By: Yousef Alvi and Jonathan Wooley
No doubt – the Nissan Juke Nismo RS is an odd little crossover. You either can’t understand for the life of you why Nissan made it… or you can’t understand why you kind of want it. Or both.
We can tell you after driving the Nismo RS, that it’s totally every bit as fun as it is weird-looking. The Nismo RS has got a hopped of version of the turbo 1.6, and it makes an additional 27 horsepower over the standard 188, for a total of 215hp (yeah – out of a 1.6). It’s got 6 short gears in the 6-speed version, which makes it really squirty around town and the backroads, but kind of leaves you wanting one more gear on the freeway. Sorry – but that’s just the tradeoff with small-displacement squirtyness (think B16 Honda). The RS also has a factory limited slip on the FWD, which is really unique in a car like this, and allows it to grip hard & pull strong without tire-slip when coming out of a corner on boost. It is also available with all-wheel-drive… which sounds awesome initially. But you can’t get the manual with AWD. In our opinion: go front-wheel-drive & get the manual with limited slip all day.
The Nismo RS isn’t blistering ‘faaast’ out of the box… but it is hilariously fast for a small quirky crossover. It’s the type of car where you can launch off a red light with surprise, burn up the pavement like Marty McFly, and leave people scratching their heads. It’s hugely amusing.
Even from the factory – the car sounds like a turbo import should – low tone exhaust notes & a little swooshing. With a couple aftermarket intake/exhaust mods – this thing would be a total rascal.
We took this one to the North GA mountains, and never felt weighted down by the car. It was as sorted & nimble as smaller & lower hot hatches. At one point – I had to get from a doctor’s office to a cabin 12 miles away, and back to the doctor’s office – quickly. The Juke Nismo RS blazed down a mile-long wooded gravel road, through a historic old town with speedbumps, up a winding paved mountain road… and then did the reverse-course without missing a step or ever falling off its pace. In other words, the Juke lived up to it’s name. It can handle what the world will throw at it, without slowing down. And if left me with the question: If I owned a Juke Nismo RS, would I lower it track-style as I do everything else? Or go full blown rally-style with lights & mudflaps?
The front seats are hardback Recaros with leather & suede. They’re totally cool, have great support… and are definitely one of the standout focal-points & selling-points for any enthusiast. Suede carries over to other parts of the interior. There is a ‘sport-mode’ that sharpens up the responsiveness & performance… and you want to be sure to hit that button every time, as soon as you get in the car.
You can see the top set of lights from the driver’s seat. It’s both cool & soothing to be able to see the glow of the icy blue/white parking lights when you drive at night. That’s one of the unique things I really like about the Juke – that you might not notice from a test drive.
The windshield has a slight curvature or wrap-around, and from the driver’s seat (in combination with the suede & dark interior/headliner)… it kind of gives you feelings of being in a Lemans-type closed cockpit car. I know that maybe seems like a stretch of a comparison, but I felt it for sure. And I think the feeling is further accentuated by the decreasing roofline.
The negative side to the decreasing roofline, is that it limits rear seat entry/exit room, and cargo room in a noticeable way. As a newer dad, I found it to be a little bit of a challenge to get my 16 month-old daughter out of the car. You have to ‘sideways-slither’ the babies out a little bit. Personally, I don’t mind the inconvenience. I’m used to lowered, sporty cars, and I feel like the tradeoff is worth it. But why have all this ‘sport’ packed into a crossover chassis… when it ends up being no more convenient & roomy than your average hatchback? Also, speaking as a parent again, there is not a dome light over the rear seats. Those Recaro seats create a big shadow in the back when you only have front dome lights, and if you have something on the rear floorboard at night.. you have to use the light on your phone to find it. It just seems off balance that the Nismo RS would come with fancy cameras in the sideview mirrors… but no simple rear dome light. I know that’s nit picky, and I only mention it because – the Juke NISMO RS seems like a natural choice for car-culture people who find themselves in need of a newer, reliable ‘kid-carrying car’ with modern conveniences AC, keyless entry… and dome lights.
Basically: The Juke Nismo RS is a car that’s hard to quantify. In other words – you can’t explain the Juke Nismo RS. The fun-factor is real. But if you’re trying to rationalize the purchase of this car… then you’re doing it wrong. If you’re trying to compare it to other cars, you’re going to confuse yourself. You could call it ugly. A and I could use up all my fingers pointing out iconic cars with cult followings that are – arguably ugly. Like a pug… the Juke’s beauty is in the eye of its beholder. Sometimes ‘weird’ works. If you see the appeal, and you like the car, you’ve just gotta give in and go with it. You don’t have to justify it.
^^^^^Digital climate control
^^^^^D-Mode. Gives boost & G-force.
^^^^^Turbo (located between engine & firewall, right behind the plastic engine cover).
^^^^^Intercooler mounts vertically on the left side of the front grille.