"The Nissan Juke Nismo is lots of fun to drive, without sacrificing everyday practicality."
The Nissan Juke Nismo is the high-performance model of the standard Nissan Juke and was the first in Nissan's range of Nismo-tuned cars being sold in the UK market. Since it released, new models of the Renaultsport Clio, Peugeot 208 GTi and Ford Fiesta ST have all raised the bar and made the competition fierce – so the Nismo has to really perform just to keep pace. Originally designed to be a competitor for the MINI Paceman Cooper S, it uses the same 1.6-litre turbocharged engine that you’ll find in the standard Juke DIG-T model, but tuned to produce an extra 10bhp for a higher total power of 197bhp. It comes with either front-wheel drive and a six-speed manual gearbox or four-wheel drive with a CVT automatic. The Juke Nismo is pleasingly lively to drive, but also comfortable enough to be used as an every day car – even with suspension that 's been stiffened by 10 per cent stiffer to improve its handling. All in all, it's generally pretty impressive.
MPG, running costs & CO2 emissions
The Juke Nismo is a performance-model version of the standard Juke, so running costs were never going to be at the top of its key assets. The front-wheel-drive Nismo returns a combined fuel economy of 40.9mpg and emits 159g/km of CO2, which puts it in road tax band G. However, the four-wheel-drive model can only manage to return a combined economy figure of 38.2mpg and emit 169g/km – which is identical to the less-powerful 1.6-litre DIG-T model and also bumps its up one more tax band. In comparison, the MINI Countryman Cooper S returns 46.3mpg and emits 143g/km with a manual gearbox and front-wheel drive, while the ALL4 model, fitted with a six-speed automatic, manages to return 36.7mpg and emit 180g/km of CO2. Nissan offers a fixed-price servicing package that should help keep any maintenance costs manageable.
Interior & comfort
Considering that the suspension on the Juke Nismo is 10 per cent stiffer than the standard car, there really isn’t much impact on the comfort of the ride. When driving at motorway speeds, you do notice a tendency for the car to bob about a bit more over small bumps, but it definitely still feels softer to ride in than the harsh JCW version of the MINI Paceman. The Nismo gets some nice Alcantara-trimmed sports seats that are a great addition to the interior because they manage to be soft enough to make long journeys easy as pie, while also being supportive enough to hold you firmly in place when the Nismo goes round fast corners. Wind and road noise are generally well suppressed, but there is a noticeable sound coming from around the wing mirrors when driving at motorway speeds. The booming engine sound can get a little tiresome after a while, too.
Practicality & boot space
Neither general practicality nor interior space are negatively affected by choosing the Nismo version over the standard car. The only thing to be wary of is that even when fitted with the four-wheel drive – which is only really required if you encounter a lot of bad weather – the Juke Nismo is still very far from being an off-roading SUV, no matter what it looks like. It may have a raised SUV body style but this is still a supermini at heart. The boot offers a reasonable 251 litres of space with the rear seats in place, which isn’t bad for this class, but is nonetheless almost 80 litres less than the MINI Paceman. Fold the standard-fit 60:40 split-folding rear seats flat and that capacity expands to 550 litres. However, if you do choose the 4x4 model, which comes fitted with a CVT automatic gearbox then the boot capacity goes down to 207 litres with back seats up and 506 litres with them folded flat – which is basically like giving more practicality with one hand, then taking some away with the other.
Reliability & safety
The standard Juke placed a healthy 62nd in the 2013 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey's top 100 cars list. The difference between the Nismo and the standard car is mainly an enhanced 1.6-litre DIG-T engine and suspension, which bodes better for reliability than if Nissan has used a range of new mechanical components. What's more, the Juke scored the full five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests, so it remains a very safe car. Standard safety equipment is certainly generous, with electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes, six airbags, active front head restraints and ISOFIX child-seat anchor points all included. Inside, the sense of quality is much higher than on the standard car, too, thanks to the interior sporting suede seats, a suede steering wheel and a new 5.8-inch sat-nav that's included as standard equipment. All the materials used feel robust enough to stand up to some fairly extensive daily wear and tear, and overall the Nismo feels strong, safe and just that little bit more premium than the standard Juke.
Engines, drive & performance
No one would deny that the Juke could benefit from an injection of a little excitement – and the Nismo definitely delivers just that. The turbocharged engine is quick to respond when you push the accelerator, and it gets pretty noisy at higher speeds. While the handling can’t match traditional hot hatchbacks like Renaultsport Clio when driving through the corners thanks to the higher body resulting in a fair amount of body roll, the stiffer suspension and added resistance to the steering means it can change direction more quickly and feels decidedly sportier. We’d recommend avoiding the more expensive four-wheel-drive version, because while it may offer more grip in slippery weather conditions, the CVT automatic gearbox doesn’t match the rest of the car's sheer enthusiasm for driving.
Price, value for money & options
Nissan was determined that the Juke Nismo would be available to as many customers as possible, so it worked hard to make sure that the purchase price was kept down to an affordable level without compromising on a high level of standard equipment. It comes fitted with a 5.8-inch sat-nav system, climate control, sports seats, a reversing camera and push-button start, not to mention its chunkier bodykit, LED running lights and 18-inch alloys, all as standard equipment. Then you also get that extra powerful engine, plus an upgraded suspension and improved steering. The front-wheel drive manual model costs £1,700 more than the 187bhp 1.6 DIG-T standard Juke, while the four-wheel-drive automatic model costs £2,220 more on top of that, but you never feel like you’re being short-changed – as long as this is the Juke that you know you want.