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2013 Nissan Juke NISMO Road Test and Review

Benjamin Hunting
by Benjamin Hunting
June 19, 2013
7 min. Reading Time

Typically, when car companies release special editions of a given product they are designed to broaden the appeal of an already relative-successful model.  This is especially true when it comes to performance vehicles, which cater to a very specific audience and usually build off of a platform previously recognized for its sporty potential.

This makes the 2013 Nissan Juke NISMO somewhat of an outlier – or should I say, even more of an outlier.  Yes, the base version of the compact crossover that is a lot of fun to drive, but of all the products in the Nissan lineup, it would almost seem like the Juke would be the last on the list to receive attention from the brand’s in-house tuner.  Being different, however, is really what the Juke has always been about, and indeed it stands nearly alone in its class when it comes to performance-oriented people movers.  By following this logic it becomes easier to see how this tiny and unique runabout is deserving of the attitude adjustment afforded by its NISMO makeover.

2013 Nissan Juke NISMO Review: Models and Prices

The 2013 Nissan Juke NISMO starts at an MSRP of $22,990, which is less than one would pay for the standard Juke’s top SL trim level.  Entry-level Juke NISMO models feature power windows and door locks, tinted glass, satellite radio, Bluetooth connectivity, cruise control, a trip computer, cruise control, and keyless entry and ignition.  Stepping up to an all-wheel drive version of the crossover, which also brings with it a continuously-variable automatic transmission, increases the cost of ownership to $24,025.  The all-wheel drive vehicle I drove for a week featured a Navigation package that increase the window sticker to a total of $26,460.


2013 Nissan Juke NISMO Review: Design

  • The 2013 Nissan Juke NISMO has been outfitted with a fully-functional aerodynamic body kit.

Much has been already said about the Nissan Juke’s unusual visage and proportions, including a previous review by myself of the standard version of the crossover.  It’s bundle of ostentatious styling cues that you either ‘get’ or ‘despise,’ and while I fall into the former camp within 30 seconds of picking up the Juke a gentleman rolled down the window of his van in the lane beside me specifically to point out how ‘ugly’ the vehicle I was driving actually was.

I would prefer, then, to focus on the differences that the 2013 Nissan Juke NISMO brings to the table.  Most obvious are the boy-racer side sills, air dam up front, and special rear bumper, all of which conspire to smooth out the Juke’s lines and give it a sleeker appearance that is especially noticeable when parked beside a standard version of the crossover.  LED driving lights are a nice addition to the crossover, while attention-seeking details are also visible in the form of a rear spoiler and red-painted side mirrors that contrasted nicely against the silver panels of my tester.  Similarly-colored highlights can be found elsewhere on the vehicle’s various skirts and aprons, and the overall effect is pleasingly aggressive without verging over into parody.  Discrete NISMO badges can be found on the grille and rear hatch, and the Juke rides on 18-inch black-and-silver rims instead of the 17-inch units found with the base model.

Nissan stylists have left the passenger compartment of the Juke NISMO mostly untouched from its stock form, with the notable exception of a set of sport seats for those riding in the front of the crossover.  The vehicle’s tachometer also gains a reddish hue, which is of course the appropriate angry shade for spirited driving, and the steering wheel is thickened by way of an Alcantara wrap and topped off by a red band indicating dead center.


2013 Nissan Juke NISMO Review: Comfort and Cargo

  • The 2013 Nissan Juke NISMO features upgraded sport seats.

One of the best ways to set one model apart from another is to dramatically alter a major aspect of the driver/vehicle interface.  This is exactly what has been done to the 2013 Nissan Juke NISMO, which swaps out its pedestrian buckets up front in favor of deep and well-bolstered suede sport seats that do an excellent job of offering a balance between comfort and support while cornering.  More importantly, they look the business and add an air of authenticity to the Juke NISMO’s hot-blooded personality.

Given its small size, it would be unreasonable to expect the 2013 Nissan Juke NISMO to function as anything more than a lifestyle accessory for couples who only rarely intend to fill its somewhat tight rear seat with anything other than a shopping bag or two.  There is some latent practicality tucked away inside the crossover’s unusually-shaped curves, however, as I was able to transport a three-shelf bookcase home using the Juke (albeit with the hatch wide open and the back seats folded forward).


2013 Nissan Juke NISMO Review: Features and Controls

  • The 2013 Nissan Juke NISMO introduces no new features or controls.

It’s status quo when it comes to the features offered by the 2013 Nissan Juke NISMO.  This means that buyers get to enjoy the unusual D-CON / Climate arrangement on the vehicle’s center stack that uses the same real estate to display either drive control or climate control buttons and displays in a trick bit of transparency.  I find the arrangement novel, and I enjoy the torque and boost graphics that accompany the various drive modes, but I must admit that there were times when I would have preferred a simpler way to access the air conditioning without having to back out of the D-CON interface.  The vehicle’s touchscreen navigation and entertainment system is much easier to parse, but having to use the vehicle’s voice command feature to pair a Bluetooth phone is time-consuming and could better be accomplished through the provision of on-screen menus.

One minor gripe about the Juke NISMO that is far from exclusive to this crossover: non-illuminated door lock buttons.  It’s hard to find the black unlock button on the black armrest during the dark of the night, and I didn’t appreciate the way my fumbling for the lock release had my rear-seat passengers briefly entertaining the thought that perhaps I was a serial killer about to take them to my dungeon of pain rather than simply a nice guy giving them a ride home after a relaxed social gathering.


