t have long to wait for some clarity, supplied as usual by a full Autocar road test. For now, we’ll zoom in on just the one query, because it’s the most important: here, on British roads, is it enough fun?

It certainly could be judging by the ingredients. This car has been developed out of Nissan’s technical centre at Cranfield, Bedfordshire. Its 197bhp 1.6-litre turbo motor is bang on the competitive mark for a fast supermini at the moment, kerbweight is only about 150kg north of that mark, and its price is between £1000 and £2000 more than you’ll pay for an equivalent Fiesta ST or Peugeot 208 GTI.

There’s even a four-wheel drive option, married up (regrettably) to Nissan’s CVT - although our test car was a six-speed manual front-driver.

What's it like?

Quite quick, pretty engaging; more than diverting enough to drive in general to satisfy plenty of tastes. That turbo engine’s punchy, responsive enough, hard-edged and rorty, and doesn’t object to being wrung out. And the power steering and suspension tuning are also high points.

Surprisingly muscular in feel, the Juke’s damping keeps tight check on its body, and makes for flat cornering without ruling out absorption and compliance unequivocally. It’s a sense of tautness that’s all the more suitable for the UK because it seems to rely more on those dampers than the extra-strong anti-roll bars we’ve encountered on taller-bodied hot hatchbacks before.

You can barrel along across country, egged along by the way the car determinedly refuses to be knocked off course by a hard-charged bump, and find yourself quite impressed with the evident purpose and sophistication of the rolling chassis. For a while. And Nissan’s dynamic good work is complimented by weighty, well-paced and informative steering that tells you plenty about what’s going on at the front wheels – but doesn’t bombard you with torquesteer.

However, there’s rather more going on at those front wheels than there really ought to be. What prevents the Juke Nismo from ultimately winning you over is lack of grip. Damp conditions may not have flattered in this test’s case, but the car suffered a clear traction deficiency when cornering hard, and woke its electronic aids all too frequently with power-on understeer. 

Above a certain point, the ultimate cornering balance and adhesion that most would look for out of a driver’s car – the sticky, confidence-inspiring front-end in particular – just isn’t present. And that does burst your bubble from time to time when you’re hustling the car enthusiastically along. Usually, just when you’re really beginning to enjoy yourself.

Should I buy one?

Not as an alternative to a proper fast supermini with a really immersive, scruff-of-the-neck driving experience. Nissan’s Nismo department has demonstrated plenty of talent with this car, but you get the impression that the true potential of the sub-brand is still to be deployed. 

As a whistle-wetter, the Juke Nismo’s certainly as interesting as it is fresh and different. Should outright handling matter to you only as much as design appeal and novelty value, this may be the only car on the market you care about. But as a true ‘GTI’, it’s something of a ‘nearly-but-not-quiter’. 

Nissan Juke Nismo 

Price £19,995; 0-62mph 7.8sec; Top speed 134mph; Economy 40.9mpg; CO2 159g/km; Kerbweight 1306kg; Engine 4cyls, 1618cc, turbocharged petrol; Power 197bhp at 6000rpm; Torque 184lb ft at 2400-4800rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual

 

Join the debate

Comments
15

11 April 2013

Its amazing Juke has received so much attention from Nissan. Its offered with a variety of engines. On the other hand Qashqai is crying out for some extra power.

11 April 2013

Can't really see the need  for a higher power Quashqai, it's a boring looking car and I don't  see the nismo spoilers and bumpers making it look any more interesting. 

The Juke on the other hand seems to be the polar oposite, it always looked interesting (wouldn't really call it beautiful, but it does have a certain presence to it) and the Juke R probably helped boost its image by a significant amount.  

12 April 2013

fadyady wrote:

Its amazing Juke has received so much attention from Nissan. Its offered with a variety of engines. On the other hand Qashqai is crying out for some extra power.

I was thinking the exact opposite - you can get the Juke with the 1.6T (190 or 200ps), 1.6 petrol or the 1.5 dCi. Pretty limited.

I can't understand why they haven't equipped the Juke with the 1.6 dCi from the Qashqai. Tweak it up from 130 to 150 PS and you've instantly got a Nismo D which would sell shed loads more than this, despite sharing its engine with the Renaultsport Clio. Perhaps they don't have the capacity?


12 April 2013

Same weight as the Leon FR. Same peak torque, about 20bhp more peak power. £1.5k cheaper than the Seat.

Efficiency not as good though, I guess it's the shape, which i actually quite like the look of, more character for sure.

May need different tyres for better grip. It comes with wide 225/45 R18 tyres, not good for wet conditions. Should be good in the dry though.

I'm looking forward to the even hotter Nismo Juke to come. That will be the GTI rival. I guess 220bhp. Even a weight reduction.

And upto 20mm lower than the standard Nismo will bring it down nearer the GTi stance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

12 April 2013

How many of these does Nissan expect to sell? And how many of the 4WD CVT auto model does it expect to shift? Not many, I suspect. The phrase 'style over substance' could have been written especially for this car. Still, it's been developed and manufactured in the UK so for that we should be thankful. For that reason alone I hope it sells well, but I'd still have a Fiesta ST and £3k in change, though.

12 April 2013

You have to wonder what is going on with the Renaul/Nissan small cars. If you want a quick one, you can have this that is fast, but doesnt handle well, but at least it gets a manual box, or if you want more grip you have to accept a CVT, but if you drop height to a normal hot hatch shape you end up with the twin clutch aut in the Renault. They obviously have the ingredients for a decent car, but just cant get the combination right

16 April 2013

artill wrote:

You have to wonder what is going on with the Renaul/Nissan small cars. If you want a quick one, you can have this that is fast, but doesnt handle well, but at least it gets a manual box, or if you want more grip you have to accept a CVT, but if you drop height to a normal hot hatch shape you end up with the twin clutch aut in the Renault. They obviously have the ingredients for a decent car, but just cant get the combination right

It does seem bizarre that the hot Clio isn't available with a manual gearbox as an option. 

12 April 2013

I thought the Germans had taken brand dilution to the limit with their M-Sports, S-Lines, AMG packs etc., but they have proved so successful that now Nissan wants a piece of the same action. 

Not convinced a car like this should wear a Nismo badge given what Nismo is supposed to represent, but then I'm not a big SUV fan so old habits die hard.

Whilst the Juke isn't as mind numbingly dull as the Cack-quai or whatever it's called, I have to say it's another one of those love it or hate cars and I'm afraid that I'm not warming to it very much over time.

12 April 2013

I have it on good authority from an insider at NMUK that the Juke Nismo will be offered with 214bhp soon. I don't know if this will be a "Nismo +" or a 'Nismo R' or something but that must be all they can reliably get out of the 1.6 T engine without resorting to major changes.

I'm a big fan of the Juke, i like the Nismo too. I've seen black one and a white one recently. I think i preferred the black. 

12 April 2013

It sounds like the car is really missing just a bit more outright front end grip from the review - could this be cured with something easy like front wheels that are an inch wider in cross section?

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