2014 Nissan Juke Nismo RS Review by Carey Russ +VIDEO

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2014 Nissan Juke NISMO
RS

“I Love this… Giving Nissan’s entertaining Juke the NISMO treatment
and then some makes a good car even better!”

DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD WITH CAREY RUSS

    • SEE ALSO: Nissan Buyers Guide



2014 Nissan Juke NISMO
RS

Is it a small crossover or slightly-oversize hatchback? Does that
matter? Nissan’s hard-to-categorize Juke has been a surprising success,
either despite or because of its unusual styling. In standard trim, in
front-wheel drive form with manual or CVT transmissions or all-wheel drive
with a CVT and 188 horsepower from a turbocharged and intercooled 1.6-liter
engine with direct fuel injection, it’s quick, fun, and practical, a
winning combination. Nissan calls it a “bold urban sport cross”. I noticed
its excellent power delivery, long-travel and relatively soft suspension
(that can deal with poor roads just fine) and called it the world’s first
four-wheeled supermotard when I first drove one.

If you’re not familiar with the term, a supermotard, aka supermoto, is a
combination of motorcross, enduro, or dual-sport chassis with smaller
wheels and street tires (or racing slicks if raced) and suitably modified
suspension. They’re light, capable of cornering angles exceeded only by
MotoGP bikes, and much quicker, especially around corners, than logic or
your eyes want to believe. My first acquaintance with the regular Juke, in
FWD/six-speed manual form, was at a journalists’ track day. The
unlikely-looking thing was one of the most entertaining cars on the track
that day, at least for me.

The majority of Jukes sold are equipped with Nissan’s CVT, which should
work well for those who see it as a brash-looking compact crossover. The
six-speed brings out its performance character, of which there is plenty.
But for some people, more is better.

For them, there is the Juke NISMO – NISMO being NISsan MOtorsports. I met
that, in six-speed stick, front-wheel drive form, at this year’s
journalists’ ride drive and track day, on the street driving part. First
car of the day, lovely twisting road in the hills of California’s Central
Coast. Typical poorly-maintained pavement. With the NISMO aero kit,
upgraded suspension and wheels and tires, high-bolstered sports seats, and
engine modifications for 197 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque (up from
177). The stiffer suspension wasn’t as comfortable on the rough road, but
the car was better-planted, with even quicker reflexes. I put in a request
to get it for a week’s test.

For various reasons, that took longer than anticipated. And what showed
up last week wasn’t the Juke NISMO. It was the Juke Nismo RS, in manual,
front-wheel drive form. The difference? The RS is the next step up in
performance, with more power (215 hp stick, 211 CVT), more torque (210
lb-ft stick, 184 CVT), more serious internal upgrades to deal with that,
bigger brakes, more chassis bracing, and, inside, real Recaro race-type
seats. The $26,120 MSRP is more than the stick SV’s $20,990, or even the
stick Nismo’s $23,170, but the many and varied upgrades would cost you far
more than that were you to try the DIY approach — and you get a full
factory warranty. It still provides plenty of bang for the buck, just more
bang and more bucks.

2014 Nissan Juke NISMO
RS

This is not a car for everyone — if you’re of large size, the Recaros
aren’t, and the sport-oriented suspension is far stiffer than stock, so the
“supermotard” nature of the SV becomes more “superbike”. The stick comes
with one of the stiffest clutches I’ve ever dealt with. The Juke NISMO RS
is far more a hot hatchback than compact crossover, and it’s total silly
fun. That would lead you to think that a Friend of OPEC award might be
given for fuel economy. Wrong! At a 27 mpg average for the week, with as
little highway boredom as I could manage, it was anything but thirsty
considering its abilities.

Note that this was a 2014 model. 2015s go on sale later in the year, and
Nissan has announced that the Juke will then get a styling makeover. This
is a typical mid-product cycle refresh. There is no word on engines or
models, but since Nissan wants the Nismo brand to grow, I expect the Juke
NISMO and NISMO RS to continue.

Watch the original introduction video for the Juke NISMO concept

APPEARANCE: It’s hard not to smile when you see a regular Juke. It’s so
unlikely-looking, but in a good way. There’s not an aggressive line on its
body. It doesn’t even look fast… until it gets the Nismo aero kit.
That’s the usual — a larger splitter in front, sill extensions on the
sides, and a faux-venturi panel at the lower rear. A red pinstripe through
those pieces and red caps on the outside mirrors match with red brake
calipers. The visor-type spoiler above the hatch is a bit larger than that
of the lesser Jukes. The major visual difference between the NISMO and
NISMO RS is badging.

