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Our verdict on the Nissan Juke Nismo, which gets more power, a tuned chassis and bespoke styling



only does this car cap the highly-successful Juke range, but it kicks
off a whole line-up of Nismo road cars - and it's an encouraging start. A
high-centre of gravity means it's no match dynamically for hot-hatches
like the Golf GTI, but it has a character all of its own. From the manic
power delivery of the turbocharged engine to the extrovert styling, the
Juke Nismo is a car that doesn't take itself too seriously - it isn't
too stiff or too loud to be used everyday, either. To get the price
below £20,000, considering the amount of equipment included, is also an
achievement to be proud of.
The Nissan Juke
invented the supermini crossover class in 2010 and has reaped the
rewards since, selling almost 29,000 units in the UK last year. But now a
glut of new competitors, such as the Peugeot 2008 and Renault Captur, has forced Nissan to up its game.
The result is this high-performance Nismo version with more power, a
tuned chassis and a striking new look. You'll be seeing a lot more of
the Nismo badge in the future, too - the Juke is the first in a series
of Nismo models designed to take on Renaultsport and Vauxhall's VXR range. Next in line is the 370Z, with an even-faster Juke Nismo 'RC' after that.
Formed back in 1984, Nismo (Nissan International Motorsports Co. Ltd)
is the official racing arm of the company and it's that track-bred DNA
that Nissan has attempted to infuse into the Juke Nismo. And unlike some
performance sub-brands it isn't achieved through brute power, the focus
has been more on tuning the chassis for handling finesse.
The engine is the same 1.6-litre turbocharged
unit as the current 187bhp DIG-T range-topper (and the
extravagantly-styled Deltawing race car), tuned to produce a modest
10bhp and 10Nm of torque more. That means the 0-62mph time drops from
8.0 to 7.8 seconds in the front-wheel-drive manual model, while the
four-wheel-drive version (only available with a CVT automatic and
costing £2,200 more) takes 8.2 seconds.
More dramatic changes have taken place under the skin with 10 per
cent stiffer springs front and back, plus retuned dampers to improve
body control. The steering has also been recalibrated for more immediate
On super-smooth Spanish motorways, the changes aren't immediately
obvious, except for the car bobbing up and down a bit more on
short-frequency bumps. Turn onto some quieter roads though and the
Nismo's mischievous character begins to shine through - this is a car
that encourages you to to behave badly.
It's not the best-sounding engine on the planet, making a droning
noise like a hoover on full throttle, but the slightly manic power
delivery and sharp throttle response (especially in Sport mode) is great
fun to try and tame. Pick up the throttle too early and you can feel
the front wheels spinning and scrabbling away underneath you, but even
so it sticks faithfully to your chosen line. The four-wheel-drive
version will clearly be grippier, but we'll have to wait and see whether
the CVT gearbox saps the fun.
The suspension never feels as stiff as you'd expect, which means body
roll is more pronounced than a traditional hot-hatch, but managing the
weight transfer from side-to-side in the corners adds to the
involvement. There could be more feel in the steering, and the fact that
it only adjusts for height, not reach, is a shame, but the new
Alcantara trim feels fantastic in your hands.
Even when static, the Nismo distances itself from the standard model
with new bodywork, styled at Nissan's design studio in London. Gone is
the distinctive 'wine-rack' front bumper with five holes punched into
it, replaced with a mesh grille. The fog lights have also been replaced
by thin LED daytime running lights above a pair of new vents.
Offered in three colours - Silver Grey, Pearl White or Metallic Black
- all versions come with bright red mirrors and a thin red pinstripe
around the bottom of the car. Swollen front wheel arches, side skirts,
lower bumpers and a roof spoiler are all designed to decrease lift at
high speeds, as well as beef up the Juke's appearance. Larger 18-inch
alloys, fitted with wider tyres are also dual-purpose, offering extra
grip and more visual punch.
On the inside there's a predominantly black colour scheme
interspersed with flashes of red. New suede-covered sports seats with
red stitching are the highlight, managing to be soft and comfortable as
well as hugging you tightly in the bends. Other upgrades like the red
rev counter, the suede steering wheel and metal instead of rubber pedals
make a big difference, especially as interior quality was never the
Juke's strong suit.
At under £20,000 for the manual, front-wheel drive model (£1,700 more
than the 187bhp DIG-T), the list of standard equipment includes
everything you could need, such as a new 5.8-inch sat-nav, climate
control and those Alcantara sport seats. The only option is a sticker
pack that adds a stripe on the roof and chequered decals on the sides.
Owners will soon be able to download a Nismo iPad app too which
connects to the car through Bluetooth and stores all your driving data,
including lap times, on the device. It might sound trivial to some, but
it positions this car right where Nissan wants it - aimed squarely at
the Playstation generation.

Key specs
Price: £19,995Engine: 1.6-litre four-cyl turbo petrolTransmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drivePower: 197bhpTorque: 250Nm0-62mph: 7.8 seconds

Top speed: 134mphEconomy: 40.9mpgCO2: 159g/kmEquipment: Reversing camera, sat-nav, push button start, LED running lights, suede sports seats, 18-inch alloysOn sale: Now

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