The 2015 Nissan Juke is as funky and odd as they come – there’s no denying that. Stares, pointing, and in at least one case, laughter, followed this car wherever I drove it. But this isn’t an ordinary Juke. No, this is the Juke Nismo RS – Nissan’s second-hottest Juke available. Only the 2016 Nissan Juke-R Nismo is faster, though by quite a margin thanks to its 2016 Nissan GT-R powertrain.

Nevertheless, this four-cylinder, turbocharged, hot-hatch on stilts scoots down the road with plenty of speed. That’s thanks to an extra 27 horsepower, a sport-tuned suspension, summer performance tires, and some fancy electronic wizardry. But even with the extra ponies, the main focus tends to return to its styling. None of the folks I showed it to cared that it had extra power or electronic torque vectoring. It was all about that “frog face.”

While the looks garner the majority of attention, there’s plenty more about the Juke Nismo RS that’s worth talking about. Nissan has fitted this bug-eyed monster with Recaro seats, a suede steering wheel with an on-center marker, and a host of aerodynamic upgrades.

The Nismo RS might not be the fastest crossover/hot-hatch on the market, but it does pack plenty of fun. Plus, it offers three pedals and a stick – allowing drivers to get the most out of the experience.

Continue reading for the full driven review

  • 2015 Nissan Juke Nismo RS - Driven
  • Year:
    2015
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    inline-4
  • Transmission:
    six-speed manual
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    215 @ 6000
  • MPG(Cty):
    25
  • MPG(Hwy):
    31
  • Torque @ RPM:
    210 @ 3600
  • Energy:
    Turbocharged
  • Displacement:
    1.6 L
  • 0-60 time:
    6.7 sec.
  • Top Speed:
    135 mph
  • Layout:
    front engine, FWD
  • Price:
    29315
  • Price:
  • car segment:
  • body style:

Walk-Around Video


Exterior

2015 Nissan Juke Nismo RS - Driven High Resolution Exterior
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2015 Nissan Juke Nismo RS - Driven High Resolution Exterior
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2015 Nissan Juke Nismo RS - Driven High Resolution Exterior
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Alright, so I’ll go ahead and say it: looks are subjective. Yep, whether or not you like the way the Juke looks is up to you. I won’t send time trying to convince you it’s pretty. Heck, I’m still on the fence about how I feel about it. But no one can say it’s not different. Perhaps that’s what Nissan was going for. In that case, mission accomplished.

For me, the Juke’s front end takes after a certain Jim Henson character. I’d love to see the Juke in a lime green color to match. More objectively, the front is dominated by the two large headlights, Nissan’s V-style grille, and large turn signals and daytime running lights on top of the hood. The sloping windshield creates the highest peak of the roof, which gets progressively lower towards the rear. Large rear haunches create almost-flat fenders, matching those on the front.

Nissan’s “fish hook” taillights create a dramatic effect at the rear and they climb up the sloping rear glass. The black spoiler along the rear bumper and its red accent line run all the way around the bottom of the Juke Nismo, giving it a sporty look. Red mirror caps match the lower red line and pull the subtle yet sporty look together. A single exhaust tip pokes out from the bumper, and trumpets a fairly loud engine note.

The Nismo RS rides on 18-inch, 10-spoke black wheels with silver accents, wrapped in summer performance tires.

Interior

2015 Nissan Juke Nismo RS - Driven High Resolution Interior
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2015 Nissan Juke Nismo RS - Driven High Resolution Interior
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2015 Nissan Juke Nismo RS - Driven High Resolution Interior
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The interior is treated to several notable upgrades with the Nismo RS package, including the Recaro racing seats with matching suede on the steering wheel and gauge cluster housing. Red stitching holds things together, including the black leather shift boot and knob. Besides the added texture, the suede helps keep palms stuck to the wheel. It also adds pizzazz to an otherwise stock dashboard. There is the red-faced tachometer that’s different, but otherwise the Nismo RS sports the same accoutrements as a conventional Juke.

Then there are those Recaro seats. Boy do they look great. The black and red leather accents with red stitching combined with the suede inserts – it just looks right. The seats even have proper shoulder harness openings. However, try to sit down and you are quickly introduced to the bottom side bolsters in a most intimate manner. Ouch!

It took me nearly all week to learn the proper way to hop, twist and slide into the driver’s seat without becoming a soprano for a bit. My wife had an equally difficult time getting in. Once seated, though, the Recaros hug you better than your mamma and offer plenty of support through corners. Adjusting the seats is done with manual controls, including a rotating knob for ratcheting the seatback fore and aft.

All that to say this – the seats are very purpose-built. In my opinion, too much so for this car. However, some folks might like that aspect. I’d say the seats would be great if the outside bottom bolster was two inches shorter or folded out for ingress.

Beyond the front seats, the rest of the Nismo RS takes after the regular Juke. The rear seats provide a decent about of space for three passengers and folds 60/40 style for hauling cargo. Room behind the upright seats is respectable for this size crossover.

