Nissan Juke Nismo RS review
We were left cold by the original Juke NISMO. Will an upgrade to RS spec convince us?
Neil Briscoe
Neil Briscoe

Published on October 9, 2015

Overall rating: 3/5

It's not a proper hot hatch but the combination of a terrific engine and some charming details lift the Juke NISMO RS above its station.

In the metal 3/5

OK, you're familiar with the Nike Air Jordan sneaker, right? The archetypal costly sneaker, it can be had in relatively plain, understated colours and styles. Or you can load it up with see-through air cushions, a pump for over-inflating the sole, multi-coloured laces and, heck, probably tiger stripes. That's what the Juke NISMO RS is - a car that already had the OTT looks of a high-tech (or even Hi-Tec) running show, but which has now had its styling turned up to eleventy-stupid by the NISMO RS add-ons.

It's not all for visual impact. The body has been given some extra strengthening to make it stiffer, the front brakes are uprated to 320mm discs (up from 296mm as standard), and the springs and dampers are both stiffer and lower than on the 'warm' Juke NISMO and way stiffer than the standard Juke's.

NISMO (which is Nissan's motorsports arm - think a Japanese AMG) exterior design cues include red door mirror caps and a red pinstripe that encircles the bottom of the car. The picture is completed with new LED daytime running lights set within the lower air intake grilles at the front of the car, and 18-inch alloys.

Inside you'll tell it from lesser Jukes thanks to a three-spoke steering wheel clad partly in suede and with a red band at the 12 o'clock position, which seems a little extreme - are you really going to be opposite-locking your Juke? There are also high-backed bucket seats stitched with the NISMO logo and which are superbly comfy, but slightly spoiled by the fact that the steering wheel doesn't adjust for reach and the driving position is slightly offset.

There's also very little useable space in the rear seats and the boot is pretty small too, so it's hard to give the NISMO RS much of a score for practicality. Still, if you know what NISMO does (all of Nissan's Le Mans efforts down the years, various hotted-up GT-R and Skyline models and much, much more) then you'll not fail to be charmed by it, and the small, pugnacious Juke wears all of its jewellery quite well - sort of like a lapdog wearing knuckle dusters and knee-high Doc Martens.

Driving it 3/5

The NISMO RS gets a significant engine upgrade. The 1.6 DIG-T unit is basically the same engine that has been used in the Juke NISMO for some time, but here it's boosted to a very healthy 218hp, and on the front-wheel drive models you get a standard limited slip differential to help put that power, and the muscular 280Nm of torque, down to the tarmac. There is the option of a four-wheel drive NISMO RS, but that comes as standard only with a CVT automatic so is probably best avoided. Besides, the standard six-speed manual gearbox, although slightly long in the throw, is nice to use, so why bother going auto?

There's certainly no problem with power delivery. The RS engine needs a few revs to give its best, but that makes it feel nicely progressive and there's a pleasant induction growl as the speed increases. It's not over-endowed with grunt, and the NISMO RS's surprisingly chunky kerb weight blunts what is there, but you can make pretty brisk progress with it.

The driving experience is at best so-so though. The steering initially feels great, massaging your hands with that suede grip, and the weighting and speed across the locks is excellent. But you soon realise that there's very little actual feel coming through, so you're slightly divorced from the action. In pure handling terms, the RS feels great if you stick to smooth roads with fast, sweeping corners, where you can really feel the added stiffness in the body. But tighter bends make it understeer pretty quickly (which can be partly overcome with the diff, but you need to be brave to deploy the extra power mid-corner) and bumps upset the stiffened suspension. Oddly, the RS seems pretty well suited to the motorway, where the flexible engine, decent refinement, excellent stability and Nissan's battery of 'Safety Shield' driver aids (lane departure warning, blind spot monitor and more) make for relaxed, swift and reassuring progress.

What you get for your money 3/5

€32k isn't bad for a hot hatch with 218hp, but there's no getting away from the fact that, although well equipped, the Juke NISMO RS can't match the benchmark Golf GTI for handling, nor the Focus ST for performance nor the Skoda Octavia RS for practicality. You'd have to be a fan, equally, of Nissan, NISMO and the Juke itself to see past its shortcomings, but if you can, then it should be a reliable, enjoyable ownership experience. Depreciation could be a bit interesting though...


The Juke NISMO RS is an entertaining car, striking to look at and offers decent bang for your buck. But even with its price advantage over the rest of the hot hatch brigade, and even allowing for the appeal of the NISMO badge, it can't match up to the competition.


Tech Specs

Model testedNissan Juke NISMO RS
Pricing€32,995 as tested; Juke range starts at €19,795
Engine1.6-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged petrol
Transmissionsix-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Body stylefive-door compact crossover
CO2 emissions168g/km (Band D, €570 per annum)
Combined economy39mpg (6.0 litres/100km)
Top speed220km/h
0-100km/h6.8 seconds
Power218hp at 5,600rpm
Torque280Nm at 2,000rpm
Boot space354 litres
EuroNCAP rating5-star; 87% adult, 81% child, 41% pedestrian, 71% safety assist
Rivals to the Juke Nismo RS