Car Reviews

2018 Nissan Juke Nismo RS Review

James Whitbourn’s 2018 Nissan Juke Nismo RS Review With Price, Specs, Performance, Ride And Handling, Ownership, Safety, Verdict And Score.

In A Nutshell: A circa-$40K performance-oriented small SUV joins the 370Z and GT-R as a third, more practical and accessible offering in the Australian NISMO line-up.

2018 Nissan Juke Nismo RS Specifications

Pricing From $37,790+ORC Warranty Three years/100,000 km Safety Not tested Engine 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol Power 160kW/157kW at 6000rpm (manual/auto) Torque 280Nm from 3600-4800rpm/250Nm from 2400-6000rpm (manual/auto) Transmission six-speed manual/CVT auto Body 4165mm long; 1770mm wide; 1565mm high; 2530mm wheelbase Boot Space 354L/207L (manual/auto) Weight From 1281kg/1420kg (manual/auto) Fuel tank 46L/50L (manual/auto) litres Thirst 7.2L/100km/7.3L/100km (manual/auto).

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THE LOCAL line-up of Nissan’s high-performance division opened in early 2017 with the arrival of the GT-R NISMO, which was subsequently joined by the 370Z NISMO. Built around well-established performance coupes, the pair brought worthwhile boosts to visual, driver appeal and track capability at a price premium.

The Nissan Juke NISMO RS arrives, then, as the third NISMO offering in Oz, with superficial similarities to its siblings underpinned by fundamental differences, not least its hot-hatch-meets-baby-SUV genre and circa-$40K positioning.

2018 Nissan Juke NISMO Review

The unusually styled Juke is a model nearing the end of its life cycle and there are just 240 Juke NISMO RS models available – think of it as a top-spec, sporty send-off for the model.

Aussie Juke NISMOs are the performance upgraded ‘RS’ versions, rather than the cosmetics-only ‘R’ offered overseas. Our big questions going into our first local drive of the Juke NISMO in the Adelaide Hills are: has it copped the NISMO treatment to the same convincing extent as the entertainingly old-school 370Z and giant-killing GT-R? And, what exactly is it an alternative to – a top-spec small SUV, perhaps? Or a hot-hatch?

What’s The Price And What Do You Get?

The Juke NISMO opens as a $37,790+ORC front-drive, six-speed manual and is also offered as a $41,490+ORC all-wheel drive with a CVT automatic transmission, with a 1.6-litre turbo petrol four-cylinder in different tune depending on the transmission and drive layout.

The line-up, also comprising the Juke ST and Ti-S, benefits from an upgrade for 2018 at the same time, bringing with it a trio of ‘myJUKE’ personalisation pack variants.

The Juke NISMO RS builds on the previously top-level Juke Ti-S with a decidedly sporty slant to the exterior and cabin cosmetic enhancements.

There is a NISMO aero package – front and rear bumpers, side skirts and roof spoiler – a NISMO RS front grille, LED signature taillights with smoked taillight finishers, a NISMO exhaust with chrome tailpipe finishers, a rear diffuser, red mirror caps and detail line, and 18-inch, 10-spoke alloys.

These tweaks team with three exterior colours – Ivory Pearl, Pearl Black and Platinum – to visually tie the hotted-up Juke to its hard-hitting brothers.

What’s The Interior Like And How Practical Is It?

A red-faced tachometer, form-fitting suede sports front seats, and a steering wheel with alcantara grips and red centre mark give the ageing Juke cabin a suitably thorough dose of NISMO, along with suede door panels and instrument hood, gloss black and carbon-look trims and surrounds and NISMO badging.

The three-mode Nissan Dynamic Control System brings a choice of three drive modes from Eco to Sport via ‘Normal’.

2018 Nissan Juke NISMO Review

At 2530mm the Juke’s wheelbase at the short end of the small SUV segment, however the back seat – which features twin ISOFIX child seat anchors and three top tethers – provides decent legroom for adults. However, the upswept daylight opening compromises the view for rear occupants.

