Nissan Juke NISMO Test Drive

Let’s all agree right off the bat that the 2013 Nissan Juke NISMO is not going to win any beauty contests. It will not be runner-up, and it will not collect $10. That’s just the reality when you look like a bullfrog that just returned from a month-long vacation in Chernobyl.

But now that that’s out of the way, we can move on to more pressing topics. Such as the fact that the 2013 Juke NISMO is the undisputed champion of backing up its looks with performance. No car on the market today relies on being fun to drive to make up for its design more than the Juke, and the Juke NISMO goes far above and beyond the call of duty.

Normally, I try to find a specific road trip or weekend cruise while testing cars, to put them in an environment and just observe how they react. There was no gameplan with the Nissan Juke NISMO, though, and it was quite fitting. Because I wanted to drive it everywhere and anywhere.

I flew out my front door time and time again, giddy to take the Juke to the grocery store; or to daycare; or to work or to lunch or even just to the nearest traffic circle and back. Hey, I should go up this hill. Now I think I’ll go down the hill. Round this corner, round that one and that one and that one. I would have driven it up a curb and weaved through parking meters if I thought local law enforcement would share in my joy for the spunky crossover.

Because the Juke NISMO is seriously fun. The short wheelbase (just 99.6 in), combined with improved power, handling and suspension all come together to create a high-octane front-wheel drive experience. Compared to the standard Nissan Juke, the direct injected, 1.6L turbo-four is bumped up from 188 horsepower to 197 and from 177 lb.-ft of torque to 184. That modest jump of 9 hp doesn’t seem like quite so much, but consider that it’s a 5-percent increase on a car that weighs under 3,200 lbs. and includes a jump in the turbocharger from 11.75psi to 13.05psi. It all adds up.

NISMO, the Nissan skunkworks arm, tuned the electric power steering and increased the spring and dampening rates in the suspension to bring the whole package together. Interior touches include NISMO sport bucket seats that grip your love handles and hold on tight, and red stitching accents plus an Alcantara trim on the steering wheel complete the pumped-up look. It is just the right amount of testosterone without going overboard, much like the car itself.

The all-wheel drive version has torque vectoring which makes it sound positively delicious, but that model only comes with a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Consider that the front-wheel drive doesn’t have a sporty differential, but does comes standard with a great six-speed manual attached to a satisfying leather-wrapped knob. Besides, while the Juke NISMO has that extra power and a new front splitter that Nissan claims does wonders for downforce, you probably aren’t taking your Juke to the track. Unless you really need the AWD for weather purposes, stick to the FWD model with the manual and a price tag of just $22,990 MSRP, and rest assured your inner hoon will be plenty satisfied.

Predictably, back seat space is tight and rear cargo is limited, but if you’re looking for a practical crossover then you probably didn’t click on this article in the first place. Nissan has the Rogue (test drive article here) and the new 2015 Murano for that. A jogging stroller fit into the Juke’s rear hatchback space, but just barely. The rear seats do fold down in a 60/40 split if that works for you.

All in all, the Nissan Juke NISMO is one of the more enjoyable cars for the money that I’ve driven in a long time. Its satisfying connection through the six-speed manual and potent but steady boost from the turbocharger make for a very engaging drive. Fuel economy hovered around the low end of its 25/31 MPG rating, but at highway speed it does reach 30 MPG and above without trouble.

There is also a Juke NISMO RS version available for about an extra $3,000, and at 215 hp and 210 lb.-ft there is a discernible difference. It also gets better brakes and additional tuning to the steering and suspension. Either way, you can’t really go wrong, though some reviews say the NISMO RS turns things up a tad higher than is suitable for the Juke. The fact of the matter is, though, if you don’t mind standing out in a crowd and want to have fun doing it, the Nissan Juke NISMO is a hell of a ride – even if it’s not quite pageant worthy.

As read on: http://www.automedia.com/Blog/post/2013-nissan-juke-nismo-test-drive.aspx

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