By on June 14, 2013

2013 Nissan Juke Nismo Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Let’s get one thing sorted. The picture above is not, I repeat not, the wasabi-snorting-485-horsepower-3.7-second-to-60 Juke that Nissan has been teasing. Instead, this is the Nismo treated Juke we saw at the Chicago Auto Show in February. If you’re disappointed, or if the unusual confluence of shapes that is the Juke has made you throw up a little in your mouth, don’t click past the jump. We warned you.


Calling the Juke’s styling “not everyone’s cup of tea” (as one person I met put it) or even “polarizing” hardly begins to describe what’s going on here. My week with Nissan’s smallest crossover in America was filled with awkward stares, gaping mouths and looks of revulsion. But that’s not the whole story. For every 10 people that wanted to run the Juke out-of-town like villagers wielding pitchforks, there were two or three that thought it was fantastic looking. No, cross that, they wanted to bear the Juke’s children. That’s how far they went. This makes the Juke the most polarizing car design I have seen. Yes, I’m including the unholy Aztec and Rendezvous. However you feel about the Juke’s design, you have to admit it took some brass balls to design it, produce it, and then keep selling it.

Let’s toss in another photo:

2013 Nissan Juke Nismo Exterior

Our own Sajeev Mehta performed one of his excellent “Vellum Venom” critiques of the Juke in March, so be sure you check that out. My personal reaction is mixed. I appreciate the overall dimensions of the Juke as most crossovers on the road are ridiculously over-sized, but I think that the design team got just a bit carried away. Especially with the front end. I don’t mind the round headlamps, the round proboscis doesn’t bother me at all, but those turn signal pods that rise from the hood reminded me of a frog. Frogs are tasty, but I don’t find them cute. Making them stand out even more is the fact that they can be seen inside by the driver and front passenger. That said, I appreciate polarizing designs because of the passion they inspire. If you’re one of those people who want to interbreed with a Juke, more power to you. One thing is for sure, you get an enormous heaping of style for Nismo’s $22,990 starting price.

2013 Nissan Juke Nismo Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes


Because the base Juke wears a starting MSRP of $18,990, my expectations were low. If you keep your expectations at a similarly realistic level, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. For $22,990 the Nismo version adds heavily bolstered Alcantara sport seats, a leather and Alcantara wrapped steering wheel, center arm rest, red tachometer, plenty of Nismo badges and red-stitching galore. Unfortunately, the standard hard plastic dashboard and the world’s least attractive headliner remain. Seriously, this has to be the same material the trunk liner in a Versa is crafted from, how much would it have cost for something out of the Altima? On the flip side, you have to keep reminding yourself that 27-large is as expensive as any Juke gets and the Nismo tops out at $26,460 with navigation, the CVT and AWD. That’s well below the average new car transaction price in America.

The Alcantara thrones are some of the most attractive (and best bolstered) seats you can find for under $30,000, but they still ride on the same 6-way manual driver’s and 4-way passenger’s seat frames as the regular Juke. This means the range of motion is limited and lumbar support is non-existent. Still, one must have perspective and you’ll find the same situation in most cars this price. I was disappointed to find that the Juke’s steering wheel doesn’t telescope making it hard for me to find an idea driving position.

2013 Nissan Juke Nismo Interior, Cargo Area, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Thanks to the  hatchback-like profile, the rear seats offer more room than you’d think by looking at the outside with enough head and legroom for a quartet of adult men. More surprising, those four guy’s bags will fit in the Juke’s surprisingly large and deep trunk. The reason for that large cargo area (with more under the load floor) is the Juke’s fairly tall profile and low ride height which allows for a deep (if strangely shaped) cargo hold. (Check out the video to see under the load floor.)

2013 Nissan Juke Nismo Interior, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes


Nismoing your Juke doesn’t improve the way your tunes sound, you get the same base AM/FM/XM/CD/iPod/USB head unit as the base Juke, with the same six unbranded speakers. For $1,150 you can add what Nissan used to call their “low-cost navigation unit” bundled with a Rockford Fosgate speaker system and 8-inch subwoofer. I was a bit skeptical about this combination, but the tuning of the RF system was surprisingly well-balanced for a factory up-sell. The big draw for me is the nav unit.

