Nissan says that, since its introduction, the Nissan Juke has been all about attitude – with its unique styling and crisp performance in a unique combination of crossover utility with sports car sensibility. Despite some early criticism about the styling, consumers came to appreciate the Juke and, in some quarters, to clamor for more performance excitement to match the styling.
Nissan listened and, already out there with NISMO vehicles from the wizards at Nissan’s motorsport performance group( like the 370Z NISMO and the GT-R NISMO), it was no surprise that they could, and did, create the Juke NISMO. Not just one, but two, the Juke NISMO and its even more powerful brother – the Juke NISMO RS.
Unlike the standard Juke which comes with just the Xtronic automatic transmission, the Juke NISMO pair also offer a front-wheel drive (FWD) with a seriously exciting to use, 6-speed manual gearbox that got our attention on a recent week long ride and drive.
2015 Nissan Juke Nismo
Our test 2015 Juke NISMO (not the NISMO RS) arrived in a stunning White Pearl with signature NISMO red outside door mirrors and red pinstripe trim around the base of the vehicle. It was powered by the second-generation version of the 1.6-liter Direct Injection Gasoline Turbo, DOHC inline 4-cylinder engine. It is rated at 188 horsepower with 177 lb-ft of torque and is fuel economy rated at 28/34 mpg city/highway with a combined 30 mpg.
The Juke NISMO track-based styling is distinctive throughout. Looking closely, the front fascia and grille have been modified to better control airflow to the engine which gives NISMO a lower and more aggressive front end. Starting at the upper edge of the large lower grille, the signature red pinstripe flows down and curves around the smaller vents continuing to the front wheel arches. The red pinstripe continues on the flanks of the car at the base of the doors and finishes along the sill of the revised deeper bumper structure.
The signature Nissan V-Motion grille is finished in a darker shade than non-NISMO Juke models with the NISMO badge with a red “O” stamping to formally identify this Juke as NISMO. The body of the Juke NISMO reflects racing performance engineering with the sculpted side skirts reworked to direct airflow around the rear wheels and away from the car as quickly and efficiently as possible. As we noted, the door mirrors are painted the signature NISMO with the B-pillars finished in gloss piano black.
The NISMO styling continues with the addition of unique 18-inch lightweight aluminum-alloy wheels with 225/45R18 Continental ContiSportContact5 summer tires. The wheels are one inch larger than standard Juke wheels and feature a rich diamond-cut 10 twin-spoke design that is finished in dark anthracite.
2015 Juke NISMO models offer a range of features that include standard NissanConnect with Navigation and Mobile Apps, a 5.8-inch color touch-screen display, USB connection port for iPod interface and other compatible devices, Bluetooth Hands-free Phone System, Streaming audio via Bluetooth, Hands-free Text Messaging Assistant and SiriusXM Satellite Radio. Also standard are an advanced Rockford Fosgate ecoPUNCH audio system with powered subwoofer, Around View Monitor (AVM) with Moving Object Detection (MOD), Nissan Intelligent Key with Push Button Start, Front LED Daytime Running Lights and Projector Halogen auto-off headlights.
Except for a short list of port-installed accessories for like added interior illumination, center armrest or a set of NISMOfloor and cargo mats, there are no options.
Our test 2015 Juke NISMO with manual transmission was MSRP listed at $24,830. The White Pearl paint was $350 and we had the floor mats and center armrest installed. With delivery, our test Juke NISMO priced at $26,520.
We appreciate a good manual gearbox when we can find one, which is not all that often. This is one of the really good ones. We found the integration of the clutch with the gear box to be very smooth and efficient. Shifting was easy and quick with a very intuitive (without thinking) ability to move quickly through the box (up and down) as needed. Simply, if I do not have to think about the shifting while I am doing it, then it is winner with me.
The Juke NISMO gives a good and firm ride with minimal noise. Steering is responsive and braking was very good. Road handling is quick and nimble around town with a strong presence on the road cruising and passing. The cabin is roomy and the NISMO front seats with added bolstering are very comfortable.
Whereas we might normally gravitate to the Xtronic automatic transmission from Nissan ($2,400 higher), we would buy this Juke NISMO with the manual gearbox without hesitation.
Juke NISMO RS Option
For another $3,190 you can opt for the Juke NISMO RS FWD with the manual transmission.
Going to the RS, you get all of the features of the NISMO plus the RS badging on the outside to start. Where NISMO RS gets hotter is on the inside – starting with under the hood where a distinct bump in engine performance to 215 horsepower (at 6,000 rpm) and 210 lb-ft of torque (from 3,600 to 4,800 rpm) get your attention.
Then, keeping the heat on to maximize the powerplant bump, the NISMO RS is equipped with a high capacity 6-speed manual (different than the Juke NISMO) that uses an optimized gear set and a shorter final drive ratio for quicker acceleration. Additionally it also offers a standard helical-geared Limited-Slip Differential (LSD) to direct more power to the front wheel with the most traction, helping to maintain acceleration during cornering and limit the torque steer that could impedes performance of the Juke NISMO.
But they are not done yet as the NISMO RS features increased stiffness of the frame and body coupled with special tuning of suspension and steering to further enhance performance. Spring rates and damping force have been retuned and the front suspension link reinforced to improve steering feel and response. The NISMO RS’s suspension has also been lowered slightly, reducing the gap between the tires and wheel wells for a cleaner appearance and improved aerodynamics.
The Electric Power-assist Steering (EPS) has also been retuned in the NISMO RS. The Juke NISMO RS braking system includes 4-wheel vented discs, larger brake rotors in front (12.6 inches versus 11.7 inches), vented rotors in the rear (versus non-vented in non-RS models), red-painted calipers and upgraded brake pads to match.
And on the Inside, Juke NISMO RS adds Recaro front racing-style seats trimmed in red leather-appointed side bolsters and black suede center inserts plus embossed Recaro and stitched NISMO logos, along with red stitching. The interior trim accents feature both the ‘RS’ logo and red stitching throughout.
Lastly, the exhaust note from the Juke NISMO RS is much more visceral (more “race to it) than the Juke Nismo. We like that.
But, either way, the six-speed manual transmission Juke NISMO or Juke NISMO RS are truly exceptional performance values in the sports crossover category that are sure to please for under $30,000.