What is it?
Nismo – short for Nissan Motorsport – has been jazzing up Nissans since the Sixties, sprinkling magic on various Skylines and racing cars from the circuits of Japan to the straights of Le Mans. In Tokyo their creations are treated with cult reverence, but elsewhere they’re mostly restricted to video games. Until now. The Juke is just the first in a string of performance cars that’ll wear Nismo stripes. The idea is to take existing models and heat them by a few degrees, much like Ford does with the Fiesta ST. And although the Juke may be a fusion of fashion and five-door functionality, it’s also the most suitably sized – and priced – car in the Nissan range for a spot of extra speed. And so it was decided: one GTI-ish Juke, coming right up.
The springs and dampers are 10 per cent stiffer all-round, and the anti- roll bars are tauter. It makes 197bhp from its 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine versus 187bhp in the non-Nismo petrol version. Although none of this completely transforms the Juke, it’s enough to make it feel more like a hot-ish hatch than a mod-ish crossover: not too much roll, just enough power to grab your attention, and a cheeky measure of torque steer without feeling squirmy. It’s a playful little thing, this Juke, and although you won’t be monstering lap times, it’ll put you in the mood for a lively drive to work. Criticisms? The brakes could use a touch more bite. The engine could be more growly, to separate it from the more humdrum version in a normal Juke. The wheel doesn’t adjust for reach, and although the electric steering has been given a few ounces more weight it could feel even meatier.
On the inside
The seats are more shapely than a normal Juke’s, and trimmed in alcantara, as is the steering wheel. Both of which feel great. Other Nismo-isms go like this: red starter button, red-on-black dials, red-on- black stitching and a red line atop the steering wheel to help you sort your apex angles. In future, you’ll be able to fit an iPad Mini around the centre console on a mounting arm, loaded with an app – still in development – that talks to the car’s brain, then displays all sorts of exciting information about turbo boost and g forces and other things you don’t need to know, but will love showing your mates.
The Juke Nismo costs £19,995, which buys everything bar optional racing stripes. It means satnav – a new system with Google connectivity – reversing camera and keyless go are standard, which for just £2k more than a regular top-spec Juke, is a great deal. It’ll be sold through the usual Nissan dealers, so expect the usual levels of support and service.