Review: 2015 Nissan Juke NISMO RS
The Nissan Juke has been around for about 6 years and has been eliciting mixed reactions just as long. We imagine polling based on its styling would result in 49% for, 49% against, and 2% who just don’t know. After spending a week in the sporty trim line NISMO RS, our thoughts on the vehicle overall are equally as split.
All Jukes come equipped with a 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine. In lesser Jukes (trim lines S, SV, SL, and NISMO) the engine produces an appropriate for compact urban crossover 188 horsepower and 177 lb-ft of torque. Engineers bumped performance for the NISMO RS and managing to wring a much more enjoyable 215 horsepower and 210 lb-ft of torque from the drivetrain. The standard issue transmission across trim lines is Nissan’s Xtronic automatic transmission with available manual mode. A 6-speed manual is available in the NISMO and NISMO RS models. Ours was equipped with the manual.
The exterior of the Juke is likely its most controversial feature. We have seen it referred to as quirky, odd, and even amphibious in appearance. We thought it looked a bit bug-like; like a weird bug you only find hanging on a pin in a museum or threatening mankind in Starship Troopers. This quirkiness is due in large part to its overall shape and also to what Nissan calls the “Juke’s unique light treatment” which is marketing speak for front lighting that leaves you nodding your head in appreciation or shaking it in disbelief.
V-shaped accent/running lights are set on top of the front wheel wells along the hood lines and appear a bit snout-like when the Juke is viewed from the front. Front turn indicators are housed in the accent light housing. Main headlamps are set on the low side of the front belt line and are a fun round shape that lends an air of retro. A grille is squeezed in between the light elements and manages to feature the new Nissan V-Motion element in the center. The rear lighting is housed in two angle bracket shaped housings more than halfway up the rear.
The entire body of the Juke is a series of bumps and bulges and flares that contribute to a sporty if not buggy looking little vehicle. Sportiness is dialed up in the NISMO RS with accents only available in its trim line. The NISMO RS is available in three colors, Brilliant Silver (the color of our test Juke), Super Black, and White Pearl. B-pillars are finished in a glossy “piano black” and the side mirrors are finished in a brilliant red. A matching red pinstripe runs around the base of the vehicle. The glossy black and touches of red really set the NISMO RS apart from its sisters and are just enough to create a beefier look to an already sporty looking vehicle.
Nissan went a tad farther in their alteration of the NISMO and NISMO RS’s exterior design and managed to veer from the quirky to the practical. With cues from the fabulous GT-R (and its racing counterparts in Japan) the front and rear fasciae were changed along with tweaks to the rear diffuser and spoiler resulting in a 37% increase in downforce.
Less visible to bystanders as the exterior of the Juke, but equally as quirky (sometimes impractically so) is the interior. The most obvious element on peeking inside is seating, namely the NISMO branded race-inspired Recaro front seats. They look straight out of a racecar with integrated headrests flanked by slots that look to be for a four point racing harness. The seats are heavily bolstered along the thigh and back with red leather accenting the bolsters and headrest. The center of the seats is lined with black suede that contrasts beautifully with the red accents and red stitching.
The bolsters are stiff and do an excellent job keeping butts in seats in spite of occasional g-forces trying to unseat said butts. They are reasonably comfortable for everyday driving, but not recommended for road tripping. While the lower bolsters are practical in g-force inducing situations, they do present a challenge during ingress and egress. Our average height female tester had to hitch herself up over the thigh bolsters to get out of the Juke. Our average height male tester felt they reached a level of familiarity generally left to an MD.
The remainder of the interior was far less quirky than other design elements. We’re not sure that’s a good thing as a little bit of quirkiness might have made up for the lack of creature comforts. Two cupholders mounted in the center console, a tiny storage bin inside the center armrest combined, and some skinny map pockets in the doors made up the measly passenger compartment storage.
A simple instrument cluster and center stack rated a solid C. Everything a driver needs was available, but it wasn’t overly attractive or modern looking. The infotainment screen was a 5.8” full color touchscreen. This is not the largest screen we have encountered, but it was ideal for the console size and design. The screen was flanked by analog control buttons that were easy enough to decipher and use; and, while there is a lot to say for simplicity in infotainment system design this one just looked boring.
Rear seating was what you would expect from a compact crossover. Our tween testers were comfortable enough in the seats on a ninety minute drive, but we would not have asked them to sit there much longer than that. Adults would likely be much less comfortable as the sloping roofline encroached a bit too much on headroom. Legroom was surprisingly adequate. Cargo storage was almost nonexistent. Two grocery bags all but filled the space.
The overall experience of driving the Juke NISMO RS was a good one. Steering was precise and acceleration was quick. When thrashing about, the seats held us in place and kept us longing for the next curve. Braking was equally as responsive. The only real issue we encountered was the clutch. It was numb. That’s not to say that there was little feeling in it; there was no feeling. This was a big letdown in relation to the steering and braking. The transmission proved to be as responsive as the other elements of the drive. Shifting was quick with short throws.
Family 5 Test
- Car Seats – Car seats will fit in the back of the Juke NISMO RS but that doesn’t mean you won’t be getting your seat kicked often and by someone who knows how.
- Coffee Cups – If you put your arm on the armrest, its virtually impossible to use the cupholder for anything bigger than a can while maintaining any comfort.
- Luggage – The Juke NISMO RS is a fun car to take a two-person road trip in, as long as you don’t plan on packing a lot.
- Golf Clubs – Without back seat passengers, the second row can easily fold down allowing you to have enough space to store a set of clubs or two.
- Groceries – The Juke NISMO RS offers a fair amount of space in the cargo area and back seat for groceries, as long as you don’t plan on having second row passengers. For any big Costco runs, you’ll want to take another vehicle.
The Bottom Line
Throughout our time in the Juke NISMO RS we repeatedly asked ourselves what the purpose of the vehicle was. Most compact crossovers provide more utility than the Juke. Some are even more fun to drive. There are certainly plenty of them out on the road, so enough drivers find them worthy of their money. We are still scratching our heads.