2015 Nissan Juke Nismo RS 1.6 DIG-T 218PS 2WD manual review – Is it Really Worthy of the Nismo Badge?

Juke Nismo?

Nissan Juke Nismo RS 2015 black with red trim

 

Nismo stands for Nissan Motorsport, and these guys are not only responsible for developing Nissan’s race vehicles, but they’re also the official tuning arm of Nissan too – like AMG and M for BMW and Merc – and have been around since 1984.

These boys are serious about what they do, producing potent Nismo versions of cars like the 370Z and GT-R which have more focussed handling and aggressive power levels. With an updated-for-2014 Juke Nismo RS available, is it just a bunch of badges slapped onto a sporty-looking Juke, and does it deserve the revered moniker? Read on to find out…

Exterior. Butt-ugly or beauty?

Rear three quarter view of the Nissan Juke Nismo RS 2015 review

It was really important to make something that looked stronger but wasn’t more complicated. Nismo is not about adding shape and surfaces for no reason, it’s about genuine aerodynamic and dynamic improvement“, said  Darryl Scriven, Project Lead designer for Nissan Design Europe, talking about Juke Nismo RS.

While the standard Juke still gets a fair amount of mixed responses about its design, it’s a hugely popular crossover so the majority clearly like it. The Juke Nismo RS benefits from lower front and rear bumpers, wider wings and sill side skirts, plus a modified grille and tailgate spoiler to better control airflow and these reduce front and rear lift without increasing drag. In fact, over the standard model there’s an incredible 37% gain in aerodynamic downforce!

Front three quarter view of the Nissan Juke Nismo RS 2015

The lightweight 18-inch alloy wheels have wider tyres for higher grip levels, and there’s also a more free-flowing exhaust system too, showing the Juke Nismo isn’t just some blinged-up racer wannabe, but a genuinely sporty car.

The Nismo RS is way more muscular than the standard Juke, and it could be said less feminine even. For the time I had the stealthy black and red Nissan on test, it grabbed a surprising amount of attention, and fair enough too. In that colour combo it actually looks mean, and there’s no getting away from the hunkered-down sporty design.

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There aren’t many of the Juke Nismo RS’ on the roads still, so it’s quite a unique sight. You can see the people who know their cars as they point, nod in approval and mouth the word ‘Nismo’ at their friends, and the ones who don’t know the badge tend to have a good look round when it’s parked up. Like the Juke’s styling or not, the Nismo is really in another league – more punchy, aggressive and potent – and the fact that the extra trim pieces genuinely make for a more positive drive make it cool in my book.

Interior. Neat or nothing special?

Front seat driving position steering wheel and dashboard in the Nissan Juke Nismo RS 2015

Bucket seats are always a good start if you’re opening the door to a car with decent performance, and the Juke Nismo RS has especially-nice Recaro versions up front. At least if you option them that is. Sliding one’s rear into them, it’s notable that they’re fairly… snug. Not uncomfortably so though, and they’re a good mix of street-sensible and track-ready. They look like they’d be okay for about half an hour before your butt screams in pain, but actually they’re comfortable and support the back in just the right places.

In front of you is a grippy, thick leather and Alcantara steering wheel – small enough to give it a sporty feel. Glance in front at the dials, and the Nismo version gets a red rpm gauge, highlighting the fact revs supersede the speedometer when you really want to get a shift on. On the floor are racing-style aluminium pedals to finish off the track-inspired cabin hints.

Recaro seats in the Nissan Juke Nismo RS 2015

Contrasting red stitching graces the seats, areas of the dash and gear gaiter, and a few Nismo plaques here and there, just in case you forgot what you were driving. The NissanConnect 5.8-inch touchscreen provides sharp, modern graphics and easy-use menus alongside a decent satellite navigation system, reverse camera system plus DAb radio and Bluetooth, and there’s also steering-mounted controls for the stereo and phone calls.

Steering wheel and dash binnacle in the Nissan Juke Nismo RS 2015 review

A very clever bit of tech I loved is the Nissan Dynamic Control System, a mini screen and bank of switchgear which is situated just below the touchscreen. At first, it seems as if it’s simply a rather funky way to control the climate, but push the D-Mode  button and the same switchgear that was used for the ventilation changes into driving mode selectors, and the screen can be used as a turbo boost gauge. That’s a pretty cool and ingenious way to do things, as it saves on loads of controls being dotted about.