The nav system by itself seems to go for about $750 in other Nissan models and is one of the best navs on the market in my opinion. It’s not that it offers a huge feature set or slick graphics, what appeals to me is the low-cost and simple, straight-forward interface. The system has the basics covered from XM traffic and fuel prices to on-screen USB/iDevice integration and Bluetooth speakerphone integration. The one strange omission from the system is Bluetooth audio streaming which isn’t supported.

2013 Nissan Juke Nismo Interior, Shifter, 6-Speed Manual, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drivetrain & Drive

Despite being the antithesis of square, the Cube and the Juke ride on the same Nissan Versa underpinnings. Thankfully the underpinnings are all they share. Instead of the wheezy 1.8L mill, Nissan cooked up an all-new 1.6L direct-injection four-cylinder for the Juke (they have since jammed it in foreign market Versas as well). The small engine is good for a [comparatively] large 197 horsepower (9 more than the regular Juke) and 184 lb-ft from 2,000 to 5,200 rpm (7 more). That’s a reasonable amount of power for something that could be seen as an upgrade from a loaded Sentra SR.

The Juke may be a funny looking creature with some cheap plastics inside, but even in base form it has road manners that impress. To create the Nismo, Nissan bumped up the tires to 224/45R18, stiffened the springs by 10%, tweaked the dampers, fiddled with the steering and bumped the final drive ratio. They then made the 6-speed manual transmission the standard cog-swapper rather than the CVT (standard in the regular Juke), added red mirror caps and called it a day.

2013 Nissan Juke Nismo Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

A trick that is sometimes used to make the sporty version of a car more dynamic on the road is to swap out the electric power steering for a traditional hydraulic unit. When I first hit the curves in the Juke I assumed Nissan had employed this trick. Much to my surprise, Nissan didn’t do that. Instead they tweaked the EPAS (Electric Power Assist Steering) system for improved feedback and a different level of assist. The result is impressive but made me ask: why don’t all EPAS equipped Nissans feel like this? In truth, the feel is still lacking compared to the “good old days,” but the steering is notably more direct and linear with just a hint of feedback from the wide front rubber. This is as good as it gets with EPAS.

Before the Juke arrived I had spent a week in the 2013 BMW X6M (our reviews are obviously out of order). Having the Nismo and an X6M back to back may sound like a real let down, but there’s another side. Obviously the Juke doesn’t handle or accelerate like an M, but there is something of the personality that struck me. No, I’m not just talking about the X6 being similarly polarizing in the style department, I’m talking on the road personality. They are similarly “eager.”  In this way, the Juke reminded me of a small dog that thinks it’s a big dog. It even has a chihuahua’s eyes. Is that good or bad? Good seeing as the Juke costs about 1/4th the price. I managed a 7.45 second 0-60 dash in the 6-speed manual model, let’s just say the X6M didn’t get there in 1/4th the time.

It gets a bit more complicated. You see, the Juke is two kinds of animal. If you get the 6-speed manual transmission you get plenty of torque steer, slick shifts and a more engaging ride. (And for some reason torque steer makes me smile when it’s on a small-scale like this.) If you get the AWD Nismo, you’re stuck with Nissan’s CVT. I’m no CVT hater but even I have to admit the CVT dulls the Juke’s personality. On the flip side, the torque vectoring AWD system makes the CVT/AWD Nismo the faster car on the track by a reasonable margin. If you have an oddly shaped place in your heart for Nissan’s over-styled crossover, you have a difficult decision on your hands. Either way the Juke is destined to be one of the rarer vehicles on American roads and I get the impression that’s just how lovers and haters of the Juke like it.


Hit it or Quit it?

Hit it

  • The best handling chihuahua on the road.
  • Nissan’s torque vectoring AWD system is a hoot and a half.

Quit it

  • Saying the Juke’s looks aren’t for everyone is being polite.
  • What’s up with that headliner anyway?


Nissan provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.8 Seconds

0-60: 7.45 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 15.8 Seconds @ 90.5 MPH

Average Observed Fuel Economy: 27.8 MPG over 589 miles

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42 Comments on “Review: 2013 Juke Nismo (Video)...”

  • avatar

    The Juke is indeed a fun ride, but Nissan compacts certainly have headliners (and dome lamp switches for that matter) made from material found outside a Lordstown, OH plant circa 1991 in a bin labeled ‘inferior quality.’

  • avatar

    …and all the pointing and laughing is a standard, no charge extra that comes with every Juke

    • 0 avatar

      though it really shouldn’t matter, i guess you’re right. Kind of like people who get facial tattoos and then ‘get upset’ when others stare or shake their heads. I mean some do this kind of thing just ’cause they enjoy. I suspect a relatively large percentage do it to get looks even if they’re loathe to admit it.

