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Juke Nismo: More fun from Nissan

Sat., Sept. 14, 2013, 12:20 p.m.


You may love it, you may hate it, but the Juke will get your attention.

Since corporations are people, does it not follow that a business — even a really big business — can experience emotion?

Joy and sorrow, hope and despair?

I hope so. I’d like to think Nissan is having fun.

Otherwise, how to explain the Juke?

You may love it, you may hate it, but the Juke will get your attention. Those big, goofy fender-topping frog’s-eye markers, the monumental arcs the fenders carve, the funky, squished-in rear hatch.

Like it or loathe it, though, there’s no denying the Juke is a fun little handful. A blast to drive and quirky enough to start a conversation in any crowd.

The little five-door hatchback debuted in 2010 and first-year sales surprised everyone — even Nissan. Now the company is out with a new performance trim, the Juke Nismo (for Nissan Motorsports).

Software tweaks bump the Nismo’s horsepower by 9, from 188 to 197. A stiffened suspension and lowered ride-height reduce body roll. Eighteen-inch summer tires ride on aluminum alloys and measure 10 mm wider than standard. Unique bumpers and body skirts boost downforce and lend a hunkered-down, all-business bearing. Smart red pinstripes and matching mirrors splash things up.

Inside the Nismo’s (admittedly tight) cabin, styling cues include red accent stitching on the steering wheel, seats and dash. Red serves as the tachometer’s background color and a red hash mark sits at top dead center on the alacantara-and-leather steering wheel.

Deeply bolstered and suede-trimmed sport seats are butt-worthy for even the broad-beamed. The rear seats fit two small-to-medium adults or, better, a couple of kids. Most owners will fold the seatbacks flat, as cargo space is a somewhat limited commodity here.

The Juke is available in front- or all-wheel-drive, and with either a six-speed manual or continuously variable (CVT) transmission. AWD models can be had only with the CVT which, luckily, is one of the best of the breed.

This year, AWD Jukes get a new torque vectoring system. It reads several inputs to calculate traction needs and can split power 50/50 front-and-rear and side-to-side in back. Great for handling stability at speed and in slippery conditions.

In hard cornering, FWD Nismos exhibit understeer. AWD trims take a line and hold it, though the Nismo’s tall profile tempers irrational exuberance.

The 1.6-liter turbocharged and direct-injected four shows a bit of turbo-lag off the line but quickly comes up to speed. Expect 0-60 times in the mid-7s.

Around town, the Nismo rides comfortably. At highway speeds, it’s settled and composed, though a bit of wind and road noise are evident.

A new Integrated Control system manages the automatic A/C as well as a three-mode drive selector that adjusts throttle, transmission and steering feel. It’s a mash-up that just sort-of works.

Nissan has always been up for a little fun. Good to see them back on their game.

Don Adair is a Spokane-based freelance writer. Contact him at

2013 Nissan Juke Nismo AWD

Vehicle base price: $22,990

Trim level base price: $25,290

As tested: $27,710

Optional equipment included all-wheel-drive, carpeted mats, center armrest, navigation, premium audio, USB port, rearview camera

EPA ratings: 25 city/30 highway

Premium fuel required

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