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Nissan Juke Nismo

Click to view picture gallery“Is the new Juke Nismo a Fiesta ST-
  rivalling hot hatch, a bodykitted four-
  wheel drive or a banzai rice wagon?
  The answer is, of course, all three.
  The question is: Is it any good in any
  of these roles?


FOR FIVE YEARS I edited a magazine about Japanese car tuning, so I can claim to know a fair bit about Nismo, and what it represents to Nissan fans. A contraction of Nissan Motorsport, Nismo has been active since the 1960s, notably campaigning Skyline GT-Rs on the circuit with spectacular success.

If you know the Nismo name, chances are you've wasted many an hour sweating in front of a PS console playing Gran Turismo, and tuning your Nissan Fairlady or Skyline in the Nismo tuning shop.

So is the new Juke Nismo what the Nismo brand has been building up to all these years? Er, no, clearly not. But it is highly significant in being the first car launched in the UK with Nismo badging — and it will be the first of many (with 370Z and GT-R versions waiting in the wings).

“Although 197bhp puts it
firmly in the sort of hot
hatch territory where
you’ll find the Renault
Clio Sport and Ford
Fiesta ST lurking, in truth
the Juke isn
t really in
that market
...”
Nissan says the Juke makes the Nismo brand accessible. It's certainly that, with prices starting at 20,395. That's 1,900 more expensive than the Juke 1.6 DIG-T that it's based on.

The engine has been tweaked so it delivers an extra 10bhp — taking it up to 197bhp at 6,000rpm; it's got decent torque, too, with a peak of 184lb ft available between 2,400 and 4,800rpm.

Although the 197bhp engine puts it firmly in the sort of hot hatch territory where you'll find the Renault Clio Sport and Ford Fiesta ST lurking, in truth the Juke isn't really in that market. It's not just the raw figures (0-62mph in 7.8 seconds is far from class-bothering), it's the manner of its delivery: the engine doesn't have a rev-happy lunatic character but more of a tractable, usable slug of power. The engine note isn't exactly Fast & Furious, either.

Nissan has relied a lot on the UK-based chassis development team — which has done a fine job on Nissans of the past — to tweak the Juke Nismo. So what's the conclusion on their work?

The suspension has 10% stiffer springs and the suspension settings have been changed to enhance traction, while the steering is more direct. There are also big 18-inch Nismo alloys shod with chunky 225/45 rubber.

The regular Juke has decent if unexceptional handling, and it's definitely sharper in the Nismo version. Turn-in is instant and accurate, and the steering has more feel, even though it's far from the pinpoint accuracy you get in a MINI. It holds its line fairly well through corners, but if you hoof the hot pedal too soon you'll find torque steer waiting for you; and if your corner entry speed is too high it will wobble a bit before settling into its swing.

“The Nismo is as much
about the look as the
drive — red door mirrors,
red pinstriping, bigger
bumpers, wider wings,
beefy side skirts and a
tailgate spoiler all make
sure you’LL be noticed
...”
I drove the 2WD manual 'box Nismo, but there's a four-wheel drive version with a CVT automatic gearbox. However, given the jerky and noisome way the CVT works in other Jukes, I'd definitely stick with the manual gearbox and front-wheel drive — especially as it's quicker.

The Nismo is as much about the look as the drive. Its bodykit is described as 'subtle' but with red door mirrors, red pinstriping, bigger bumpers, wider wings, beefy side skirts and a tailgate spoiler, the effect is hardly 'shrinking violet'.

Suede-trimmed Nismo-branded seats have red stitching, while the Alcantara-and-leather steering wheel looks purposeful alongside the suede door liners and black centre console. Nismo badges also appear on the gauges, gearknob and gaiter.

So is the Juke Nismo a new hot hatch superhero? Clearly not. But if you're keen on the way the Juke looks — and it does have lots of fans — and you want the top-spec version, the Nismo offers a lot of equipment and a healthy dose of performance for a reasonable outlay. Just watch out for PlayStation wannabes. — Chris Rees

Nissan Juke Nismo | 20,395
Maximum speed: 134mph | 0-62mph: 7.8 seconds | Average test MPG: 40.9mpg
Power: 197bhp | Torque: 184lb ft | CO2 159g/km