2018 Nissan Juke NISMO Review

2018 Nissan Juke NISMO Review

Front-drive Jukes, which have a compact torsion beam rear suspension, get a correspondingly decent-sized 354-litre cargo bay. The all-wheel drive, multi-link rear suspension Jukes have a substantially smaller 207-litre luggage capacity.

What Are The Controls And Infotainment Like?

An infotainment system accessed via a 5.8-inch touchscreen features sat-nav with live traffic monitoring, DAB digital radio, iPod-compatible USB connectivity and Bluetooth connectivity for phone calls and audio streaming.

The relatively small screen and the absence of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto signpost the Juke’s age and leave its multimedia system as average among key rivals, most of which are larger and fuller-featured.

2018 Nissan Juke NISMO Review

Tilt adjustment for the steering and manual seat adjustment – six-way for the driver and four-way for the front passenger – leave fewer possibilities for getting the driving position spot-on, compared with the tilt/reach column and powered multi-way seats offered in some alternatives.

Yet the Juke’s ergonomics are fundamentally just fine and the minor controls, while dated and a bit clumsy, are easy to operate.

What’s The Performance Like?

The Juke Ti-S 1.6-litre turbo four is already at the upper and of the small SUV class with 140kW and 240Nm, and the Juke NISMO RS version duly elevates these figures to 160kW and 280Nm in the front-drive manual, which at 1281kg is also by far the lighter of the Juke NISMO pair. That’s a power to weight of 131kW/tonne – genuinely healthy.

The Juke NISMO moves from a deep and cammy, but not especially loud low-rev note to a subtly sporty/mostly workmanlike soundtrack as the tacho sweeps to the 6000rpm power peak.

2018 Nissan Juke NISMO Review

There’s a shimmy of torque steer through the wheel as full thrust is deployed off the line, via the Juke’s helical limited slip diff and 225-wide front tyres, but this engine is happier surfing the stout midrange than it is accelerating hard from a standing start or chasing the red. We felt the gearbox hit the body during the latter, and in both cases it can become strained and intrusive.

The launch drive didn’t provide the opportunity to test the all-wheel drive CVT auto. This variant is down slightly on the front-drive, with peaks of 157kW and 250Nm, however it’s the fact it weighs an extra 139kg that makes the biggest dent in its performance potential.

2018 Nissan Juke NISMO Review

Experience with lesser Jukes suggests the all-wheel drive variant will claw back much of what it loses in straight-line ability by bringing all-surface traction, some degree of AWD torque-vectoring poise, and the ride and handling benefit of the more sophisticated independent rear suspension it comes packaged with.

All that said, the exclusive pairing of AWD with auto (and front drive with manual) might prove to be the deciding factor for buyers.

What’s It Like On The Road?

Here was my burning question: Will the Juke NISMO be a case of GT-R-style NISMO magic sprinkled on a modest small SUV, in the creation of a practical and sporty surprise package? A once-over-lightly performance exercise? Or will the result lie somewhere in between?

2018 Nissan Juke NISMO Review

NISMO – Nissan Motorsport – was born out of racing, and its road-car work with the GT-R and 370Z suggests an engineering depth of talent reflective of those origins.

Some of the driver’s car greats have been reengineered from humble beginnings – think of the way RenaultSport deftly transforms the Clio from grocery-getter to grin-inducing backroad terror. (The Juke has platform ties with the Clio as it happens, as part of the Renault-Nissan Alliance.)

The technical changes in the creation of Juke NISMO, meanwhile, suggest a thorough retuning and promise equally good things.

The engine, as well as being more potent (and now Euro 6b-compliant) features strengthened conrods; the clutch cover is reinforced and there is a dual-mass flywheel. Also, the manual Juke NISMO gets a new gear set and a shorter final drive – the engine spins just below 3000rpm at 110km/h – and CVT autos benefit from eight ratio steps, up from six.

2018 Nissan Juke NISMO Review

Elsewhere, body, chassis and suspension reinforcements aimed at improving steering and handling precision and responsiveness seem to suggest a thoroughness of development. 

