Words: Don Cheng
Photography: Don Cheng
Published: February 11, 2016
Whenever I see the letters NISMO scrawled on the back of a Nissan I always relish my summers spent playing Gran Turismo 3, grinding it out race after race so that I could save up enough virtual credits to buy a NISMO GT-R.
NISsan MOtorsports, or NISMO, is a division that creates and sells performance parts designed to take your Nissan to the next level. Unlike the Germans and their AMGs and ///Ms, the popularity of NISMO never quite caught on to the same extent in Canada.
Nissan’s Juke to sum up in one word is…interesting. Since its inception, the looks of this diminutive SUV have been a topic of controversy. Love it or hate it, the car garners attention wherever it goes. With Nissan’s product line-up short a hot hatch, the brave frog-like Juke was like Katniss Everdeen and volunteered as Tribute to fight the mighty GTI from District Germany…or something like that – I never saw the movie.
Looking deeper, the Juke actually makes sense as the perfect platform for NISMO to work their go-fast voodoo on, thanks to a sporty chassis and a factory turbocharged motor. Let’s not forget that NISMO has already worked on the Juke before, albeit in a more limited capacity. After all, who can forget the Juke R that had the heart and legs of a Nissan GT-R?
On the other hand, Nissan gives you the option of ordering an otherwise standard Juke with a NISMO body kit attached (it also gets a suspension tweak). The body kit adds a lot of aggressive styling and I rather dig the look of the car. However, the Juke’s 370Z-esque taillights gave the car a stature that was reminiscent of a squatting toad. Not pretty.
Admittedly, the street-tuned top-spec Juke RS, as you see here, isn’t quite as crazy as the Juke R. But don’t let that catch you off guard: no matter how you shake it, this RS version is far from a regular Juke with a body kit. The fine people at NISMO added a unique front bumper, side skirts, and rear bumper (all with red accents). If that wasn’t enough, they kitted the Juke with a bigger rear spoiler.
But the upgrades to the Juke NISMO RS didn’t stop there. The tuning shop gave the standard Juke motor an ECU tweak, a free-flowing exhaust, and stronger connecting rods. The facelift manages to wring out an extra 23 HP from the standard 188 HP 1.6L turbo four for a total of 211 HP - just enough extra grunt to propel the Juke from pedestrian crossover into Golf GTI territory.
Drivetrain options are two-fold. First is a front-wheel drive only option (which actually gives 215 HP), and the second is an AWD unit featuring Nissan’s torque-vectoring Intuitive AWD. Here’s where it gets interesting.
If you want to row your own gears, you can only pick the Juke RS in front-wheel drive configuration. Those who are really pining for the AWD in the RS can only get it with Nissan’s Xtronic CVT. Yeah, that’s right, CVT. Fortunately, the rubberband box comes with eight preloaded “ratios” that help simulate a driving experience more aligned with a traditional automatic. Unfortunately, it is not very convincing.
It’s a strange feeling driving a “performance” car mated to a CVT. Off the line the Juke RS rockets forward but instead of hearing the motor wind itself out to redline and slamming into the next cog, you hear the motor pull up to 5,000 RPM and then just... stay there. It’s as if your copy of Gran Turismo 3 froze in the middle of a race – the motor doesn’t build in volume. It whines at a consistent pitch and the needle is reluctant to swing.
Putting it in into one of its eight simulated gears alleviates this problem. There may be some method behind the madness (and it is probably an engineering limitation), but the CVT actually keeps the car in optimal boost as you’re accelerating – which is good. But the noise of the transmission overpowers the tiny little motor and just sounds grating.
The saying “with great power comes great responsibility” is all too true in the case of the Juke NISMO RS. NISMO jettisoned the standard suspension components and added a set of beefier springs and dampers to keep that extra power in check. Nissan says the NISMO tuned suspension offers reduced body roll, and sharper cornering. We certainly felt all of that.
The stiffer suspension is a welcome addition when pushing the car. More than happy to dance around corners, the Juke NISMO RS was eager to turn in and felt more rigid in the middle of the turn. With 61.5% of the mass at the front of the car, you can feel the AWD system working hard to shuffle power to the rear forcing the car to turn.
Switching off the AWD system unmasks just how much understeer affects the Juke (ahem, a lot). Under hard acceleration and heavy braking, the stiffer set of springs reduce tuck and dive too. Speaking of braking, NISMO has given the Juke larger rotors too. The larger set of brakes works wonders and reigns in the car the second you step on the pedal.
While the car feels great when pushed, the extra suspension work did make it rough in the city, but only marginally so. Going through some pot-holed pocked parts of the city added a lot of jostle to the ride. It wasn’t to the point of complete discomfort but I would close my coffee cup to avoid any spills. When the ride did get rough, the excellent Recaro Sportster CS seats hugged its occupants and kept them planted.
Trimmed in red leather and alcantara, the seats look downright gorgeous. These babies are special to only the Juke NISMO RS (the standard NISMO doesn’t get them). However, they do lack a bit of cushion and are a huge pain (oftentimes quite literally) in the butt to get in.
But once you do get inside, you’ll notice it’s a Spartan interior with enough storage space and very few design “flairs”. Among the few flairs are the floating instrument binnacle and red NISMO tachometer – an element I’m particularly fond of. The only downside to the cabin is the tacky looking faux carbon fiber center console and shifter surround. It doesn’t add to the “sporty” feel of the interior (the racing seats and NISMO steering wheel already do enough of that thank you very much).
At an as-tested price of $31,998 and offering AWD, a turbocharged motor, and enough racey bits inside to make Sebastian Vettel think he was back at Red Bull Racing, the Juke NISMO RS delivers good value for the money. Most of its competitors are front-wheel drive only and start at the same base price but without navigation and other features (this Juke comes fully loaded!) Though it may not be a GT-R that rockets you to dizzying speeds, the Juke NISMO RS serves a refreshing dose of quirky good looks, character, and gusto – qualities that make it every bit deserving of the NISMO name.
型号 Model: 2016 Nissan Juke NISMO RS AWD
顏色 Paint Type: Super Black
廠方建議售價 Base Price: $31,998
試車售價 Price as Tested: $31,998
軸距 Wheelbase(mm): 2,530
長闊 Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,160 / 1,770 / 1,570
車重 Curb weight (kg): 1,451
引擎 Engine: NISMO tuned 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder
最大馬力 Horsepower: 211 hp @ 6,000 rpm
最高扭力 Torque: 184 lb-ft @ 2,400 - 6,000 rpm
波箱 Transmission: Continuously variable transmission ( CVT)
擺佈 Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
油耗 Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway ) L/100km: 9.4 / 8.1
輪胎尺碼 Tires: P225/45R18