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Nissan Juke Nismo RS

Nissan Juke Nismo RS

The Nissan Juke Nismo RS needs to be approached from an oblique angle rather than head-on. Not in a literal sense (don’t forget the unusual front-end styling) but figuratively, because it so roundly defies the normal conventions of genre and category. You’ll already know that it doesn’t stack up as a hot hatch because it’s too tall and high-riding for that, and equally it doesn’t quite work as a small family crossover because it’s too stiff and expensive compared to the mainstream model.

Nissan Juke Nismo RS

So let’s approach it as the curio that it is and not allow ourselves to be drawninto fruitless comparisons with Focus STs and the like. This is not a car that stands up well to objective scrutiny, but it is different and for that I like it.

l still find it remarkable that an international car manufacturer, normally the most risk averse of institutions. would sign off a design as radical as the Juke, but when you’ve hedged your bets with the vanilla Qashqai, perhaps it’s less of a gamble. Here the Juke’s extraterrestrial aesthetic. which -as with the earlier Juke Nismo that this RS version replaces- has been pumped up with aggressive bumpers. 18-inch wheels and contrasting door mirrors.

That red accent lines tie it in neatly to the fearsome GT-R Nismo. but there the likeness ends. Where as the halo GT-R boasts close to 600bhp, the Juke makes do with 2l5bhp (up l8bhp on the outgoing Juke Nismo). The engine is a 1.6-litre, f0ur-cylinder turbo, which feeds the front wheels via a six-speed manual and a limited-slip diff. A four-wheel drive RS exists, but only with a CVT.

Nissan Juke Nismo RS rear

The MacPherson strut front suspension and torsion beam rear axle have been retuned with firmer springs and dampers, the brake discs are now 320mm in diameter up front and the body shell has been stiffened. Despite that more focused chassis tuning, the Juke Nismo RS actually rides with a gentle fluidity that evades most conventional hot hatches. lt’s a sporting car so there is a sharpness to the way it deals with bumps, but there’s also effective and cushioned damping. Naturally, it rolls quite markedly and it’s this lack of flat-bodied response that limits dynamic potential. Turn into a medium-speed corner and the car leans, then pushes into understeer. That is the Nismo’s MO, and it can’t be persuaded to do anything much else on the road. The same is true on circuit, except that in fast comers sheer momentum alone, rather than any particular rear-biased chassis balance, will see the back step out.

The artificial weighting and slightly aggressive self-centring response give the steering an elasticity that totally corrupts any messages that might be filtering through from the front axle. That makes turning into a comer at speed a guessing game, which isn’t helped by the modest turn-in bite. In short, this isn’t a car that naturally and effortlessly carries speed.

Nissan Juke Nismo RS front

That’s a shame because there is potential in the drivetrain. The engine lacks the low-down torque response of the very best turbo four-cylinder engines but it pulls well in the upper reaches, the gearshift quality is of the highest order and the LSD distributes the torque across the front axle effectively. However, under load there is excess wheels pin from the inside wheel that triggers the traction control. It doesn’t give the impression of the car being pulled through a corner by a taut rope – but it is better than an open diff.

The cabin is cramped in the rear, the steering wheel doesn’t adjust for reach. The bottom line is that the Juke Nismo RS is a flawed car, but in a sea of corporate faces it is fiercely individual.

Nissan Juke Nismo RS cabine

Nissan Juke Nismo RS seats

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