If a faster Nissan Juke strikes you as the answer to a question no one asked, it turns out you’re mistaken.
Nissan Australia says there is pent-up demand for a powered-up version of its quirky crossover and has secured 240 units of the Juke Nismo RS as it nears the end of its production life.
Two variants are available, an all-wheel drive CVT which Nissan expects to account for 70 per cent of sales and the front-drive six-speed manual we’re driving here. At $37,790, the manual costs an extra $7650 over the Ti-S on which it’s based, while the CVT adds $3700.
Visually, you’ll pick a Nismo by its bodykit, red mirrors, body-coloured wheel arches and 18-inch 10-spoke alloys, while inside there is Alcantara galore, carbon-look centre console, red stitching and a pair of ace sports seats. Sadly, there’s also acres of hard, scratchy plastic and a roof lining that feels like it’s been made out of old parcel shelves.
Overseas, all this addenda is available as a Juke Nismo R, but as part of Nissan Australia’s commitment to only offering Nismo models with tangible performance upgrades, it’s importing only the hotter RS.
A new exhaust and remapped ECU liberates extra power from the 1.6-litre turbo four, 157kW/250Nm in the case of the CVT and a full-fat 160kW/280Nm for the manual, which also benefits from a stronger clutch, limited-slip front diff and shorter final drive.
Performance is impressively punchy, with plenty of turbocharged torque to shove the Juke’s impressively svelte 1281kg along. No claim is made, but bet on 0-100km/h in around seven seconds.
Unfortunately, the engine sounds truly awful, emitting a baleful, buzzy whine under load like it’s in pain and the revs hang so long on the over-run it’s like the flywheel is made of lead.
Throttle response is good, but all the power feels to arrive in the first 50 per cent of pedal travel, which can make smooth application tricky.
The limited-slip diff ensures most of the power makes it to the ground, even in tight corners, but there is fairly severe torque steer under hard acceleration and the front wheels can scrabble on uneven surfaces, awaking the conservative traction control.
Outright grip is quite strong, particularly in longer sweeping corners where the Juke Nismo feels most at home, and the steering is a highlight, well-weighted and accurate with only a slight dead zone around the straight-ahead blotting its copybook.
Drive within its limits and the Juke flows well, but any attempt to bully it further results in scrubby understeer. The ride is decent, if a little fidgety on rough surfaces, but hit a mid-corner bump and the dampers quickly run out of travel.
For those Juke fans who want a bit more performance the Nismo is probably exactly what they’re after and its combination of bold design and crossover versatility has merit for those seeking something different.
Unfortunately, the execution leaves a lot to be desired. At this price point its more traditional hot hatch competitors – Polo GTI, Clio RS, i30 N, take your pick – offer more performance, greater space, nicer interiors and a far more rewarding driving experience.
If you really want a Juke that stands out from the crowd, buy a 140kW/240Nm Ti-S and invest in the new $800 myJuke personalisation pack.
2018 NISSAN JUKE NISMO RS SPECS
Engine: 1618cc inline-4, DOHC, 16v, turbo
Power: 160kW @ 6000rpm
Torque: 280Nm @ 3600-4800rpm
0-100km/h: 7.0sec (est.)
Weight: 1281kg (tare)
Ratings: 2.5 out of 5 stars
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