It didn’t have the amazing 2015 GT-R Nismo exclusive matte grey paint the Juke Nismo RS had at the New York auto show. And I would have preferred the test car – the 2014 Nissan Juke Nismo RS – come in Sapphire Black or Brilliant Silver. But this Pearl White is sportier than the non-RS model I drove last summer, and that’s a plus in the Nismo column.
With the exception of new RS badges, the 2014 Nismo looks identical to the 2013 model year. The Nismo front and rear fascias, roof spoiler, side skirts, chrome exhaust finisher, red mirror covers, tri-coat paint, pin-striping and 18-inch alloy wheels all carry over. Body-colour fender lip mouldings, high-gloss B-pillar finish, smoked headlights and LED DRLs round out the list of noteworthy exterior features.
The Nismo RS combines a sporty design with enhanced performance. Its 1.6-litre direct injection turbo four-cylinder makes 215 hp and 210 lb-ft of torque – that’s 18 hp and 26 lb-ft more than non-RS models, and 27 hp and 33 more lb-ft than the standard Juke. The 2014 RS comes with a six-speed manual transmission and limited slip differential as standard.
Inside, the leather-trimmed, cloth Recaro front sport seats are the most obvious improvements. They’re more supportive and less bulky, giving the RS interior a more “sporty” purpose. Confirmation of this can be seen in the reorganization of the climate and driving mode controls on the lower dash where Normal, Sport and Eco buttons allow access to independent engine torque, steering, and climate control settings. Digital torque and boost gauges are included!
The instrument cluster has been improved too, albeit slightly vis as vis a RS-emblazoned speedometer that accompanies the red Nismo 8,000-rpm tachometer. The fake carbon fibre trim looks cheap, but the Alcantara and leather-wrapped steering wheel means business with its red racing stripe pointing dead ahead.
The RS is not available with all-wheel drive or the Xtronic CVT, but while only the former will be missed (the non-RS model does offer both), there is no crazy cool racing-inspired double clutch auto-box here to impart any kind of performance driving feel. You can tell the electronic nannies to take a break, but that’s about it.
Compared to the standard Juke, the Nismo’s stiffer springs and dampening rates make it more nimble and responsive. The vehicle-speed-sensitive electric power steering is quick and precise with better feedback in sport mode; and the transmission gets good marks for NVH. That said, upshifting in a corner and letting the clutch out too fast can cause the vehicle to lurch (or pull) to the right. Drive shafts of differing lengths are the likely culprits. From a handling perspective, the 2014 model is better than my previous test car.
It isn’t burdened by the heavy all-wheel drivetrain and CVT, both of which have their advantages, and account for 122 kg of weight savings (1,308 kg versus 1,430 kg). Combined with the more powerful engine, the Nismo RS doesn’t just feel quicker, it is quicker.
The Juke Nismo RS may well be faster than non-RS and Nismo CVT models, but it’s not really a vehicle I would consider taking to a track or driving on an autocross course. It gets the job done for day to day duty.
Standard features on Juke Nismo models include intelligent key with push-button start, navigation system with five-inch touchscreen display/rearview camera monitor, integrated control (I-Con) system, Bluetooth handsfree phone, AM/FM/CD player with MP3/WMA playback, iPod and auxiliary connection and Sirius XM readiness.
Sounds play through a Rockford Fosgate ecoPUNCH audio system with six upgraded speakers and powered eight-inch sub integrated into the cargo area. Volume-wise, the little Juke does alright for cargo space. Rear volume with the 60/40 seats folded up is 297 litres. Total volume jumps to 1,017 litres with the seats down. There’s more than enough room for groceries and small items back here, and to keep some of them from flying around in space during spirited driving, there’s a handy, hidden cargo organizer tray beneath the rear floor.
Nismo is applying almost 50 years of engineering expertise and racing experience to an expanding range of Nissan production vehicles, including the Sentra, GT-R and, of course, the Juke. Even the newest Nissan – the pint-sized Micra – will be offered in a Nismo trim at some point. We’ll let you know when we get out mitts on one or the others, but for now the Juke Nismo RS is nothing to joke about.
2014 Nissan Juke Nismo RS
+ Eye-catching design with great body kit
+ Great front seats
+ Manual transmission
+ It’s a hatchback!
- Too much hard plastic for cheapish interior
- AWD not offered with manual transmission
- Small head unit display prone to glare
- Push button starter
Base Price: $28,298
Price as Tested (before taxes): $30,473
Engine: 1.6L DIG 4-cyl. turbo
Horsepower / Torque: 215 hp @ 6,000 rpm / 210 lb-ft @ 3,600-4,800 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Fuel Economy Ratings: 8.2 / 6.4 L/100 km (city / hwy.)
Basic Warranty: 48 months / 60,000 km
Options on Test Vehicle: N/A.
Additional charges: Destination and delivery ($1,695).