“I thought it was yours,” said a colleague who was used to me showing up in a new ride every week—especially ones that don’t quite fit in with the standard fare sedans, minivans and crossovers that normally line our parking lot.
He followed me out to the Juke Nismo, Nissan’s latest take on the eclectic Juke crossover, and immediately commented on how the red mirrors “looked like a mistake”—even after I pointed out the matching red pinstripe along the sculpted side skirts between the Juke’s massive haunches.
These house a set of diamond-cut 18-inch alloys in a 10 twin-spoke design.
Overall, this in-your-face exterior with lizard-eyed front end can be polarizing, but I like it, even on lesser Jukes that don’t wear all the premium Nismo touches.
And there are many among the nearly 100 worth noting.
Nismo is more than just an appearance package, which includes numerous airflow, powertrain and handling tweaks by the company’s nearly 50-year-old performance arm. Nismo is Juke’s top trim level starting at $24,998 for the front-wheel-drive (FWD) and $28,478 for all-wheel-drive (AWD). This compares to $23,678 for the manual front-drive SL and $27,078 for the AWD SL.
So, what do you get for the extra dough?
Let’s start with its larger and lower bottom grille that provides a more aggressive first impression and improves airflow to the engine. This is flanked by LED strips that replace the standard round foglights.
Sideskirts direct airflow around the rear wheels and there have been changes to the wheel arches, which are more pronounced and now fully finished in body colour.
B-pillars are painted gloss ‘piano black,’ and in back, there’s a deeper rear bumper, the red pinstripe continues from the sideskirts onto the black sill and a larger liftgate spoiler and wide-bore exhaust diffuser complete the look.
These deeply bolstered front sport bucket seats are trimmed in synthetic suede and really grab you, both physically and visually. Their red stitching is a nod to the exterior pinstriping, mirrors and logos, with this tone repeated in the tachometer and at 12 o’clock on the steering wheel—which is clad in alcantara and leather.
Overall, the interior is largely charcoal, but nicely accented with piano black and metallic finishes, not to mention precision-stitched Nismo logos and metallic pedals, instead of rubber. The look is smart and well put together.
Other standard content in this trim includes smartkey with pushbutton start, automatic climate control, navigation with five-inch touch screen, rearview monitor, Bluetooth and a Rockford Fosgate ecoPunch audio system that kicks out the sound.
They haven’t turned the Juke into a road rocket, but it is a bit quicker thanks to a 1.6-litre direct-injection turbo four that has been tweaked for more horsepower and torque (197 hp and 184 lb/ft versus 188 and 177).
It’s not a big jump, but in a 1,437 kg vehicle (1,329 with FWD), there’s enough punch to make the standard-equipped CVT fun to drive.
There’s ample low-end torque, and the sport-tuned CVT can be sequentially shifted. Too bad you can’t order the AWD model with the six-speed manual, which comes only with FWD.
For those light-of-foot, they may be rewarded with pretty decent fuel economy as the AWD Juke is rated at 8.0/6.6 L/100 km (city/hwy) and 8.2/6.4 for FWD. My own figures were a bit off the mark.
But fuel economy wouldn’t top my list of “must haves” in a Nismo vehicle anyway. Performance would, and aside from the Juke’s lively but not entirely neck-snapping acceleration, handling is worthy of the nameplate.