2013 Nissan Juke NISMO Review
What is a Juke? It was the vision of Nissan’s London-based design team to create a shape that can be both enticing and polarizing. This body is draped over Nissan’s B Platform, the same chassis that spawns the current Nissan Versa sedan and the NV200 van. The result is a vehicle that defies convention and refuses to be classified, though it is being thrown into a growing new segment among compact crossovers.
The first thing one must do with a Juke is to take a few steps back and look at it. There is a lot going on design-wise with many influences melded into this so-called “sportcross.” Up front, there are some World Rally Championship elements ranging from the lower grille and the embedded headlamps. The upper lights may have come from somewhere in the early 1940s. The actual grille itself is completely different, but with familiar Nissan design elements involved.
To the side, you can see where the inspiration may have come from—if the 370Z and the Murano had a baby incubated on a frying pan. Now, this Juke has been remixed into a real boy racer-looking model – the NISMO.
Nissan’s motorsports division is now being used as a subbrand to create performance editions of the lineup. It began with the 370Z and it has its sights on creating NISMO models for appropriate products. Due to an experiment in Japan by dropping a powerhouse V6 underneath the hood of this “sportcross,” the Juke was chosen to receive some NISMO cred.
The NISMO model adds some pretty youthful finishes to the Juke. An exclusive front end, gray finished aero kit below with a red stripe and a rear defuser sets off the NISMO apart from the rest of the Juke line.
Eighteteen-inch black-and-chrome alloy wheels shod with performance Continental rubber add an interesting piece to the puzzle by creating a rally-inspired look and additional ride height to the Juke. The Z-Murano crossbreed continues to the rear with obvious paeans to either vehicle.
Step inside and there are plenty of aggressive NISMO pieces that challenge the eye on many levels. The instrumentation may look normal, but it is topped by an elevated canopy finished in black plastic. The center stack is graced by a metallic piano black surround of an oblong shape. The center console was said to be inspired by high performance motorcycles – also finished in metallic black. You get suede ont eh steering wheel, with black and red leather finishes on the top and bottom. One complaint centers in the same area, as the gear lever appears to be too high for most drivers. The rest of the switchgear feels “normal”—right to the touch—and the materials are of good quality.
The NISMO seats four in a mix of suede and velour – both in black with red accents. The combination black and oyster gray has a scaly texture that reminds one of a body suit. Though it feels good, the front seats felt short in the cushioning and would probably need more side bolstering. Also lacking is a center armrest for the right arm to rest when needed. Rear seat room may seem small, but if you had average sized adults, they would be fine in all four places. Anyone larger will have a problem with legroom in the back. The rear seats also fold down to expand the cargo hold.
Sound is filtered through seven well-balanced Rockford Fosgate ecoPUNCH speakers. This is part of a package that includes SiriusXM and satellite navigation. You also get Bluetooth connectivity along with iPod integration.
Below the audio system is the Integrated Control System, known as I-CON. This starts out as a run-of-the-mill climate control system. Press the D-Mode button, and it provides the driver a choice of vehicular behaviors. Normal is where you begin journey. If you want to induce more fuel efficiency, you select the Eco mode, which changes the transmission and engine management behavior toward achieving economical results. Switch to Sport, and it ratchets up the transmission ratios and engine management settings to maximum power. Keep it in Sport, and you will feel the turbocharger kick the Juke into action.
The I-CON screen provides other readouts to monitor vehicle performance. If you care about G-forces, turbo boost, torque action and monitor your fuel consumption, there’s plenty of information packed in that little LCD screen that would normally tell you your vehicle temperature and fan speed. One could always switch back to Climate mode to have the latter viewed, as long you know what drive mode you are in.
What motivates this mobile piece of art is the newest engine built from a company that knows how to make power plants. Nissan took their standard issue 1.6litre dual overhead camshaft, four valves-per-cylinder, four-cylinder engine, and ratcheted it up a notch. They added direct fuel injection and slapped a turbocharger onto it. The result is a 197 horsepower ball of fire – up nine from the normal Juke. Unlike most small turbocharged engines, there is no lag; the power is immediate and strong throughout the power band.
Connecting this powerful mill is Nissan’s Xtronic continuously variable transmission. The hallmark of this CVT is the ability to lock into the right ratio with the right engine speed as dictated by your right foot. This particular Juke comes with Torque-vectoring all-wheel drive with a switch that locks the system to only front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive. There is a third setting in the middle of this switch—AWD-V. Choosing this mode gives the Juke permission to decide which wheels it wants to send power to.
When driving the Juke NISMO, you will notice the sport part of the crossover. The NISMO offers a ride that is somewhere between very firm and a little less firm. You certainly feel the imperfections on the road. Handling is highly controlled with the NISMO set-up – even more so when you set the D-Mode in Sport. There is plenty of grip to the road from its Continental tires. Steering action is quick; with an extremely sharp turning radius. Overall maneuverability is quite good considering the stubby size of the Juke. Braking is sharp and sure on both regular and panic stops.
When Nissan created the Juke, they wanted it to achieve optimal fuel efficiency despite being a high-riding and powerful compact crossover. A normal Juke SV with AWD and the Xtronic CVT was tested and turned a fuel economy average of 25.8MPG. The NISMO version came in at an average of 27.2MPG – not bad for a nine horsepower difference.
Price-wise, the Juke starts at just above $20,000. Your average SV AWD will come in around $24,500. However, the NISMO will surprise you when you check out the sticker – a sum of $27,495. There will always be a quibble whether this price of admission is justified or perhaps relative to the marketplace. There are plenty of arguments for either case.
Let us be frank here: The Juke is different and stands out among other vehicles. It is an acquired taste for those who may not understand the attraction to this “sportcross.” The most entertained eye would enjoy the many curves and angles of the Juke—along with the way it drives. For those of who would want something completely different, there is really nothing wrong with owning a Nissan Juke.