"The Nissan Juke Nismo is more fun to drive, without sacrificing everyday practicality."
The Nissan Juke Nismo is a high-performance version of the standard Nissan Juke, and the first in a new range of Nismo-tuned Nissans to be sold in the UK. Aimed at the MINI Countryman Cooper S, it uses the same 1.6-litre turbocharged engine as the standard DIG-T model, but tuned to produce an extra 10bhp for a total of 197bhp. Available with either front-wheel drive and a six-speed manual gearbox or four-wheel drive with a CVT auto, the Juke Nismo feels lively to drive, but is comfortable enough to be used every day - despite suspension that 's 10 per cent stiffer than the standard car.
The Juke needed an extra dose of excitement, and the Nismo delivers just that. The turbocharged engine can be quite noisy at high engine speeds, but responds quickly when you push the accelerator. In corners, the handling can't match traditional hot hatches like the Clio Renaultsport - the higher body means it rolls around a fair amount - but the firmer suspension and added resistance to the steering helps it change direction quicker and feel sportier. Although it offers more grip in bad weather conditions, we'd avoid the more expensive four-wheel-drive version, as the CVT automatic gearbox doesn't match the enthusiastic character of the rest of the car.
The suspension springs have been stiffened by 10 per cent to improve the handling, but the overall effect on comfort is relatively small. At motorway speeds, it has a tendency to bob up and down more over small bumps than the standard car, but it certainly feels softer than the MINI Countryman JCW. Alcantara-trimmed Nismo sports seats are a great addition to the interior, as they manage to be both soft enough to make long journey's a breeze, and supportive enough to hold passengers in place during fast corners. Generally, wind and road noise are well suppressed, but there is a rustle from around the wing mirrors at motorway speeds, and the booming engine sound can get tiresome after a while.
Rather than using a range of new mechanical components for the Juke Nismo, Nissan has simply enhanced the 1.6 DIG-T engine and suspension from the standard car. That bodes well for the reliability, as the Juke scored the full five stars when it was crash tested by Euro NCAP. The sense of quality on the interior is much higher than the standard car, too, thanks to the suede seats, suede steering wheel and a new 5.8-inch sat-nav that's included as standard. The materials feel robust enough to stand up to the wear and tear of daily use, too. Safety equipment is generous, with anti-lock brakes, six airbags, active front head restraints and Isofix child-seat anchor points fitted as standard.
Opting for the Nismo version carries zero penalties in terms of interior space or general practicality. If you encounter frequent bad weather, it's worth considering the four-wheel-drive version, but even then the Juke is far from an off-roader. Despite the raised SUV bodystyle, this is still a supermini at heart. The boot offers 251 litres of space, which is reasonable for this class, but 100-litres less than the MINI Countryman. The 60:40-split rear seats fold flat easily to enable the car to offer 550 litres of space.
Value for money
One of the main criteria for the Juke Nismo was making it accessible to as many customers as possible, which is why the price has been kept down to a reasonable level, and the list of standard equipment is high. Included as standard is a 5.8-inch sat-nav system, climate control, sports seats, a reversing camera and push-button start, not to mention the bodykit, LED running lights and 18-inch alloys. Then there's the extra power, plus upgraded suspension and steering. The front-wheel drive manual version costs £1,700 more than the non-Nismo 187bhp 1.6 DIG-T model at £19,995, while the four-wheel drive automatic model costs £2,220 more than that.
Go for the front-wheel-drive model and fuel efficiency is 40.9mpg, with CO2 emissions of 159g/km, while the four-wheel-drive version only manages 38.1mpg and 169g/km - that's identical to the less-powerful 1.6 DIG-T model. By comparison, the MINI Countryman Cooper S returns 46.3mpg and 143g/km with a manual gearbox and front-wheel drive, while the All4 model with a six-speed auto returns 36.7mpg and 180g/km of CO2. A fixed-price servicing package is available, which helps you manage the cost of maintence.