Their sales growth has been impressive and manufacturers have wasted no time in launching more new models to this growing sales sector, especially compact ‘supermini size’ versions such as the Nissan Juke.
The compact sector’s sales leader, the Nissan Juke 5-door, has been around longer than this year but it did get a mid-life update to keep it fresh and desirable. Mainstream model prices range from £13,320 to £20,806, most are two wheel drive and the engine options are 1.2, and 1.6-litre petrol and 1.5-litre dCi turbodiesel.
Right at the top of the range and not a mainstream model are the NISMO versions powered by a 1.6-litre DiG-T direct injection turbocharged 200hp petrol engine mated with a close ratio six-speed manual gearbox or a seven-speed CVT auto with 4WD. The price for the 2WD manual is £20,500 and £22,706 for the CVT 4WD variant. Out soon is an even sportier version of the Juke NISMO, the 218hp version known as the RS and priced from £21,650.
NISMO is the motorsport generated branding given to the highest performance versions in Nissan’s range and is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.
I have just had a very pleasing spell in the Juke NISMO 1.6 DiG-T 2WD manual. I say pleasing because this version has 200hp and 250Nm of torque. It was only a matter of time before manufacturers started adding high performance models to their smaller Crossover ranges just as Range Rover, Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz have done with their larger SUVs. But the majority of people who buy Jukes, or any other of the many compact crossovers, still opt for fuel efficient, low running costs and cheaper versions and whilst they fit the bill for many reasons, they are not generally fun to drive.
The Juke is very popular but it divides opinions. Some love its urban youthful style, some don’t like it looks or the fact that it is not the most practical crossover on the market. Probably a Peugeot 2008 overall is the pick of a very big bunch in this class but then again the Renault Captur is probably the most stylish.
But getting away from looks and being practical the Juke NISMO is refreshing and really enjoyable to live with – even for a short time. It is currently the ‘hot-hatch’ of Crossovers.
The styling is slightly more aggressive and the NISMO decals initially set this model apart from the rest of the range. Look in more detail and you will find it has an aero package of more prominent front and rear bumpers, side skirts and a roof spoiler plus a NISMO front grille. There are also signature red door mirrors, 18-inch NISMO alloy wheels, privacy glass and a sports exhaust finisher.
Inside the sporty theme continues with NISMO branded sports seats in suede with red stitching, leather steering wheel and gear knob, branded floor mats, NISMO front door entry guards and black trim for the centre console and door trim finishers. The top of the range spec also includes Nissan Connect sat/nav, on-board computer, heated front seats, climate control, front and rear electrically operated windows, electric door mirrors, 60-40 split folding rear seats, Bluetooth, colour reversing camera, push-button start, central door locking, cruise control and much more.
Technically there is the usual electronic control stability programme with a firm riding sports suspension and a better weighted steering system. The combination of the sports suspension and the larger 18-inch wheels does give a harsher ride on poorer roads but generally it adds to the sportier performance experience. I really didn’t find the ride too bad, tiring or that intrusive to a good driving experience which sets it apart from other more traditional Jukes. There has been no reduction in the elevated ride height by adopting a sports suspension set-up with stiffer springs and dampers but with no wider tracks. There is some body roll during high speed cornering but the handling is well balanced and not that different from a standard Juke.
The real highlight of the Juke NISMO is the engine. With 200hp and 250Nm (184lb ft) of torque there is plenty of mid to top range response. With maximum torque developed from 2,400rpm the response from low engine speed is a bit lazy until the rev-counter gets over 2,000rpm. But with the close ratio gearbox once that rpm level has been reached the engine comes alive and responds well even in its ECO mode. Top speed is an impressive 134mph and zero to 62mph takes 7.8 seconds but acceleration felt faster than that. A more highly tuned version of this engine was used in Nissan’s Le Mans DeltaWing race car.
The Juke NISMO is quite an enjoyable and entertaining vehicle to drive in a ‘hot-hatch sort of way and the fuel economy didn’t plummet badly either. My overall test drive consumption was 35.2mpg, not too far short of the 40.9mpg official Combined Cycle figure. With CO2 emissions of 159g/km VED road tax is £180 and company car drivers will pay 24% in Benefit-in-Kind tax. Insurance is rated Group 21.
The Nissan Juke NISMO stands out from the very large Crossover crowd. It is a realistic alternative for ‘hot hatch’ owners who feel the need, because of family requirements, to move into something roomier without driving becoming boring.
MILESTONES: Nissan Juke NISMO 1.6 DiG-T manual 2WD 5-Door Crossover. Price: £20,500. Engine/transmission: 1.6-litre, 4-cylinder, direct injection petrol with turbocharger and intercooler, 200hp, 250Nm (184lb ft) of torque from 2,400rpm, 6-speed close ratio manual gearbox, front wheel drive. Performance: 134mph, 0-62mph 7.8 seconds, 40.9mpg Combined Cycle (35.2mpg on test), CO2 159g/km, VED road tax £180, BIK company car tax 24%. Insurance group: 21. Warranty: 3-years/60,000 miles. Dimensions/capacities: L 4,165mm, W 1,770mm, H 1,565mm, boot/load area 251 to 830-litres. For: Drives away boring compact Crossover performance without too much harm to fuel economy or increasing CO2 emissions, a good alternative to compact ‘hot hatchbacks’. Against: Styling is not to all tastes, not as versatile or as roomy for rear seat passenger space as some other compact Crossovers but better than 3-door ‘supermini’ hatchbacks, low down torque delivery sluggish below 2,000rpm. Miles Better News agency