Nissan Juke Nismo A hothatch on stilts

Nissan Juke Nismo Review

In Car Reviews by Chris Lilly

For those of us who like their cars and all things automotive, there are few better pieces of news than when a manufacturer makes a quick car quicker.

So when that company is Nissan and the in-house performance division Nismo is involved, it’s music to petrol-heads’ ears.

The car in question is not, unfortunately, the blistering Nissan GT-R but the Juke – the strange looking mini-SUV.

I have driven the previously quickest Juke, the DIG-T, and was pleasantly surprised by it. In fact, I described it as a hot-hatch on stilts. What’s the difference between the DIG-T and the Nismo I hear you ask – well ok, I don’t really know but it keeps the review flowing naturally if I tell you anyway.

To be honest there hasn’t been much tinkering by Nismo, just little tweaks here and there.

Driving the Nissan Juke Nismo

Starting on the inside, the gently bucketed suede seats are superbly supportive – not too tight to sit in but they hold you through the bends comfortably. That theme is continued with the steering wheel which is covered in alcantara and is a good size to work with during cornering.

The rest of the interior is duly Nismo’d up too with suede seats in the rear (not as supportive as the front so rear passengers would be grateful if you kept the racing cornering to a minimum) and red flashes about the cabin to help remind you of the sporting intentions. The exterior styling follows suit – a small body kit merely differentiates the Nismo from the rest of the range but isn’t in-your-face about it.

The remaining space and kit available are standard Juke so, although there isn’t a huge amount of leg or head space in the rear, children will have no problems. The boot space is decent too until you begin to fill it to the brim as the sloping rear roof line quickly cuts into the potential load area.

This particular Juke is not all about the practicality though. You don’t buy a hot-hatch to be the easiest car to live with and the same is true with a slightly taller one.

The key reason to buy a hot-hatch is that it is a quick car that you can cope with day to day. The Juke falls into that category in a way that was unique until the recent introduction of the Mini Paceman.

The whole idea of having a tall car that handles well is rather counter intuitive. The raised height also raises the centre of gravity, giving Nismo’s engineers a tougher task.

The primary performance changes that have taken place are a small boost in engine power and a stiffening of the suspension. These sound like small changes but, as I said, the Juke was a quick little car beforehand.

The power from the 1.6 litre turbo-charged DiG-T engine has only been raised by 10hp which takes it to 200hp. That sort of figure is now towards the bottom end of what should be expected from a serious hot-hatch. The Nissan powerplant is a torquey little unit though with 184 lb ft available for the driver to make use of. That allows for a 0-62mph time of 7.8 seconds with the manual gearbox and 8.2 seconds with the CVT ‘box.

As I said, those figures are hardly headline making anymore but they are not bad at all and the Juke never feels as though it lacks for power.

The suspension though is a different matter. The suspension has not been dropped but has been stiffened up, maintaining the ride height but allowing the car to handle better around bends. Although this might seem like a small change it impacts on the car’s handling dramatically, keeping the car far more level while cornering and giving the driver increased confidence to push on – allowing the Juke to be used to its full and impressive potential.

The upside to this is that the car is far more forgiving when being used for normal driving as the longer than usual travel in the suspension makes for a more comfortable ride. It is able to soak up more bumps than a traditional hot-hatch and is the better for it.

In short, the Juke Nismo is a bizarre combination of sports car, family hatch and small SUV but somehow it works. The balance between the different and often contrasting attributes is excellent and it really is a car for all drivers. It’s tall enough for you to put a baby-seat in the rear and load your weekly food shop without having to bend down too far but it will also give you an enjoyable journey on the open road. It’s not perfect but, as an overall vehicle, Nissan has produced a very good car.

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