The rear seating looks great, and it’s actually fairly comfortable too. However, head room is fairly tight, and there’s not exactly loads of leg room either. It’s okay, but I wouldn’t like to spend my time in the rear on a longer journey. Safety-wise, there are six airbags as standard, and the Juke gets the maximum 5-star rating from Euro NCAP.

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Luggage space in the boot is 40% larger over the previous model on the 2-wheel-drive versions of the Nismo RS, taking it to 354 litres behind the rear seats, and a total of 1,189 litres with those folded flat. There’s a false floor to the boot, which I like as you can store stuff in the bottom section if you don’t want it flying about as you give it the beans on some winding tarmac.

While there are soft-touch rubberised trim pieces here and there, the fact is that there’s still slightly too many tap-hard plastics for my liking, and the interior just didn’t feel as solid or well put together as it should. For example, when I was sat in the rear photographing the cabin, I happened to catch the plastic piece which runs right into the front between the seats, and it lifted up entirely loosely. It hadn’t broke, it just wasn’t held in place well at all.

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I realise the Juke’s cabin offers a decent amount of kit for a reasonable price, and on the Nismo RS there’s nice bits of Alcantara and suede used which actually looks very nice, but it’s strange because the cabin also contrasts these by looking and feeling quite low-grade in places, unfortunately.

Is it forgivable because you’re diving the Nismo RS, and therefore will be more bothered by how it drives? Yes and no. Yes, when you’re blasting along, right foot hard down and concentrating hard as the Juke skips joyfully around a tight bend. And no when you’re pottering about in cruddy city traffic, and there’s nothing to look at but tail lights and the interior of your car.

Engine & gearbox

The Juke uses a 1.6 DIG-T, 4-cylinder turbocharged and intercooled petrol engine. Since the last Nismo model, power is up by 18 horsepower, taking it to 215 bhp @ 6,000 rpm, and torque on the 2-wheel-drive manual is 206 lb ft (280Nm), produced between 3,600 and 4,800 rpm.

Go for the Juke Nismo RS in 4WD M-Xtronic (automatic) guise over the manual, and you’ll lose 4 bhp as well as 22 lb ft of torque, taking it down to 184 lb ft (250Nm).

Nissan Juke Nismo RS 2015 review-0275

Our test car came as the 2-wheel-drive (driven through the fronts), with the six-speed manual transmission. 0 – 62 mph is achieved in 7.0 seconds, and it’ll hit 137 mph at the top. Again, the 4WD M-Xtronic loses a second on the sixty-two run, and 13 mph in the top end.

Official fuel stats (UK mpg) for the manual are: urban: 29.7, extra-urban: 47.9, combined: 39.2, with 168 g/km CO2 emissions. With the 4WD M-Xtronic, there’s so little difference in economy and emissions that it’s not worth worrying about.

Ready to roll? Let’s drive!

Nissan Juke Nismo RS 2015 review-0322

The Juke Nismo RS is a fairly aggressive-looking car, and so naturally as I fired the engine into life I expected a decent burble from the exhaust, but no, I’m instead greeted with a rather weedy farty sounding noise coming from the exhaust. It’s very disappointing actually, after all the expectation from viewing the sporty exterior, opening the door and slipping into the hugging Ricaro bucket seat, facing the Alcantara-wrapped steering wheel, before pushing the starter button.

There’s simply no strength, fruitiness or depth to the exhaust tone at all, and revving it at a stop will only produce engine noise and a faint note from behind the car. Rubbish, and surely the blokes at Nismo could’ve come up with something so much nicer. I’m going on about it, but it’s an important part of any car bearing the Nismo badge.

drivers view in the Nissan Juke Nismo RS 2015

Right, onto the drive. The clutch is a light, commute-traffic friendly one, while the 6-speed manual shifter provides beautifully precise changes, which remind me of the one in the Peugeot 208 GTi THP 200, although not quite as short-throw as the Pug’s.

The front wheel drive Juke Nismo RS gets a mechanical Limited Slip Differential (LSD), as well as Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC), which ‘uses various sensors to monitor driver inputs and vehicle motion. Under certain driving situations, the system will control braking and engine output to help keep the vehicle on its steered path.’