These work with retuned suspension that drops the Juke closer to the ground, for aero and centre of mass improvement, and featuring revised spring and damper rates, and a new electronic steering calibration. Larger, 320mm front discs with upgraded pads (and red-painted calipers) team with ventilated rear discs in a simple uprating of the brakes.

And the on-road result? A bit unremarkable, unfortunately. The reluctance of the steering to telegraph feel is the most obvious dynamic miss, and the weighting in Sport only exacerbates the problem by adding an artificial-feeling resistance.

Yet from the seat of the pants the Juke is reasonably well balanced and grippy on 225/45R18 rubber, if not especially playful.

2018 Nissan Juke NISMO Review

Ride quality is not entirely resolved, just as in lesser Jukes, but at least NISMO’s engineers have resisted the temptation to make it go-kart stiff; the Juke just needs tuning polish, to give it more initial bump compliance and extra limit body control.

A drive in the NISMO 370Z earlier in the day suggests NISMO certainly has the hi-po R&D nous – the Zed impressed with its meaty yet fluid and connected (hydraulically assisted) steering, nicely judged damping, even the intuitive progression of the brakes. Perhaps the Juke just isn’t the right basis for a cohesive compact performance car. 

What’s It Like To Park?

The Juke’s 4165 x 1770mm body is nicely compact for tight urban parking situations, and the raised hip point (compared with a normal hatch) and generally good vision make it a cinch to steer into spots.

The rising beltline and resultantly chunky C-pillar are the only impediment to parking vision, but this issue is deftly sidestepped by the excellent around-view monitor.

The Juke NISMO’s turning circle is reasonably tight, at 10.7 metres.

Does It Have A Spare?

Yes, there is a space-saver temporary spare wheel and tyre beneath the boot floor.

What about ownership?

Like the rest of the range, the Nissan Juke NISMO RS gets a three-year, 100,000km warranty, which trails the emerging norm of five years’ cover, yet Nissan says it is unlikely to be increased in the near future. The myNissan Service Certainty scheme offers capped service pricing for up to six years or 120,000km.

Based on a 12-month or 10,000km service interval (whichever comes first) costs for services one through four are $281, $347, $281 and $503, and so on, with the exception of a 100,000km/five-year service for $654.

There are three paint colours, among them pearl and metallic finishes, and each is a standard colour without extra cost.

What Safety Features Does It Get?

The NISMO RS features lane-departure and blind-spot warning systems, a 360 degree around-view monitor with the ability to detect moving objects, and a tyre-pressure monitor, as well as the safety fundamentals of front, side and curtain airbags and electronic stability control.

There are also convenience and luxury features such as dusk-sensing and auto-levelling xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights, rain-sensing wipers, cruise and climate control, and heated front seats.

The Juke does not have an autonomous emergency braking (AEB) system. Some versions of the Nissan Juke achieved a five-star ANCAP safety rating based on testing by Euro NCAP however this result does not apply to the Juke Nismo RS.

2018 Nissan Juke NISMO Review

Editor's Rating

How do we rate the interior and practicality?
How do we rate the infotainment and controls?
How do we rate the performance?
How do we rate the ride and handling?
How do we rate the safety?
Practical Motoring Says: The Nissan Juke, with its quirky exterior and motorcycle-inspired cabin touches is an oddball baby SUV for buyers with a taste for something different, albeit while playing in the safe realm of reliable Japanese cars.The Nissan Juke NISMO RS, then, is an even more curious offering, either aimed at buyers of high-spec small SUVs, or of small or light hot-hatches. We’re still not sure.In its outright performance capability, it is no match for the best $30K hot hatches, let alone those for $40K. Perhaps it’s better measured against small SUVs, among which it offers persuasive power and torque and a rare sports flavour. Yet it’s also pricey in the context of an (admittedly non-performance-focused) up-spec Mazda CX-3 or Honda HR-V.While not without merit, the Juke’s age is the factor that conspires against it, leaving it lacking on so many fronts, including cabin presentation, safety and connectivity technology and, ultimately in the context of the NISMO badge, dynamic polish.

James Whitbourn

James Whitbourn