What is it?
For now, it’s the closest you’ll get to the matte-black Nissan GT-R-engined Juke-R we’ve all watched tearing around various urban wastelands on YouTube.
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The Juke Nismo RS sits at the top of the Juke range, replacing the now defunct Nismo model that topped the range before the Juke was face-lifted last year. Specifically, this is the front-wheel-drive manual version, which trumps the all-wheel-drive auto version for power and torque.
Power is up from the previous Nismo’s to 215bhp, while torque is better, too, at 207lb ft. The RS also gets a stiffer chassis, larger front brake discs and more equipment, while the manual – unlike its auto stablemate – gets a mechanical limited slip differential.
We’ve already driven the AWD version on ice, now it’s time to see how the manual FWD takes to UK roads.
What’s it like?
The old FWD Nismo model was disappointing when pushed hard, mainly because it felt like a car that was struggling to contain its new-found power. Simple as that.
The amount of power available was never an issue, and still isn’t, but the way it’s delivered continues to frustrate. You see, the thick end of the turbocharged 1.6’s 215bhp is at 6000rpm, while the bulk of the torque is felt between 3600 and 4800rpm, meaning this is an engine and gearbox combo that has to be worked hard to access the best bands.
Even so, put up with the booming engine in front of you, the curious exhaust note from behind and the Alcantara-clad wheel squirming in your hands, and the manual’s claimed seven-second dash to 62mph certainly feels achievable.
Into turns there’s some play in the Nismo RS’s steering around the straight ahead and there’s little communication from it, but it does feel more consistently weighted than before. Body control is probably slighter better, too, and the enhanced brakes provide more than enough stopping power.
There’s still too much body roll, though; the RS’s inside front wheel becomes light, and even feeding in the power early causes it to spin up and break traction. Ultimately, in the midst of the wheel writhing, it’s hard to determine when the new differential really takes hold at all.
Ride quality is much the same as before. It’s firm but controlled initially, even over large potholes, but the body fails to deal with everything quite so well, jostling those inside.
Inside, the RS gets unique intruments, pedals, gearlever and door trims to distinguish it from the rest of the range. Our car’s £1300 Recaro front seats, while very good, are an unnecessary additon.
Standard equipment is very generous, with 18-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth, DAB radio, sat-nav, cruise control, reversing camera, keyless entry and start, automatic headlights and wipers and heated front seats among the goodies.
Should I buy one?
As ever, it depends entirely on what you else you’re considering. If you want a quick mini-SUV, then the Juke Nismo RS is a good contender. There’s no doubting it’s quicker, cheaper and better-equipped than the equivalent 2WD manual Mini Countryman Cooper S.
However, if you’re more interested in the words ‘Nismo’ and ‘RS’ than ‘Juke’, then there are small hatchbacks that offer far more driver involvement for less money.
For nearly £2300 less in fact, a Ford Fiesta ST3 will give all the luxuries you need, together with the sublime chassis the Juke lacks. Even better, stick with the £17,395 entry-level ST and enjoy a proper performance bargain.
Nissan Juke Nismo RS 2WD manual
Price £21,650; Engine 4cyls, 1618cc, petrol; Power 215bhp at 6000rpm; Torque 207lb ft at 3600-4800rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual; Kerb weight 1315kg; Top speed 137mph; 0-62mph 7.0sec; Economy 39.2mpg; CO2/tax band 129g/km/18%
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