I’ve always looked at the Nissan brand as a great leader in the sporty design segment. Their engines are always strong and bulletproof (well, almost; I’ll pretend to forget the QR25 for now), which ultimately directed my attention into becoming a proud Nissan owner. Their cars always interested me, especially those from their performance division, Nismo. As a teen I was aspiring to own one of my dream cars, the R33 Nissan Skyline GT-R. This week, I had the opportunity to drive a Nismo vehicle for the first time. My tester is a 2013 Nissan Juke Nismo, a model that nobody in Canada has really heard about. At the time of testing, this vehicle was not available for configuration on the Nissan Canada website.
In 2012, something quite intriguing surfaced from Nissan, and it wasn’t an iteration of the GT-R. Close, but no cookie. It was the Juke-R, a 545-horsepower beast; a Nissan GT-R chassis and motor on the body of the Juke. Sadly, with a price tag of a half million dollars, I can only dream of owning one. When I first heard that we had a Juke Nismo booked, I confused it with a Juke-R. As I learned throughout my test week, others make the same mistake.
Unlike the Juke-R, the Juke Nismo is powered by the same turbocharged inline 4-cylinder as the regular Juke. This turbo-4 puts out 197 horsepower and is coupled to, in typical Nissan fashion, a continuously-variable transmission. I know that enthusiasts typically frown upon CVTs, but Nissans is undoubtedly the best in the industry. The Nismo is also blessed with race-inspired engineering and an all-wheel-drive system, which is optional. The motor actually suits the Juke pretty well, and the little thing doesn’t feel slow or anemic in any instance.
On the Nismo model specifically, the interior of the Juke is surprisingly cool. The seats, steering wheel, and armrests are lined with Alcantara. I can safely say that the seats are some of the best in the industry. The instrument cluster is nicely laid out, and the user-interface of the multimedia system is very simplistic. The climate control buttons disappear and turn into “D-Mode” at the touch of a button. It’s in this menu where you can select Normal, Sport, Eco modes of driving. There are also menus within the LCD screen that allow you to see the Juke’s vitals. Very cool.
Despite its truly hideous face, the Juke is actually quite a blast to drive. The 1.6L turbocharged 4-cylinder combined with its “Pure Drive” CVT make it so goofy it ends up being awesome in the corners. When placed in all-wheel-drive vectoring mode, the Juke thoroughly surprised me when I put it through the paces on one of my favourite driving roads.
My tester, painted in a pearl white, came with tons of Nismo goodies. The 18” rims, red-accent body pieces, spoiler, and Nismo badging are just the start. Standard equipment on this thing include the Alcantara seats, trim, and steering wheel. The body pieces and unique exhaust tips help bring this awkward-looking CUV into a sporty little runabout.
One huge issue I had with the Juke is that Nissan has made it impossible to get the manual transmission with the all-wheel-drive. When thinking about other enthusiast-oriented cars in the $25-35,000 price range, there are a few cars that come to mind that offer only manual transmissions. While I can understand manufacturers offering automatics (or dual-clutch transmissions) as an option, I can’t fathom the fact that if purchasing a Juke Nismo, I can only row my own gears if I pick the front-wheel-drive model. It’s a bit counter-intuitive; they made the sportiest model available with the CVT. When bounding around the back roads, I had many instances where I would want to hit the clutch and drop a gear, but felt deprived when my left foot had no companion.
I understand that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I have yet to meet any car guy (or girl) that finds the Juke attractive. Personally, I can’t help but think of the now-defunct Pontiac Aztek every time I look at the Juke. It has the face of a catfish and the haunch of a frog. It’s really only a face that a mother can love. This Nismo has metallic red accents throughout the body kit and the mirrors that give it a much sportier stance. I’m personally not a fan of the standard Juke, but I definitely think there was something in the air circulation system of the Nismo, because I’m definitely smitten.
2013 Nissan Juke Nismo Gallery