The Juke Nismo, with its aero bits and red mirrors, only serves to draw more attention to the already-goofy styling. But get beyond that and you have a thoroughly fun-to-drive, reasonably-priced hatchback with more power, better handling and killer sport seats.
PerformanceThe Juke Nismo never feels overly quick, yet its acceleration is more like a car than a small SUV. Handling is decent, but we were expecting better from this Nismo version. With an easy clutch and shifter, driveability is excellent.
With 0-60 mph in 6.9 seconds, it's quick for the class, only slightly slower than a Ford Focus ST. A bit of lag from the 197-hp turbo 4-cylinder. Six-speed manual shifts easily.
Exhibited a wild amount of ABS commotion during panic stops. But the brakes felt normal and reasonably powerful around town. Pedal spacing allows for heel-and-toe downshifting.
We noticed some difference in assist level between the Normal and Sport modes, but not much. Overall the steering lacks feel and doesn't telegraph what the front tires are doing.
With its short wheelbase, the Juke Nismo is a fun car to toss around. Plenty of suspension travel and ground clearance make it especially good on curvy, bumpy back roads.
With a light clutch, intuitive throttle delivery and and an easy six-speed shifter, the Juke Nismo is simple to drive. It would be a good stick-shift-learning vehicle.
The Juke is actually a decent off-roader, with better-than-average front and rear clearance. The Juke Nismo, with its lower front airdam, side skirts and summer tires, is less so.
ComfortSlightly stiffer suspension and summer tires endow the Juke Nismo with a harsher ride than the regular model. The fantastically-comfortable and supportive sport seats partially make up for this. The lack of wind noise was impressive.
We've come across few seats better than these Nismo sport buckets. Not just laterally supportive, they're also cushy with a soft, grippy covering. Door armrests need more padding.
The regular Juke can be a bit harsh. With 10 percent stiffer springs and dampers, the Juke Nismo is even more jiggly and things can get a bit rough and bouncy on torn-up surfaces.
Some wind noise around the side mirrors. Minimal road noise, despite summer tires. Short gearing means engine revs high. Seat squeaks against center console when pushed forward.
InteriorLike its exterior, the Juke's cabin is a bit overstyled. Combining the a/c controls with the drive-mode selector is just weird. There's plenty of headroom up front, less in the rear, and the sloping roof means cargo space is limited.
The integrated climate/drive-mode selector adds steps. Wider Nismo seats make it harder to grab seatbelt. Knobs need more obvious detents. Alcantara steering wheel feels great.
Long front doors and plenty of headroom make for easy ingress, though foot sometimes hits Nismo rocker panels. Small rear doors give tight entry/exit space.
Plenty of front headroom, but restricted door elbow room. Good amount of space for driver's right knee. Tight rear seat, with cramped knee and headroom. No rear center armrest.
Narrow A- and B-pillars make for decent front/side vision. But sloping roof, short rear side windows, thick C-pillars and small rear window make rearward visibility a chore.
Good-sized optional armrest bin and door pockets. Small front bin. Cupholders do okay job without anti-tip. Tiny trunk, but rear seats fold down. Usable underfloor storage.
ValueSurprisingly, Nissan is bringing the $23,780 Juke Nismo in below the top model, the SL. This, despite the Nismo version carrying an extra 9 horsepower, stiffer suspension, an aero body kit, new seats and a sportier interior.
Build Quality (vs. $)
Some low-buck plastics around the cabin, and the optional center armrest feels chintzy. Front seats look and feel superb, as does the steering wheel. Noticed small rattle in dash.
There's a lot of car here at the Juke Nismo's $23,780 base. Push-button start, Bluetooth, satellite radio, along with an extra 9 hp, firmer suspension and a sportier interior.
Nissan makes you pay $245 for a center armrest. The navigation package, which includes premium audio, USB port and rearview camera, tacks on another $1,170 for a total of $25,195.
The EPA rates the Juke Nismo at 25 city/31 highway/27 mpg combined. We averaged 26.1 mpg over 1,020 miles of varied driving, including 32.4 mpg on the 116-mile Edmunds test loop.
Basic warranty is 3 years/36,000 miles, with 5 years/60,000 miles for the drivetrain. These are both about average, but well below what the Kia Soul offers.
Roadside assistance for 3 years/36,000 miles. Mini offers free maintenance for 3 years/36,000 miles. Nissan offers none.
Fun To DriveThe Juke, especially the Nismo version with the six-speed manual transmission, is surprisingly fun to drive. It gobbles up bumpy backroads like a rally car, and the grippy steering wheel and supportive seats are purely functional.
We have no problem with the Juke's driving experience. It's sporty, fun, even engaging. But you always worry someone is pointing and laughing at you. Because it looks goofy.
The Juke's frog-like love-it or loathe-it styling gives it personality. The zippy turbo power and willing handling lend credence to the saying, "it's what's inside that counts."