Nissan Juke Nismo 4WD

We see if the top-spec version of the 197bhp Nissan Juke Nismo is as good as lesser models

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.0 out of 5

The Juke Nismo works as a quirky hot hatch alternative, but it’s much less convincing with this gearbox. While the four-wheel drive boosts the car’s handling ability, the CVT saps performance and causes the engine to whine noisily like a hand dryer when you’re accelerating. Go for a Juke Nismo by all means; just not this one.

Nissan's sporty Nismo brand has officially arrived in the UK, and its first model is the Juke Nismo. We’ve already tried the front-wheel-drive manual version, but now we’ve had the chance to drive the range-topping four-wheel-drive model with a CVT auto box.

You don’t normally associate a CVT with strong performance – while dual-clutch autos tend to be faster than manual cars, CVTs are generally slower.

That’s the case here: this Juke trails the manual model by four-tenths in the sprint from 0-62mph, posting a time of 8.2 seconds. You feel a delay as you floor the throttle and the engine revs flare before the car accelerates away.

Leave it in auto mode and the instant responses you expect simply never come, while the engine revs away noisily like a hand dryer. Stick the box in manual mode, and things are a little better as you shift up and down the seven ‘gears’ yourself.

But the manual version of the car is much more responsive and involving; the box better suits Nismo’s performance credentials.

It’s a shame to kick off on such a negative because the rest of the Juke Nismo package feels well thought out. The Alcantara steering wheel is connected up to a quicker rack that makes the car feel far more responsive.

And the harder you drive this Juke, the better it feels – much like the muscular Nissan 370Z. But ultimately, this is no rival for hot hatches like the Ford Fiesta ST.

The Juke’s quite high centre of gravity remains – Nissan has only stiffened the suspension (by 10 per cent), rather than lowering it – and body roll is pronounced.

Still, opt for this top-spec CVT model and you get four-wheel drive thrown in, and you’ll notice this means you can accelerate out of bends sooner without the car washing wide as the front tyres lose grip.

The stiffer suspension reveals itself over bumpy roads, jolting passengers up and down more than in a standard Juke, although in hot hatch terms the ride is actually pretty well judged.

A chunky bodykit and Nismo’s signature red details ensure the car looks great. There’s a stylish new set of LED daytime running lights in the front bumper, too, while inside, the sporty Alcantara seats, Nismo badges and red Nismo rev counter complement that Alcantara wheel, which features a flash of red to signify the dead-ahead.

The only part of the interior that looks a little cheap is the CVT gear selector – again, the auto lets the Nismo down. It also hits economy, with the CVT claiming 38.2mpg to the manual model’s 40.9mpg. The four-wheel-drive CVT model is £2,205 more expensive, too, at £22,600.

If you want a Juke Nismo, go for the sporty, involving manual car. Buyers who need an auto only have the option of this expensive and flawed CVT, and that’s a pity.

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