  • avatar

    Ugliest vehicle since the Pontiac Aztec.

  • avatar

    I think the Juke is a blast- and I only drove the CVT with FWD.

    If circumstances dictated that I had to buy a new vehicle, this would be it.

  • avatar

    also worth adding to the big 6speed/CVT trade off:

    the 6 speed cars are all FWD. All the FWD Jukes have a solid rear beam axle. It is a fun six speed, but…
    the CVT’s are FWD or AWD. No point in getting a FWD CVT unless your left leg doesn’t work… but if you get an AWD, you get torque vectoring AND an independent rear end, which helps alleviate some of the hop that the overly stiff/short travel suspension suffers from in my non-professional opinion. And it has the mode selector for the engine mapping, which is cool, and must be really fun with software set to bump the boost up on sport mode.

    Trade offs! Wish Nissan made the Juke with a 6MT/AWD/IRS setup to make it special…

  • avatar

    Sounds like a genuinely fun car. I’d consider one if I was in the market for something a little more practical but still fun. I don’t know if I could look at that face every day though. It kind of looks like a dog, I guess.

    Also, I have to admit, in the video it’s almost comical how out of sync the secondary view out the windshield is with the view of the presenter. I eventually stopped paying attention to what was being said and instead played a game trying to pinpoint the amount lag going on, but there were so many shifts that I couldn’t figure it out.

  • avatar

    I honestly don’t believe in the quarter mile. If a VEYRON can loose to a P.O.S. Nissan Juke in the quarter mile (with anything less than a SOLID STATE ROCKET BOOSTER strapped on) Then there’s something seriously wrong.

    This is part of the reason I don’t do drag strips. I feel that I need to be able to beat you at any given time on the highway, without either of us having any time to prepare, or change tires or add Methanol or otherwise.

  • avatar

    It’s so… French! This HAS to be Renault’s influence, only the French could pen something so willfully weird. I like weird, but this is bad weird. Citroen does good weird.

    How about this drivetrain in a Versa hatch?

  • avatar

    For all the hate people spew, this is one fun ass car to drive. All the same people who continuously bemoan the roads cluttered with numb vanilla beigemobiles pile on so much vitriol whenever anyone DOES break out of the box. It’s a no-win situation which is why we’re doomed to a future of refrigerators on wheels.

    Let’s count how many fully-optioned (leather, nav, sunroof, etc) stick shift cars can be bought in this country. Not many. At this price point? Fewer still. I applaud Nissan for making it and I am behind what it stands for. I’d get one for myself if we made that kind of money.

    Do I think our Juke is ugly? I have a better question- do I CARE that our Juke is ugly?

    BTW, black is the worst color for this car. We got black only because the $$ deal was too sweet to pass up. It looks so fine in white or teal.

    Point and laugh all you want… In the meantime, I’ll keep that smug grin on my face when I drive the Fugly Funmobile. The peeps inside the car- they’re laughing for a different reason. ;)

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t hate it, and I appreciate the variety in it. But there is a happy medium between beige and willfully strange! It would be nice if “pretty” would come back in fashion!

      • 0 avatar

        Yeah, there’s nothing wrong with being different, but if your idea of difference is, say, an Aston Martin Lagonda or a Nissan Juke, you tend to alienate people.

    • 0 avatar

      Why does it have to be either or? Is that my only choice, a refrigerator on wheels or a nuclear radiation mutation? You would feel smug if you were pointed and laughed at? You must fall into the category of any attention is better then no attention that Marcelo pointed out.

      • 0 avatar

        Nah I fall in the category of not giving a shit what complete strangers think of my car. I feel smug because I’m too busy enjoying it.

        If one absolutely must have the adoration and envy of random people on the road, the Porsche/Audi/BMW dealers are -> that way. :)

  • avatar

    The Juke and Leaf certainly share DNA in the looks department.

    The Juke’s personality (I haven’t driven it) remind me of my former xB1. It wasn’t pretty, but it was roomy and fun to drive, and economical – although at $26k, the Nismo isn’t cheap.

    The Nismo’s engine cover looks like it came from a lawnmower.

  • avatar

    Looks like something excreted from the hole of me arse.

  • avatar

    Did you actually mean to imply that you like torque steer?

