Vital Stats

Engine:
Turbo 1.6L I4
Power:
215 HP / 210 LB-FT
Transmission:
6-Speed Manual
Drivetrain:
Front-Wheel Drive
Curb Weight:
2,884 LBS
Seating:
2+3
Cargo:
35.9 CU-FT
MPG:
25 City / 31 HWY
Base Price:
$26,120
As a point of love-it or hate-it styling, the Nissan Juke is king. As a weird, samurai-bullfrog-looking compact crossover with handling chops and a gutsy powertrain, it also has one of the bravest inclusions of a manual transmission in recent memory. It's funky, unmistakable, polarizing and actually pretty neat. Okay, so even though the back seats have a surprising amount of legroom, it's like sitting in a cave, and the sightlines out the back are challenging – every frog needs a few warts. But those matter less when the amphibian gets a big wet kiss from the Nismo princess.

Enter the 2014 Juke Nismo RS. The Jukiest Juke, with many new bits to make looking at, driving, and being inside it a more exciting experience, is the top of the heap for the model line, positioned above the regular Juke Nismo. I put one through its paces in Nissan's American homeland of Tennessee and came away with a few quick impressions.

Driving Notes
  • I don't care who knows it: I think this Nissan looks cool. The red highlights on the fascia, side skirts, mirrors and brakes pop. Styling changes advance the latent aggression already baked into the Juke. It looks meaner, more playful and confidently ridiculous. The bugeye headlights seem to work better with this front-end treatment and the always-on, low-mounted LED accents look great on the road. It goes without saying that this isn't a car for everyone.
  • One of the great crimes of the turbo direct-injected era is an incomprehensible crusade against turbo whoosh. It's delightfully present in the Nismo RS. This is a breathed-upon version of the standard 1.6-liter direct-injected, turbocharged four-cylinder. Most of the grunt comes through ECU tweaks, but there are upgraded connecting rods and a dual-mass flywheel for smoother revs. At 215 horsepower, It makes 27 hp over the standard Juke, and comes packed with 210 pound-feet of torque, a useful 33 lb-ft bonus over stock. (Of course, that's only if you opt for front-wheel drive – AWD models reduce these numbers to 211 hp and 184 lb-ft). Strapped to it is an upgraded six-speed manual with a beefier clutch and housing, plus lower gear ratios for first through third.
  • This is a powertrain that requires full driver engagement for maximum performance. Turbo lag is real here, so keep on the juice, pick the right gear, and this Juke RS will punch far above its weight. Fall short and you're stuck in no-boost-town, slowly pulling away from the stoplight. Do pay attention to drive mode though; Normal, Sport, and Eco have real effects on throttle response and steering effort. By the way, its EPA numbers are pegged at 25/31/27 miles per gallon, city/highway/combined.
  • My example was a front-wheel-drive, manual transmission model. This means it retains the torsion-beam axle of the standard Juke (all-wheel drive goes multi-link) and doesn't get the inside-wheel-braking torque vectoring system of the AWD Nismo RS. There are a raft of other goodies though: chassis bracing, stiffer springs, more aggressive dampers, a lower ride height, recalibrated electric power steering, 0.9-inch bigger brakes up front and an upgrade to vented discs from drums at the back. Just-right 18-inch wheels wearing 225-width ContiSportContact5 summer tires round out the chassis goodies.
  • On the road and around a corner, this little beasty is indistinguishable from a classic hot hatch. Expect gobs of torque steer if you're goofy with the throttle while twitching the steering wheel, but play it smart and the reward is prodigious cornering, snappy steering, predictable and progressive understeer limits and just a fun all-around character. The ride is much more our style too; the standard Juke can feel a touch too soft, this feels German – just enough road feel without punching you in the kidneys.
  • Nissan shows once again that it knows what it's doing when designing a sporting manual transmission. Quick, notchy, great gear spread. We could row through those gates all day.
  • For the Juke's interior, Nissan has given its Nismo team the good drugs. There is a stark difference when stepping from a base Juke into the Nismo RS. Rather than climbing into soft seats, you slide across rigid thigh bolsters and drop down into some of the most racecar-like Recaro chairs on the road right now. Nissan admits they eat up a healthy portion of the almost $7,000 premium over the base vehicle, but they're worth it. Along with the suede seats, the Nismo RS has faux suede on the wheel, gauge hood, rear seats and door panels. The gauges are red. It's neato.
  • The real-time digital torque gauge (and drive info in screen general) is placed down low on the center stack, well below the safe line of sight. It would be fun to see them dance around. A bit disappointing.
  • The most unfair part of our drive was being nowhere near a closed course or a racetrack. It feels like there's a lot more to learn here, but not on public streets.
A common practice on these kinds of drives is to play the pricing game. The Price is Right rules apply, he who gets closest without going over wins. With the 2014 Juke Nismo RS, almost everybody we spoke with went over. $30,000-32,000 was the price most pegged this little devil with, yet its base price is $26,120 and ours came in at $28,345 with options. That seems eye-watering when a basic Juke runs $19,170, but this is so different as to be barely recognizable. Against rivals like the Ford Fiesta ST (let alone larger, heavier cars like the Focus ST and Volkswagen Golf GTI), the Nismo RS costs a bit more. However, it has the higher seating position many customers prefer, plus a lot more visual chutzpah. The RS is by no means a perfectly behaved performer, but it's a ton of fun, and that's what really counts.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 37 Comments
