By David Colman
Hypes: Go-Kart handling, Best Seats in the Biz
Gripes: Still Looks Homely
Nismo is the competition arm of the Nissan empire. Any vehicle bearing the Nismo badge is sure to appeal to the driving enthusiast. Currently, Nismo’s best effort is also their most affordable one, the $26,120 Juke Nismo RS. Now, the Juke is never going to win anyone’s beauty prize, thanks to its bulbous headlights, angular planes, and ungainly tall stance. But to Nismo’s credit, the stylists and engineers in the competition department have orchestrated a makeover that turns the homely Juke into a fearsome canyon carver with looks to match.
Let’s start with the carefully contrived cosmetic surgery. Because the letter “O” in NISMO is red – like the Japanese setting sun – everything else on the Juke RS derives from that chroma key. A neat red pinstripe decorates the RS-specific front and rear fascias as well as the rocker panels of the Sapphire Black body. Red rear view mirrors complete the two tone appearance of the exterior. Inside, the color symphony continues with racing Recaro front buckets with black suede seating surfaces, red side bolsters and red “Nismo RS” embroidered headrests. Black front and rear seats display contrasting red stitching, and even the 8,000rpm tachometer face (redline 6,500) is anodized red to match the rest of the bi-color decor.
Simulated carbon fiber surrounds the 5.8 inch color touchscreen in the center of the dash face. This navigation device, which also offers various Nissan Connect applications, is part of the $1,200 optional Navigation Package that includes Voice Recognition for Audio and Navigation, Sirius XM Traffic and Travel Link, and Streaming Audio via Bluetooth. A Rockford Fosgate “ecoPUNCH” audio system with subwoofer, and USB Connection Port for iPod-like devices completes the benefits package.
But the hospitality of the interior furnishings are secondary components of the Juke’s DNA. This is primarily a tightly focused driver’s car, with an unforgiving ride quality, and a peaky but powerful engine. Likewise, the Recaro seats offer heavenly support when you’re strapped in, but are maddeningly difficult to enter or exit. If you’ve got racer genes, the performance of the Juke Nismo RS will be more than worth the tradeoff in comfort and ease of operation. The uprated 197hp “DIG Turbo” direct injection motor is 10hp stronger than that of the base Juke. It also produces 184 lb.-ft. of torque, 7 pounds more than the standard Juke. The suspension is considerably stiffer than the stock Juke, so you will feel more road imperfections but enjoy greater control when the road turns twisty. The premium performance biased Continental tires (225/45R18 ContiSportContacts) ride on Nismo specific 7 x 18 inch alloys with enough tiny spokes to keep you busy for hours at car wash time.
Rear seat passengers in this Juke will long for their trip to conclude. The exceptionally tall Recaro front seat backs impede frontal vision for rear seat riders, as well as knee room. Although the Juke offers a fifth door hatchback, cargo space is so limited that you’ll want to fold flat the 60/40 split rear seats to make room for anything bulky. A nice feature is the under-floor rear cargo bin, ideal for hiding valuables from sight.
The Juke Nismo RS is a hard core enthusiast sedan which makes few concessions to comfort or ease of drivability in its quest to provide maximum thrust on twisty roads. If you enjoy road racing, you will love this little rocket. Kudos to Nissan for having the resolve to offer such a tightly focused sports package at such an affordable price. The Recaro seats alone are worth the paltry price of admission.
2014 Nissan Juke Nismo RS
- Engine: 1.6 liter inline 4, turbocharged with direct injection
- Horsepower: 197hp.
- Torque: 184 lb.-ft.
- Fuel Consumption: 25 MPG City/31 MPG Highway
- Price as Tested: $28,345
- Star Rating: 10 out of 10 Stars