Juke Nismo RS: Fun to Drive, But Is It Practical?

Imagine walking into a Nissan dealership and being offered the keys to a Nismo vehicle. You’re probably thrilled, thinking about the 370Z Nismo or the GT-R Nismo packages. Heady performance goes hand in hand with the Nismo name, so it comes with some surprise that the offered vehicle is a Juke Nismo RS.

That’s the position I found myself in. On an excursion to find vehicles worthy to be talked about, a visit to a local Nissan dealership turned up this little ditty. It’s actually one step further than the Nissan Juke Nismo, adding the RS package as well. Still, with some uncertainty and only a mild amount of enthusiasm, I entered the high-performance world of the Juke Nismo RS.

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Juke Nismo RS: At a Glance

For a first impression, it looks like the Juke was simply gussied up by the dealership. I drove a black Juke with the red Nismo accents. To unassuming observers, there’s little difference between this model and the base Juke just by looking at it. To the more discerning eye, you’ll see larger brake rotors through the 10-spoke black and red rims, red brake calipers and smoked-out combination lights. Your spidey senses might start tingling…

Jumping behind the wheel is a chore. Adding to the initial mystique are true Recaro racing seats wrapped in two-tone leather. The only problem is that the seat bolsters are quite high. It presents a challenge for even average-framed adults to slide into. But once you’re in, you’re in.

Inside the Juke Nismo RS, you’re met with the rudimentary view of the common Juke. Not much looks different here, aside from the rocker-style all-wheel-drive switch to the left of the column. I guess that’s alright seeing as the Juke Nismo RS is about performance, not pampering. It’s all about the thrills of low-cost performance.

The Drive Worthy of the Nismo Title

There’s a note in the sales brochure about a special exhaust for the Nismo RS. They purport a nice exhaust note and more freely flowing exhaust for a better acceleration. The sound I hear when starting the engine isn’t exactly awe-inspiring, but I’ve yet to judge its “brapp” on wide-open throttle.

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I engaged the AWD-v mode, a torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive setup that transfers torque to the wheels with the most traction. As I enter the roadway, I lay into the throttle I am immediately disappointed by the response.

Luckily, that underwhelming initial second is long forgotten once the engine speed reaches 2000RPM. The familiar whine of a spooling turbo sings soprano from under the hood, reminding me that the 1.6-liter direct-injected engine makes its 215 horsepower at higher RPMs. And we’re off.

Under hard throttle, I assumed the pose of a true racecar driver with hands at 9 and 3. My fingertips found the paddle shifters, and when my speed leveled off at 50 miles per hour, I tipped the shifter left into XTronic mode. The instrument cluster’s gear indicator shifted ‘D’ to ‘4’. I tapped the upshifting and downshifting paddles to see how it responded. It was fast and snappy, much like a dual-clutch automatic transmission. Shifting up, I reached eighth “gear” (remember, it’s a CVT) but the RPMs were too low. The engine bogs down, so it’s best used at speeds around 75 mph.

I headed for the highway to test its mettle. And it was fun – like, really fun. I was lucky enough to get the pole position at the stoplight. When the light turned green, I hammered on the gas. No wheel hop, no screeching. A half-second of turbo lag, then in just a couple short seconds I was flicking the right paddle to upshift at 50 mph. Shifting into third happened at around 75 miles per hour but I can’t be more precise because I was grinning widely and watching the white lines accelerate.

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After a bit more playing with the paddles and ranging speeds from 55 to 80 mph, I turned back to the city. Coming around a clover leaf, I laid into the throttle and held 50 to 55 mph all the way up and over the overpass. The Recaro seats were obviously necessary and welcome at this point, and I stayed firm and square in the seat.

Lightning struck twice and I was blessed with another pole position. This time, I decided to create my own “launch” function to reduce the turbo lag. I held the brake pedal with my left foot and eased the RPMs up with my right foot to around 2200. When the light changed, I floored the gas, simultaneously releasing the brake. Again, no wheel hop, but a little chirp from the tires. It took off like stink.

The Roundup

Overall, the Juke Nismo RS is a pleasant surprise. While it’s definitely not for someone who wants comfort and conveniences, it still has an above average assortment of options. The Juke Nismo RS has the Around View Monitor, possibly overkill for a cute ute like this, and it’s well-equipped with the power options you want. The climate control/D-Mode system is a little odd. It was hard to wrap my head around switching the controls back and forth – I’m used to buttons dedicated to one function.

Performance-wise, the Juke Nismo RS did not disappoint one bit. In fact, if I was solely in the market for a fun-to-drive, fast-moving car, the Juke Nismo RS would be a serious contender. It could be an enjoyable second car for someone with the occasional desire to zip around town. But with the niche Juke styling, it’s more likely to be purchased by those in their 20s without a need for practical transportation.

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