      Espo70
      • 4 Months Ago
      I don't see the point in owning this thing unless it's AWD. I'd like to see a test of this model in that configuration with the paddle shift auto. Not the 6 speed manual FWD car magazine darling that seems to get all the press. If I want a manual shift FWD turbo hatch, there are many better performing, less expensive alternatives. What makes this car cool is the hot hatch-awd cuv combo that it is. After all, how many awd turbo cars can you get for mid 20 grand?
        Sean Flanagan
        • 4 Months Ago
        @Espo70
        Wife has a Juke Nismo in AWD (not the RS). Everything that goes for the FWD goes for the AWD in terms of spec, steering, and ride, but the handling is different thanks to the torque vectoring. You do feel it, and it helps the car rotate quite a bit. It makes it feel very chuckable. Plus it's switchable to three modes: FWD, vectoring AWD, or locked 50/50 AWD. The locking is nice for winter weather, but we leave it in vectoring most of the time. The CVT is a CVT, but it's not quite as annoying and rubber-band-y as it is in other Nissans. In manual mode, shifts are quick, but the lever is still backwards (forward to upshift, back to downshift; should be reversed). I'd much prefer it if it came with a better transmission, but the car isn't let down by it.
          Kenny Baese
          • 4 Months Ago
          @Sean Flanagan
          That makes me happy to hear. I'm actually halfway considering one of the Nismo Jukes for a new car in the next six months or so. Up here in Montana, AWD is in enough demand that I don't know that I could find a FWD version anyway, but the CVT made me hesitant. I'll add it to my test drive list.
        Dump
        • 4 Months Ago
        @Espo70
        Agreed. And if they made a wide-track version (a la Juke-R) my interest level would definitely skyrocket for this. It's not for everyone & thats the reason to get it.
      GodWhomIsMike
      • 4 Months Ago
      I think the AWD version would have been an interesting read, to see how it handles that extra power with that torque vectoring AWD system,
        carguy1701
        • 4 Months Ago
        @GodWhomIsMike
        IIRC Nissan's 'torque vectoring' is nothing more than using the brakes to simulate a limited slip. It's still a reactive system.
          lne937s
          • 4 Months Ago
          @carguy1701
          The Nissan Juke has an active system that uses multi-plate clutches to send the power to each of the rear wheels independently. It does not use the brakes and doesn't even have a traditional differential on the rear axle. So it is nothing like what you are describing. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=moJPFTA7YcM#t=31
        SethG
        • 4 Months Ago
        @GodWhomIsMike
        Although a constant refrain since the Juke came out has been that the FWD, being lighter and available with a manual transmission, was the more fun of the two. I imagine that holds true for the NISMO although it might be nice to send some of that increased power to the rear wheels.
      drew
      • 4 Months Ago
      I've seen a couple of these on the roads around D.C. It's sharp and weird, and I like it. The color scheme looks great.
      Lab Ninja
      • 4 Months Ago
      For the price? WRX wagon 100x over.
      Revis Goodworth
      • 4 Months Ago
      Absolutely ghastly - the only thing that would improve the looks of this thing is to have a tractor trailer run over it and then back up and then park on top of it.
      Koenigsegg
      • 4 Months Ago
      Nissan Puke, such an ugly vehicle
      IBx27
      • 4 Months Ago
      I drove one of these last week immediately after testing a 370Z and I came away thoroughly impressed. The transmission was much easier to learn, the shifter has far shorter throws, and I was rev-matching downshifts within a minute of getting behind the wheel. You could feel the car's height but only slightly in corners and on the highway; besides that the handling was very crisp. The engine sounds horrible, unfortunately.
        Hodor
        • 4 Months Ago
        @IBx27
        Most Nissan engines do sound like crap. The Z sounds like the entire exhaust is made out of cheap and broken plastic. Nissan is such a mess right now, design-wise. Their lineup isn't as drab and uninspired as VW, but they don't really have a single compelling car in their lineup.
      Zeta
      • 4 Months Ago
      Love the way the Juke Nismo ride and handle but I too also don't see any point in getting these in manual fwd.
      bchreng
      • 4 Months Ago
      The Juke has got to be one of the most hideous-looking cars on the road! I really wish Nissan would see their way to trickle these specs down onto the Versa and/or Sentra in the form of an SE-R model.
      Winnie Jenkems
      • 4 Months Ago
      Still one of the ugliest things on the road
      Neutral President
      • 4 Months Ago
      I find this car strangely alluring. I HATE how it looks, yet i can't stop staring at them when i see one on the road. It's like my cerebral cortex is constantly trying to make sense of it. I have yet to drive one, but i think i'm going to have a hard time NOT taking one for a spin when it's time to get my next car.
        Kenny Baese
        • 4 Months Ago
        @Neutral President
        I'm with you there. It's so goofy looking that it's immediately more interesting to look at than almost literally anything else on the road. I kind of love it and kind of hate it all at once.
      lne937s
      • 4 Months Ago
      Wondering what this drivetrain would do in a Note... http://www.automotiveworld.com/news-releases/nissan-unveils-note-nismo-scheduled-go-sale-fall-2014/
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