Powertrain

2015 Nissan Juke Nismo RS - Driven High Resolution Drivetrain
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The Juke’s 1.6-liter four-cylinder turbo is fed by direct fuel injection and normally produces 188 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque. Opt for the Nismo RS, however, and that is pushed to 215 horsepower and 210 pound-feet of torque. The extra power comes from the ECU tune and heavy duty connecting rods, and a better-breathing exhaust system.

The all-aluminum 1.6-liter loves to rev and will quickly reach its redline at roughly 6,300 rpm. Peak horsepower is found just below that at six grand, while peak torque comes in at 3,600 rpm.

While the Juke Nismo RS can be had in AWD, the manual transmission is only available with FWD. Those who choose the AWD over three pedals are stuck with a CVT.

The six-speed manual works well, but has longish throws and a somewhat vague engagement. The short-ratio box also makes second gear a necessity when past 25 mph. The 0-to-60 mph sprint requires third gear. Clutch feel is rather good. Nisan has done a good job managing torque steer and the Helical limited-slip differential helps put power to the ground.

Surprisingly, the Nismo RS doesn’t lose any points on fuel economy over the standard Juke, even with its extra power. The EPA rates the Nismo RS at 25 mpg city, 31 mpg highway, and 27 mpg combined. During my week-long test session, I averaged 26.3 mpg.

Driving Impressions

2015 Nissan Juke Nismo RS - Driven High Resolution Exterior
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The Nismo RS offers a rewarding driving experience, especially on twisty roads where you can keep momentum. The steering feels nicely weighted and offers good feedback. The throttle is free of useless tip-in and offers good control of the engine. The brakes are linear and stop the Juke with authority. The short-ratio transmission and its lanky shifter are the car’s only drawbacks.

Drive the Nismo RS smoothly around town, however, and the shifter feels perfect. The engine spools freely at speed, allowing downshifts without the need for a big throttle blip before engaging the clutch — easy to nail every time.

Outward visibility is surprisingly good despite the lowered roof height in the back. The large mirrors help greatly. Forward visibility is impeccable thanks to the large windshield. When backing up, Nissan’s Around View Monitor and 360-degree camera system gives a composite picture of everything around the vehicle. A conventional backup camera is also present. Both the AVM and backup camera are displayed simultaneously on a split screen.

The suspension offers a good balance between sport and comfort, though it obviously leans more toward sport. The low-profile tires mounted on the 18-inch wheels add to the feeling.

Safety

2015 Nissan Juke Nismo RS - Driven High Resolution Exterior
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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration rates the Juke at three stars out of five on frontal, five stars on side impact, and four stars on rollover. All told the NHTSA gives the Juke a four-star rating.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rates the Juke at “good” in every category except for the small overlap crash test. In that test, the Juke scored a “poor” rating. But many automakers are still struggling to meet the requirements set forth by the small overlap crash test, the IIHS’ most recently adopted crash test.

Price

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A base model Juke starts at $20,250. With that comes the 177-horsepower 1.6-liter turbo and FWD. Even at the base level, AWD can be had and adds roughly $2,000 to the sticker price.

The Nismo RS lists at $28,020. My tester came with $220 Nismo floor mats along with a $250 center armrest. After adding in the $825 destination charge, the total price came to $29,315.

Competition

Mini Cooper Countryman JCW

2013 Mini Countryman JCW High Resolution Exterior
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The Mini is also unconventional looking, though its unconventionality is starting to wear off after all these years. Sure the Countryman is one of the newer designs, but it’s still a Mini. Nevertheless, the Countryman JCW offers good competition for the Juke Nismo RS. The Mini comes packing 208 horsepower from its turbocharged four-cylinder and manages to hit 60 mph in 6.8 seconds with a top speed of 128 mph. Those numbers are close to the Nismo RS.

The Countryman JCW, short for John Cooper Works, is a bit more spendy than the Nissan, with a starting price of $35,350.

Read more about the 2013 Mini Countryman JCW here.

Ford Focus ST

2015 Ford Focus ST High Resolution Exterior
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Appealing to the same crowd but doing it without all the ground clearance is the Focus ST. The 2.0-liter turbocharged hatchback doesn’t disappoint. With an impressive 252 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque, the Focus ST out-powers both the Juke and Mini, hitting 60 mph in just 6.3 seconds and boasting a top speed of 150 mph. What’s more, its lower center of gravity gives it better handling in the twisties. The Focus ST doesn’t have the quirky appeal of the Juke, but for some that’s a good thing.

Despite having plenty of sporty upgrades, the Focus ST still comes with a lower price tag. The base price is listed at $24,370 for the 2015 model.

Read more about the 2015 Ford Focus ST here.

Conclusion

2015 Nissan Juke Nismo RS - Driven High Resolution Exterior
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The Juke Nismo RS is a fun little hot-hatch-like runabout that enjoys getting looks as much as being driven hard. It might not be the most comfortable thing to drive nor the sportiest, but it gets the job done at a reasonable price and without many compromises. Save for the seats on entry and exit, ergonomics and interior comfort is good, and there is room for four average size adults. Fuel economy won’t break the bank and neither will the MSRP.

Sure, there are faster cars out there, but none seem to combine this level of fun-to-drive with fun-to-look-at, all at a sub-$30,000 price point. There’s a lot to be said for that.

What do you think?
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