2013 Nissan Juke NISMO Review: Safety and Ratings

  • The 2013 Nissan Juke NISMO does not offer any new safety equipment for the current model year.

Standard safety gear offered with the 2013 Nissan Juke NISMO includes electronic stability control, traction control, and anti-lock brakes.  The crossover also comes with multi-stage forward airbags, side impact airbags mounted to the front seats, and side curtain airbags that deploy front and rear.

2013 Nissan Juke NISMO Crash-Test Ratings:  The 2013 Nissan Juke NISMO receives a four star (on five) overall crash test rating from the NHTSA, while the IIHS gives the compact crossover Top Safety Pick status due to its rating of ‘Good’ in each of the testing body’s three major categories.


2013 Nissan Juke NISMO Review: Engines and Fuel Economy

  • The 2013 Nissan Juke NISMO features a re-tuned version of its standard turbocharged four-cylinder engine.

The 2013 Nissan Juke NISMO comes with a modest bump in power compared to the entry-level edition of the crossover.  The vehicle’s 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine is mechanically identical to that offered in any other Juke, but its ECU has been tuned to provide an additional nine horsepower and seven lb-ft of torque, bringing the turbocharged unit to a healthy 197 ponies and 184 lb-ft of twist. 

A six-speed manual transmission is available with front-wheel drive models, but selecting all-wheel drive with the Juke NISMO means adopting a continuously-variable automatic transmission to go with it.  Fuel mileage for the compact Nissan doesn’t suffer for its sportiness, matching the base Juke’s 27-mpg in stop and go driving and 32-mpg on the highway.


2013 Nissan Juke NISMO Review: Driving Impressions

I really enjoyed driving the all-wheel drive version of the standard Juke, which meant that I had fairly expectations when it came to sampling the talents of the 2013 Nissan Juke NISMO.  After all, NISMO stands for Nissan Motorsport, and the brand has a strong reputation for delivering performance at a wide range of price points.  The trouble is, the Juke NISMO isn’t so much a step above its standard sibling when it comes to power and handling as it is merely another shade of the same kind of fun.

Flooring the Nissan Juke NISMO’s gas pedal provokes its turbocharged engine into delivering lively acceleration that reels off 60-mph sprints in just under seven seconds – competitive with a long list of sporty cars prices under $30,000.  With only 10 horses to lord over the regular Juke, however, I never felt like the NISMO model had any extra jump over and above the original.  It also seemed to me as though the vehicle’s CVT displayed more of a ‘rubber-band’ effect when marshalling up the revs than the non-NISMO edition, even when set to Sport mode.  Still, there’s a lot to like about a transmission that can keep a small-displacement turbo sitting in boost indefinitely while marauding down the boulevard, and banging off virtual gear shifts using the CVT’s manual feature is accomplished more quickly than one might expect.

Spring rates for the 2013 Nissan Juke NISMO have seen the same modest level of attention paid to them, increasing a mere 10 percent over stock.  Handling for the compact crossover is indeed excellent, with or without its torque-vectoring all-wheel drive system activated (accomplished via a toggle switch that really needs to be relocated from its inconvenient position on the bottom left of the dash to the center console), and the burden of the Juke NISMO’s ride height versus a traditional hatchback rarely became an issue.  I enjoyed the fact that I could jump the curb and re-route around stalled Montreal traffic when required, which is a point in favor of the Juke’s additional ground clearance.

On a side note – Nissan claims that the body kit attached to the Juke NISMO actually adds 37 percent more downforce.  Absent from this advertised figure is the speed at which one would need to be driving the crossover in order to benefit from this particular enhancement, but it’s nice to know that, pretty as they are, all of those extras aren’t just cosmetic.


2013 Nissan Juke NISMO Review: Final Thoughts

The operative word to use when evaluating the 2013 Nissan Juke NISMO is ‘fun.’  Not performance, not practicality, but ‘fun.’  In this respect, the Juke NISMO scores quite high, as I found it impossible to resist the charm of a race-look crossover that maintains its individualistic streak while providing more driving engagement than the majority of its competitors.  The Juke has never really ‘made sense’ from an objective standpoint – after all, most hot hatches are faster and offer more interior room than the Nissan – but as a statement there are few vehicles which speak louder without breaking the bank. 

Nissan has stated that Nissan Motorsports is expanding beyond merely providing performance parts for its established sports cars, which means that NISMO-branded models won’t exclusively be about speed and power going forward.  I long for the day when NISMO graces us with a truly tuned-up Juke that provides more than a five percent increase in engine output, but until then we have the 2013 Nissan Juke NISMO to drive, and that’s not such a bad thing at all.


2013 Nissan Juke NISMO Review: Pros and Cons


  • Love-it-or-hate-it looks enhanced by spiffy body kit
  • A bit more power, a slightly stiffer suspension system
  • Excellent sport seats
  • A lot of fun to drive
  • Inexpensive


  • Extra power is admittedly unnoticeable at full throttle
  • The Juke NISMO is not a practical vehicle
  • CVT isn’t as responsive as in the base model

Nissan Canada supplied the vehicle for this review



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