Driving the Nissan Juke Nismo RS 2015.

The trouble is, accelerating hard from a complete stop out of T-junctions, I found the front end pulls about hard as the VDC and LSD struggle to control the power at each side, and the steering wheel jerks heavily in the hands as the car goes from turn to straight. If I’m honest, you have to grapple pretty hard with the steering to keep it in line, and the tendency for it is to pull hard to either side for the first few seconds.

Yes, it’s kinda good that the driver has no choice but to be fully involved, but it’s also not so enjoyable when you need to pull out quickly in heavy traffic in a tight street lined with cars. The 4WD M-Xtronic will likely counter this, but you’re losing a bit of power and torque in the process too.

Once rolling though, the Juke Nismo RS accelerates with real gusto, the rpm needle climbing quickly in any gear once you’re in the power band. Should you want to overtake at motorway speeds of 70 miles per hour upwards, the car does so with a satisfactory willingness, and it’s both great fun and addictive to give the accelerator a good poke in the higher rev band and be rewarded with a nice burst of speed.

Nissan Juke Nismo RS 2015 DIG engine cover

Actually, that weedy-at-rest exhaust note I mentioned earlier does change completely once you’re on the gas pedal, and around 4,500 rpm it puts out a decently gruff growl as the engine revs climb. Once you’re up to cruising speed, the Juke Nismo RS settles down well, and although the short-ratio gearing means the rpm’s are higher than the average car at around seventy miles per hour, it makes little difference to the noise coming into the cabin from the engine bay, plus sound from the wind and road is actually quite muted, making the Juke Nismo RS a decent cruiser.

Should you just be using the Juke on boring urban routes, it’s an easy car to use as the short ratios allow you to quickly get into higher gears at low speeds, and relax as the car potters along with enough low-down torque to not put a drag on the engine.

The fully-independant suspension is obviously going to be firmer than the average Juke (10% stiffer, actually), as it’s meant to provide a sporty drive, so imperfections in the tarmac at low speeds are very noticeable. However, it’s not uncomfortably bad, and the guys at Nismo have clearly thought things through by making it just supple enough to still be spine-friendly.

Using the D-Mode (drive mode) button, changes the way the Juke accelerates quite dramatically. In Eco, power under your right foot is considerably muted, but not overly so, and actually I found it drove nicely in the mode when I was in slow-moving traffic, as it smoothes out any jerkiness from the acceleration.

I rarely used ‘Normal’ mode, and preferred to jump straight from Eco to Sport, whereupon the Juke suddenly livens, and accelerator response becomes instant, the Juke jumping forward enthusiastically, as though let off the leash after being restrained.

Driving the Nissan Juke Nismo RS 2015

The Juke Nismo RS is all about a fun and focussed drive, and that’s exactly what you get. Heading out to my favourite winding section of road, and the RS didn’t disappoint. The grip level is spectacular, and the chassis – which was reinforced in key areas to make it stiffer than the standard Juke – feels absolutely tight and sorted with minimal roll, even at higher speeds around long, fast, tightening curves.

The Nismo-tuned electric power steering is wonderfully responsive even to minimal movements, and it’s an absolute joy to give it the beans down familiar twisting and turning lanes, the exhaust note actually playing a part in the excitement of now the engine is revving high and under load. The Nismo RS’ max. kerb weight of 1,341 kilograms (2,956 lbs) is respectably low, and the upgraded brake discs and pads stop the Juke in a confidence-inspiring manner, biting nice and evenly without being so aggressive that you’re face-planted into the steering wheel at the slightest touch of the pedal.

Side view of the Nissan Juke Nismo RS 2015 driving by.

215 horsepower isn’t a huge amount by today’s standard, with hatches starting to kick out 300+ bhp, but this amount is actually nice. It still makes the Juke Nismo RS quick enough to be entirely enjoyable should you want to get down the road quickly, but it’s also useable without having to worry that your licence will be burned and you will be thrown in jail for years each time you press the accelerator a smidgen (like the Jag F-Type V8 S).

So, it goes and handles well enough, and if you are okay with a firm ride should you be commuting or doing city driving a fair amount, then the Juke Nismo RS is a very fun compact SUV to drive, and my only real issue with it is the prominent torque steer you have to wrestle with heavily when accelerating hard around low-speed corners or out of T-junctions or tight roundabouts.