    • 0 avatar

      Torque steer is not the villin most jorno’s make it out to be. 90% of the FWD cars out there only have a barley noticeable pull and that is only under hard acceleration in low gears. Back in the 90’s some “hot” FWD gave toque steer a bad name of the “yank the steering wheel out of your hands” type but today there are only two current cars, Ford and Opel where it’s a bit more than noticeable.
      At the end of the day it is nothing compared to the nasty surprises a powerful RWD can come up with.

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      I wouldn’t say I “like” torque steer, but it doesn’t bother me that much and in some cars it could even be described as “cheeky” or “endearing.” Yep,I *am* that crazy.

  • avatar

    It would be cool if you could get the manual and the AWD. Since you can’t better stick with Subaru if you want this kind of vehicle. Or if you have money – there are a couple of Audi’s that fit the bill.

  • avatar

    i like it. Very much, though i certainly don’t want to breed with it. It could use some improvements, specifically it could’ve been a regular hatch, which would have made it that much more interesting. Also, as a car it could’ve done without the ridiculously oversized wheels.

    Does anyone else think the Suzuki pictured in a previous article looks like a toned down Juke? Good looking car too btw.

  • avatar

    While the styling is definitely not my cup of tea, I can see the appeal of this vehicle. With so much bland car design on the road it refreshing to see a manufacturer take a chance on styling and produce something unique.

  • avatar

    Like a strange mutt whose mom was a Citroen 2CV and whose dad was a god knows what. Sometimes you get cute puppies, sometimes you get this.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Every time I see one, I think Datsun F-10. However I can see the appeal of one a few brownie points above a Kia Sportage or Buick Encore.

  • avatar

    I am also of the opinion that Nissan should do this treatment to the Versa. It’s a rear thing indeed to have a manual with top level specs and if consumers did not “have to” deal with the styling the Versa Nisimo could be a bit of a hit.

  • avatar

    As I’ve stated on this board before, why in the world, if you have to have a car look different, would you use the AMC Gremlin as the inspiration for your C/D-pillar design? (With all due respect to folks who owned one.) This thing, the Kia Soul, the Suzuki whatever-the-hell-it-is we won’t see; same school of design.

    (One wonders if one of these manufacturers will drop a transverse bulletproof slant-six up-front? Whoops, that’d be too WIDE, which would make the car a Pacer! :-p )

  • avatar

    I *like* the styling.

    There I said it. I’m out of the closet. I like the Juke.

  • avatar

    Count me in the “it looks awesome!” camp. I rarely see them on the roads here in Texas; seems like I saw more when they were just arriving in California, before I moved here (and before you say anything about Texas and big cars, San Antonio seems to be crawling with Minis and Fiats).

    I’m still having a hard time imagining a sporty compact Nissan front-driver. My ex-wife had a Sentra, and my fiancé drives a Versa… Both veer towards the “mini-Buick” end of the small car spectrum, sacrificing agility to provide as close an approximation of a big car ride as possible. In other words, they feel VERY French!

  • avatar

    I like all Jukes. Here’s to not seeing yourself across the intersection every day.

    That said, I have a hunch that this is NISMO’s pet project, and that the car will continue to improve, performance-wise. Hope that doesn’t hurt sales of the current NISMO Jukes; if so, we will probably never get to see the good stuff.

  • avatar

    Cars that are both uglier and less functional then a Subaru don’t really score well with me. It’s okay to pick ugly but useful. And its okay to buy for looks. But the Juke does neither.

  • avatar

    I test drove the first Juke Nismo that arrived at my local dealer. Unfortunately it was a CVT model, but it was still quite fun to drive. The manual mode of the CVT didn’t suck. I’d still like to drive the 6 speed version, though. I like the funky look of it.

    The only part of this review I take issue with is you stating that you can fit a quartet of adult men in the car. I’m just about 6’0″ and if I drive with the seat all the way back it doesn’t look like I could fit my children in the seat behind me, and they’re 9 and 12. Honestly, it doesn’t look like their legs would fit in the space between the front seat back and where their legs would go. Was I just imagining this?

  • avatar

    This is a serious question. I know this car doesn’t photo very well, but for all the haters, have you really looked at one in the flesh? To me, it looks quite “dynamic” in person, especially the rear hatch area. Considering the generally conservative nature of Japanese carmakers, I applaud the fact that somebody in Nissan even green-lit this project.

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