COMFORT: Real Recaros require real commitment. If you’re small to medium
in girth and flexible, getting past the bolsters will be a minor stretching
exercise. The idea behind such a seat design is to hold the driver and
front passenger snugly and securely in place in high-g cornering maneuvers.
These work as advertised, with false suede seating surfaces for more grip
than leather. The same material also covers most of the steering wheel rim,
again for a secure grip. Once situated, the seats are wonderfully
supportive and comfortable. Not soft and squishy comfortable, but good,
firm comfortable, all the better to reduce fatigue for safer driving. False
suede also covers the visor over the instruments, which are shaded from
glare and brightly backlit so easily read in all lighting. There is a
useful information display between the tach and speedometer. The Navigation
Package with which my test car was equipped has touchscreen and
voice-controlled navigation and all current audio choices, including
Bluetooth streaming audio. The center stack display can be toggled between
climate and D-Mode controls (see Performance for details). A deep glove box
makes up for a lack of covered console storage. The rear doors open with
high-mounted semi-hidden latches, like on a Pathfinder. A moderate central
tunnel means that the center position of the rear contoured bench is
reasonable, for a short time. Its seatback folds 60/40 for cargo
versatility. The torsion-beam rear axle of front-wheel drive Jukes does
have an interior advantage, as it allows a bit of storage space under the
rear load floor, above the space-saver spare tire.

SAFETY: All Jukes are built with Nissan’s “Zone Body Construction” with
front and rear crumple ones. The Nissan Advanced Air Bag System protects
front passengers with frontal and seat-mounted side impact airbags and all
side passengers with roof-mounted side curtain air bags. Vehicle Dynamic
Control enhances stability, and also includes traction control. Four-wheel
antilock disc brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake
assist ensure good stopping abilities. The NISMO RS has larger brake discs
than the NISMO or any regular Juke.

RIDE AND HANDLING: If you’re looking for a soft, comfortable ride,
you’re in the wrong place. If you’re looking for cornering ability in a
usefully-sized package with more ground clearance (7 inches FWD, 6.5 AWD)
than is usual for a sports sedan or hot hatch, here it is. Despite the ride
height, body roll is minimal and adhesion is very good. Extra chassis
bracing helps. Do be sure that the front wheels are pointed straight when
there is any heavy throttle application, as the 210 lb-ft makes itself
known quite easily. Character, in abundance. Steering is
electrically-assisted. Effort is just right, and it’s not at all numb. The
bumper design and clearance mean that parking stops, curbs, and other
hazards to sports-car bodywork won’t be a problem here.

PERFORMANCE: All versions of the Juke use Nissan’s direct fuel-injected
MR16DDT aluminum alloy 1.6-liter twin-cam, 16-valve four-cylinder engine.
The regular Juke NISMO gets a remapped ECU and less-restrictive exhaust for
its power boost. To cope with its extra power, the NISMO RS gets stronger
connecting rods and a dual-mass flywheel in addition, among other
enhancements to make 215 horsepower (at 6000 rpm), with 210 lb-ft of torque
between 3600 and 4800 rpm with the six-speed manual gearbox. That box gets
lower first through third gear ratios and triple-cone synchronizers on
first and second for quicker, smoother shifting. It works, well. A helical
limited-slip differential is standard in FWD RSes, ensuring that the power
gets to the ground. With the strong, wide torque, acceleration is
instantaneous and choice of gear is not particularly critical. It shows all
that is good about turbocharging. As is increasingly common in cars with
electronic control of everything, there are three power modes. Normal is
fine, with moderate throttle travel for effect and moderate steering
assist. Sport sharpens throttle response, and feels like it also reduces
steering assist, all very good for high-performance driving. Eco? Why here?
And please put that spark plug lead back on… AWD CVT versions get a
slightly different tuning (probably ECU) giving 211 hp and 184 lb-ft
(between 2400 and 6000 rpm) as the CVT was not meant to stand up to over
200 lb-ft. The Juke NISMO RS is a very competent sports car, and even
taking advantage of its abilities as much as possible I still got exemplary
fuel economy. The EPA says 25 mpg city, 31 highway. I got 27. No complaint
there!

CONCLUSIONS: Giving Nissan’s entertaining Juke the NISMO treatment and
then some makes a good car even better, in the form of the Juke NISMO
RS.

SPECIFICATIONS

2014 Nissan Juke NISMO RS

Base Price $ 26,120

Price As Tested $ 28,345

Engine Type turbocharged and intercooled 16-valve DOHC inline 4-cylinder
with direct fuel injection

Engine Size 1.6 liters / 99 cu. in.

Horsepower 215 @ 6000 rpm

Torque (lb-ft) 210 @ 3600-4800 rpm

Transmission 6-speed manual

Wheelbase / Length 99.6 in. / 163.8 in.

Curb Weight 2884 lbs.

Pounds Per Horsepower 13.4

Fuel Capacity 13.2 gal.

Fuel Requirement 91 octane unleaded premium gasoline

Tires 225/45R18 95Y Conti Super Contact

Brakes, front/rear vented disc / solid disc, ABS, BA, EBD standard

Suspension, front/rear independent strut / torsion beam axle

Drivetrain transverse front engine, front-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE

EPA Fuel Economy – miles per gallon city / highway / observed 25 / 31 /
27

0 to 60 mph 6.7 sec

OPTIONS AND CHARGES

Navigation Package — includes: NissanConnect™ w/Navigation, 5.8″
touchscreen monitor, NissanConnect™ Apps, voice recognition for audio
and nav, SiriusXM Traffic Travel Link, streaming audio via Bluetooth,
hands-free Text Messaging Assistant, rear-view monitor, Rockford Fosgate
ecoPUNCH™ premium audio with subwoofer, USB connection port for iPod
and other compatible devices $ 1,200

NISMO carpeted floor and cargo mats $ 215

Destination charge $ 810

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