Pumped-up Nissan Juke Nismo packs punch

Nissan Juke Nismo is the first model from the 'Nissan Motorsports' performance division.

Nissan Juke Nismo is the first model from the 'Nissan Motorsports' performance division. - Credit: Nissan

Nissan's Juke has turned up the heat on its crossover rivals with the fiery Nismo, motoring editor Andy Russell.

It used to be so simple buying a car – saloon or, if you had kids and clutter, estate. Now the choice is mind-boggling with cars in all shapes and sizes looking to win your heart and a place on the driveway.

But in a world of one-size fits all and smart phones that do just about everything but make tea – although I'm sure I've seen an app for that – there's a new breed of car looking to be all things to all drivers.

Meet the crossover – part sport utility vehicle, part hatchback, part coupe – where versatility is the name of the game. Such is their popularity that Nissan now has two – the larger Qashqai and the fun and funky Juke and both are top of the pops among 10 best-selling cars in the UK.

So crossovers are certainly hot… and they don't come much hotter than the new Nismo version of the Nissan Juke. This bug-eyed beastie is a real blast, as much about posing as power, and it'll put a smile on the faces of people who see you in as big as yours driving it.

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The standard Juke is muscular with bulges in all right places, the Nismo looks like a body-builder on steroids with its sports styled bumpers and side skirts, roof spoiler, rear diffuser and drop-dead gorgeous 18in alloys. And there's that discreet Nismo badge front and back.

This Juke is the first Nismo, short for Nissan Motorsports, from the new high-performance division that is built on more than 30 years of racing experience – expect to see a lot more models coming soon… you can't fail to notice them.

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But just because you've wacked on some bodykit, fancy alloys and the Nismo signature red door mirrors and matching go-faster pinstripe on the Juke doesn't mean you're going to feel like Sebastian Vettell.

Well the Juke Nismo certainly isn't all style and no substance.

Those Nismo engineers have taken the fun and funky Juke and turned it into fast and furious with an uprated 200 horsepower 1.6-litre turbo petrol engine, beefed-up and stiffened the suspension and added sports steering and, boy, is this Nismo a real blast and pretty refined even when being revved hard – something it clearly relishes.

The Nismo is very much a halo range-topper for the Juke range and the bread-and-butter models with 1.6-litre normally-aspirated petrol and 1.5-litre turbo diesel engines are finding favour with buyers both young and young and heart.

Drive this Nismo version normally and it's as docile as a pussy cat, put your foot down hard and it turns into a growling tiger that's as agile as a cheetah through the twists and turns. OK the ride is a bit firm, leaving you more shaken than stirred, but when it comes to handling it's more gain than pain and it feels more compliant as speed builds.

Unlike the hard-core performance the Juke Nismo's interior is more about soft suede for the sports seats, steering wheel and door trim, set off by the 'floating' motorcycle-style instruments binnacle and centre console shaped to look like a motorcycle fuel tank – great marketing talking points but they can't help disguising the cheap and nasty plastics on top of the doors and dash which might be acceptable in lower models but feel out of kilter when you are talking £20,000 plus.

That said, the controls and instruments are user-friendly and the Juke's clever switchable climate and dynamic driving display where the same buttons change colour and function depending on the chosen mode means Juke 'Gizmo' might be more appropriate.

These one-size fits all crossovers are designed to put the life into your lifestyle – the supermini-sized Juke will carry four people but it's tight in the back with long-legged occupants up front and the sloping roof limits headroom. The boot is a small supermini-sized 251 litres but there is a deep, removable underfloor storage tray and the 60/40 splits lay flat with the sill-height boot floor making loading even large items easy.

As well as its sport styling the Juke Nismo includes the excellent built-in Nissan Connect satellite-navigation, Bluetooth and media system with colour reversing camera, cruise control and speed-limiter, stability control, six airbags, climate contro, heated front seats and electric folding mirrors so it has all the creature comforts as well as performance.

It's hard to find a car that ticks all the boxes but crossovers come pretty close – they may not excel in any one area but they have all-round appeal.

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