Price

(figures correct Sept. 2015) The Nissan Juke Nismo RS is currently priced at £21,650 for the manual, and £23,750 4WD M-Xtronic. The top of the range Juke Tenka DIG-T 190 is around £2,000 less in either manual or 4WD Xtronic guise, but it doesn’t get the Nismo-treated chassis, suspension, steering or power upgrades, so I’d say the Nismo RS is actually fairly priced, and guaranteed to pull in the buyers at just £2k extra.

So, what sort of rivals are there. Well, the Juke Nismo RS is classed as a ‘performance crossover’, according to Nissan, and there’s not a whole bunch of those about currently. So, let’s go for price, performance and four/five seats as comparisons.

There’s the Kia pro_cee’d GT for around £20,000 – £23,000 (201 bhp/198 lb ft), the Peugeot 208 GTi THP 200 (201 bhp/203 lb ft) for approximately £19,500, the Hyundai Veloster Turbo (184 bhp/195 lb ft) for £22,000, the Skoda Fabia vRS hatch (177 bhp/184 lb ft) for around £17,000, and the Renault Clio Renaultsport 220 Trophy (220 bhp/206 lb ft) from £21,780.

2015 Nissan Juke Nismo RS 1.6 DIG-T 218PS verdict & score

Rear 3/4 view of the Nissan Juke Nismo RS 2015

If there was an unlikely candidate for the guys at Nismo to choose, it was the Juke. A properly sporty crossover – there aren’t many out there as yet, and therefore not many direct rivals to it. However, the Nismo boys have done a genuinely good job in giving the Juke Nismo RS their attention.

You could mistake the Juke for simply having a sporty bodykit and wheels and being lowered, but there’s a genuine reason behind those lightweight wheels, the roof spoiler and rear diffuser – they actually produce a more positive end result on handling performance.

Although the 2015 Juke Nismo RS is at the budget end of the Nismo-tuned range of cars, it’s also a bona-fide Nismo car, and truly worthy of the revered badge.

Do you own a 2015> Nissan Juke Nismo RS, or have questions about it? Share your thoughts and leave a comment below! Read more of our Nissan reviews here

Exterior  8.5
Interior  6.5
Engine  7.5
Gearbox  8
Price  8
Drive & Handling  9
Ride  7.5
Overall Score  8.0 / 10 

Specs

Model (as tested)  2015 Nissan Juke Nismo RS 1.6 DIG-T 218PS 2WD manual
Spec includes  18″ lightweight Nismo alloys, Nismo-tuned exhaust, Limited Slip Differential, upgraded brakes, Nismo-tuned chassis, suspension and steering, Nismo aero package, Recaro suede sports seats, Alcantara & leather steering wheel, daytime running lights, 6 airbags, NissanConnect 5.8” touch screen with sat nav, DAB, Bluetooth, ABS with EBD and Brake Assist. See website for more details
Options you should spec  Tech Pack: Xenon headlamps and Safety shield technologies – Around View Monitor, Lane Departure Warning, Blind Spot Warning
The Competition  Kia pro_cee’d GTPeugeot 208 GTi THP 200Hyundai Veloster TurboSkoda Fabia vRS hatch, Renault Clio Renaultsport 220 Trophy
Price  (Sept. 2015) £21,995.00
Engine  Petrol, 1.6 DIG-T, 4-cylinders in-line, 16-valve, turbocharged and intercooled
Power, Torque  Power: 215 bhp @ 6,000 rpm | Torque: 206 lb ft (280Nm) @ 3,600 – 4,800 rpm.
Drive, Gears (as tested)  Front wheel drive | 6-speed manual
Top Speed, 0 – 60 mph, Euro NCAP  Max speed: 137 mph | 0 – 62 mph: 7.0 seconds | Euro NCAP rating: 5/5 stars (2011 model)
Fuel economy (UK mpg), CO2  Urban: 29.4, Extra urban: 49.6, Combined: 39.2 | CO2: 168 g/km
Boot size, Weight  Boot (litres): rear seats up: 354, seats folded: 1,189 | Weight (min. kerb): 1,341 kgs (2,956 lbs)
Websites  Nissan UK, Nissan worldwide

Words: Chris Davies | Photography: Chris Davies, Matthew Davies

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