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Nissan Juke hot-hatch pretender now real contender with Nismo RS

07:07 02 January 2016

Nissan Juke Nismo RS is firmer, more composed and more powerful with a renewed sense of purpose.

Nissan Juke Nismo RS is firmer, more composed and more powerful with a renewed sense of purpose.

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Nissan has turned up the heat with the new Juke Nismo RS so this crossover is now a serious in the hot-hatch market, says Matt Kimberley.

What’s new?

Nissan has got stuck in to making its smallest performance car better.

The Juke Nismo RS is firmer, more composed and more powerful. There’s less body roll, more straight-line urge and it even looks better. Suddenly, this left-field hot-hatch pretender looks a lot more serious.

Nissan Juke Nismo RS

Price: Nissan Juke Nismo RS Xtronic, from £24,100

Engine: 1.6-litre, 211bhp, four-cylinder turbo petrol

Transmission: CVT automatic driving all four wheels

Performance: 0-62mph 8.0 seconds; top speed 137mph

MPG: 38.2 combined

CO2 emissions: 169g/km

Looks and image

If you don’t like red detailing you’re in the wrong place – you’ll find it on the outside and throughout the cabin. The bucket-style Recaro chairs are a serious statement of intent, giving the flagship Juke more weight to argue with. If you don’t like the Juke’s looks, this could be the model to make you think twice.

Space and practicality

Those aggressive seats don’t do you any favours when you try to slide in and end up getting the tall side bolster stuck between your legs, so you have to adapt your entry technique. There’s a modest boot that’s big enough for the young and the child-free. The cabin is spacious enough in the front but a bit cramped at the back.

Behind the wheel

The motorbike fuel tank-inspired centre console is an acquired taste, but you’ll enjoy the Juke’s renewed sense of purpose. It pulls hard, with a slightly improved soundtrack.

It changes direction with the fast reflexes that could only belong to a short-wheelbase car. Quick steering and a grippy Alcantara wheel mean you’re never scrabbling for extra lock, and the car stays impressively flat even when you corner hard.

There was never a shortage of cohesion in the Juke Nismo, but the RS brings noticeable extra bite at the front end and an ability to keep impressing you even when you keep pushing it harder. The front-wheel drive version now comes with a limited-slip differential, which makes a huge difference. The four-wheel drive version is automatic-only which takes an edge off the experience.

Value for money

At £21,995 the Nismo RS is not bad value – it may be the same price as the entry-level seven-seat Nissan X-Trail, but it’s vastly cheaper than other similarly-equipped hot-hatches. For its size the hot Juke punches well above its weight, which is part of the appeal.

Who would buy one?

There’s some debate as to whether buyers will come from the general hot-hatch fan club or from people who just love the way the Juke looks and want the best version. What’s in no doubt is that the RS now has enough talent to swim with the bigger fish around it. And this is a car that offers a crossover kick in a purely hatchback market.

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