Nissan’s Juke first came to the market in 2010 as one of the first mini-crossover vehicles; five years later the mini-crossover is a booming segment. The Juke made an oversized splash in the industry not just because of its size but also because of its extremely unconventional looks. Some loved the design and some hated the design, but it definitely wasn’t a vehicle to be ignored. The Texas Auto Writers Association was so enamored that the Juke was named its CUV of Texas in 2010. I’ve had many opportunities to drive the Juke and have gone back and forth on the styling. Sometimes I really like it, while never seeing myself driving one. This week, though, we’re in the Nismo version – it was time to give it another thorough look.
The exterior styling really hasn’t changed from the original of five years ago. Of course our Nismo-spec’d Juke included a lot of clever and sporty add-ons, but retains basically the same sheetmetal and footprint. Our tester was painted White Pearl with Nismo red accents, including red door mirrors and red trim around the bottom of the car. Also added are new aero bits including front and rear fascia, lowered side sills, a rear diffuser and tweaked rear spoiler. All of this gives the car a much more sporty and aggressive look; thankfully, it’s also functional. The spoiler alone adds 37% more downforce for added stability and responsive handling. Up front you also get a slick row of LED daytime running lights to mimic those found on the GT-R.
The Juke Nismo gets its own unique look and feel inside with Recaro race-inspired seats. The seats are comfortable and bolstered to hold you in place during more aggressive driving. The steering wheel is covered in rich suede and leather with a red centermark at 12 o’clock to make sure you always know where the top of the wheel is. The tach is also unique to the Nismo – a vivid red matching other red accents in and around the car.
It’s not all racing and sporty flare, as you need daily comfort as well. You enjoy a Rockford Fosgate audio system with a powered subwoofer. You get a 5.8-inch color touch-screen for audio and navigation. There are easy-to-use controls on the steering wheel as well as voice commands to interface with the system hands-free. You get a smart key for easy locking and unlocking of the doors and a push button start ignition. All-in-all the interior was laid out well and felt a good mix of sports car and crossover utility with lots of room and plenty of flare.
Under the Hood
Under the hood you get the same 1.6-liter direct injection turbocharged 4-cylinder engine found in any other Juke model. This gives you 188-horsepower and 177-lb-ft of torque. Our tester was equipped with a 6-speed manual transmission, which is an obviously better choice for the sporty package; it also means you don’t have to live with the alternative, Nissan’s CVT.
The power from the turbo 1.6 was decent enough in moving this Juke around, although for a sporty vehicle it felt a bit lacking. Although we haven’t yet driven one, you can now get a Nismo RS with a more respectable bump to 215-hp and 210-lb-ft of torque. Thankfully, with the turbo setup the power comes in at the low end of the tach, giving you decent off-the-line acceleration. Regrettably, you definitely lose it on the top-end. Thanks to the Nismo goodies, including suspension and a brake upgrade, this car handles quite well, also.
The last vehicle reviewed before this Juke Nismo was the 500 Abarth. These may not directly compete as the Juke is a crossover and the 500 is a subcompact, but they are certainly both competing for the same enthusiast driver. Our Juke Nismo had an MSRP of $26,520; you can go even higher if opting for the RS, which pushes the price up closer to $30k. Our Abarth had a sticker price of just under $28K, and although more expensive doesn’t really get you more than the Juke; in terms of daily practicality it gives you significantly less. The Juke would more directly compete with vehicles like the Mazda CX-3 and the Fiat 500X, which are great mini-crossovers, but neither the 500X Fiat nor Mazda offer a dedicated sporting trim as this is written.
At the end of the week I really began to enjoy driving the Nismo Juke. I’m still iffy on the exterior styling and don’t think it really fits me, but when you’re inside the Juke you don’t have to see the exterior – while looking over the stylized hood and seeing the top mounted lights it actually looks kind of cool. Sitting a little taller on the road helps you overcome – at least psychologically – its smallish size when compared to most things driving on Texas highways, and when you get into town you don’t feel big at all but still enjoy great visibility. I would definitely recommend this car to anyone who’s interested in it. If you can get past the unorthodox styling while looking for a comfortable, semi-sporty utility vehicle the Juke Nismo could be perfect.