Nissan has a pretty long history of making the cars it wants to make, not necessarily the cars the market says they want. The GT-R is a wild, AWD coupe that is sized like a sedan, and it sacrifices creature comforts in the pursuit of speed with a relatively tiny price tag. Then we have the Murano Crosscabriolet, which should need no explanation for its quirkiness. So when Nissan decided to enter the compact performance market, it didn’t build a small coupe or sedan, it built a crossover with frog face and they called it the Juke. I loved the Juke but I wished it was faster. Then Nissan made a Nismo Juke, and it was also wonderful. But then Nissan decided they wanted a faster version, of the faster version, of their compact performance crossover. This is the 2015 Nissan Nismo Juke RS, and it might just be the most underrated performance car on the market.
Starting with the looks, it is pretty obvious that the Juke Nismo RS is special. The aggressive new body kit and lowered ride height make the car look more menacing, and the styling touches like the large rear wing add an extra touch of aggression. With the Brilliant Silver paint on our tester the black body kit and the red accent stripe stand out and demand attention. Of course those awesome looking 18-inch alloy wheels sure help things in the visual department, and the RS exclusive red calipers peeking out from behind them don’t hurt either.
Inside the cabin there are several RS exclusive features like the suede covered steering wheels but the most interesting and obvious are the Recaro seats. These thin-backed seats are covered in leather and suede, and they are the most aggressive seats you can currently get in any Nissan. Not even the GT-R has seats that are this performance oriented. These seats are little too hard for long trips, and they could use a bit more lower back support, but when you start beating on the Juke RS around a tight back road they are perfection.
The Nismo RS is the most expensive Juke you can buy, so it obviously comes with all the other equipment you would expect. You’ll find a premium Rockford Fosgate stereo, Nissan Connect system with a 5.8-inch touchscreen and navigation, SiriusXM radio, and more. There is no sunroof here though, but I am perfectly fine with that. A sunroof adds weight, and it moves the center of gravity in the wrong direction.
Make no mistake about the odd looks, or the interior equipment, the Juke Nismo RS was built to do one thing; GO FAST!
The biggest changes made for the RS all around going faster. Under the hood is a modified version of Nissan’s 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. This engine is exclusive to the RS and it produces 215 horsepower and 210 lb-ft of torque. In our tester that power is sent exclusively to the front wheels through a six-speed manual transmission. To keep that power going to the road, the Nismo RS comes with an exclusive helical-gear limited-slip differential. This reduces torque steer and makes the car feel much more nimble. It cuts understeer, enhances turn in, and it lets you get on the power early when exiting a turn.
The six-speed transmission in the RS is exclusive to the model, and it features tighter ratio spacing for quicker acceleration. The spacing is short with nine positive throws, but there could a little more precision in the feel. The clutch is short with a very defined bite point, but it is stiffly sprung, and it takes a little bit of time to get the shifts right, but when you do, the results are rewarding.
While the quick-revving engine and playful transmission are wonderful additions to the driving experience, the real fun of this machine is the handling. RS specific steering and suspension tuning couple with an RS specific chassis that is stiffer than other Jukes to create a car that is fun and much quicker through that turns that it has any right to be. I took the RS to some of my favorite roads, and I hurt more than a few feelings as I kept up with, or sometimes left behind, cars that expected to be much faster than me.
Bringing everything down from speed is a set of RS exclusive brakes with 12.6-inch rotors up front, vented rotors in the rear, those lovely red-painted brake calipers and upgraded pads. Despite a day of beating on the car, they brakes only showed the slightest bit of fade after several sequential big stops.
But none of that really tells the story of the Juke Nismo RS. When you are driving this thing, all of those lovely pieces come together in a special way that is more than the sum of the parts. The slightly higher seating position, wild looks, snarling exhaust note, quick steering, slick shifter and wonderful suspension create a symphony of hoonery that makes you want to drive. It makes you want to be in the car, it makes you want to go faster, and it makes you feel like a kid again. That is the highest praise I have for this car, to be honest. It made me feel like a 16 year old kid beating around the back roads with my friends. It is a fun car that made me smile every time I was in it.
All that power and need for fun does have a few drawbacks. The window sticker says I should average 25 mpg in the city, 31 on the highway and 27 combined. Except I constantly had my foot buried in the throttle, so I didn’t get close to those numbers. Also, the Juke Nismo RS now holds the distinction of being the only press car I have ever been given a citation in.
I admit fault, I was very certainly speeding, and that is a very dumb thing to do, but I just got caught up in the moment and let myself get carried away.
I got Juked.
If there is a weak point in the Juke’s armor, it is the price tag. With an as-tested price of $29,315, the Nismo RS is on the higher end of the hot hatch spectrum. It is fairly equal in price to a Volkswagen Golf GTI, but it’s about $2,000 more than a comparably equipped Ford Focus ST, which arrives with even more horsepower.
Still, it is hard for me to hate on the Juke. Its quirky design, and “way faster than it should be” performance engineering have won me over. Nissan makes some of the more interesting cars, and in this case, they also made one of the most entertaining to drive.