2013 Nissan Juke Review

2013 Nissan Juke - Wild-looking 2013 Nissan Juke Nismo is a higher-performance version of regular Juke.


Prices: $22,990-$25,290

The Nissan Juke is an odd name to begin with, but the Juke Nismo sounds even more offbeat. That is, unless you know "Nismo" is derived from "NISsan MOtorsports, which is the name of Nissan's motorsports division.

The compact four-door, five-passenger Juke hatchback differs from the fun-loving regular Juke in that it has a race-inspired exterior, specially tuned suspension, steering and transmission. It also has more power from its small, sophisticated turbocharged and intercooled 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine, which has goodies: direct injection, dual overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder.

The Juke Nismo is rated at 197 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque, versus the standard Juke's 188 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque.

The Juke Nismo comes with front-wheel drive and a six-speed manual transmission for $22,990 or with an advanced all-wheel-drive (AWD) system and a smooth CVT (continuously variable) automatic transmission with an easily used manual shift feature for $25,290.

The Nissan Juke with the AWD system, which has slightly higher ground clearance than other compact cars, has a torque vectoring system designed to limit understeer by increasing torque to the outside rear wheel. That helps the car more adroitly follow its intended course.

I tested the 2013 Juke Nismo with the CVT and AWD. The car would likely be more fun with the manual gearbox, but the CVT allows more effortless driving in congested areas.

My test Juke Nismo was quick off the line, with no turbo lag, and delivered good passing times on highways. The engine never really felt or sounded as if it was working hard, although the Juke isn't light for a small car that weighs approximately 3,000 pounds.

Fuel economy is an estimated 27 miles per gallon in the city and 32 on highways with front-drive and the manual transmission and 25 and 30 with the CVT and all-wheel drive.

The Juke Nismo has lots of performance-oriented technical features, besides its stronger engine. They include wider (45-series) tires and factory 18-inch alloy wheels exclusive to the Juke, a lowered suspension and vehicle-speed-sensing electric power steering redone for sportier and more direct handling-although it still feels a bit light.

The anti-lock all-disc brakes have good pedal feel, electronic brake force distribution and a brake assist system. The AWD version has slightly higher ground clearance, which causes a moderately higher step-in.

Handling is sharp, helped by vehicle dynamic control. The ride is supple-but on the firm side. Surprisingly, though, the ride gets a little bouncy at times.

Most folks want a performance car that looks like a performance model. The Juke Nismo looks the part. It has a modified front fascia and grille with a lower and more aggressive design. The grille is finished in a darker shade than other Juke models. The Nismo version also has sculpted side skirts, more muscular wheel arches finished in body color and red mirror housings. The B (center) pillars are finished in gloss "piano black."

At the rear are a deeper bumper and redesigned body colored hatch spoiler and fascia. A red pinstripe on the grille continues on the car's flanks at the base of the doors and also is visible on the black bumper sill. There are "Nismo" markings on the front and rear.

There's no moonroof for the quiet and fairly roomy driver-focused dark-smoke-colored interior, which has much decent-looking plastic. It has excellent front sport seats with aggressive bolsters shaped from soft foam that helps hold occupants in place without squeezing them. They've been designed to provide more lateral support. Trimmed in suede, they have vibrant red stitching. The front armrest, however, blocks one of the cupholders when lowered.

Gauges can be quickly read, and climate controls are large. Sound system controls are smaller, but still easy to reach and use.

The easily gripped steering wheel has a red marker at its very top to indicate "top dead center-a feature derived from racing. Seats in the rather tight rear area, which has narrow doorways, also feature red stitching and have the Nismo logo stitched into the seatbacks. But they're not as comfortable as the front seats.The footwell's pedals have been upgraded to a metallic finish.

Standard features include privacy glass, a push-button start, an integrated control system with automatic air conditioning and an AM/FM/CD audio system with steering wheel controls.

Options include an $1,170 navigation system with a 5-inch color touch screen display, upgraded audio system and a rearview camera. There are large folding rearview mirrors, but the camera is handy because direct-rear visibility is poor.

Safety items include front air bags and roof mounted curtain side impact supplemental air bags for all occupants.

The hatch swings open on twin struts. Its opening is wide, but rather high. The flat-floor cargo area is generally large for a compact, and the 60/40 split rear seatbacks flip forward to significantly increase cargo space.

The lined hood is held open with a prop rod instead of handier struts. Too bad, because this is a "driver's car" for owners who generally check engine compartment fluid levels far more often than casual drivers do.

In fact, there's nothing "casual" about the Nissan Juke Nismo.

Dan Jedlicka

Dan Jedlicka's Website

Dan Jedlicka joined the Chicago Sun-Times in February 1968 as a business news reporter and was named auto editor later that year. He has reviewed more than 4,000 new vehicles for the Sun-Times--far more than any newspaper auto writer in the country. Jedlicka also reviewed vehicles for Microsoft Corp.'s MSN Autos Internet site from January, 1996, to June, 2008.

Jedlicka remained auto editor at the Sun-Times until October, 2008, and continued writing for the newspaper's AutoTimes section, which he started in 1992, until February, 2009. While continuing his auto writings at the Sun-Times, he served as assistant financial editor of that newspaper from 1970 to 1973, when he began his automotive column.

He has appeared on numerous radio and television shows, including NBC's "Today," ABC's "20/20" and "The CBS Evening News." He was a host, consultant and writer for Fox-TV Channel 32's 1991 New Car Preview show and that Chicago-based station's 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1995 Chicago Auto Show Previews.

Jedlicka's auto articles have been printed in national magazines, including Esquire and Harper's. His auto columns have been reprinted in U.S. government publications and economic textbooks and he is profiled in the "World's Greatest Auto Show" history book about the Chicago Auto Show. In late 1975, Jedlicka was host and technical advisor for three one-hour television specials, "Auto Test 76," which aired nationally on PBS and were the first nationally televised auto road test shows.

In 1995, Jedlicka was the recipient of the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois Inc.'s Consumer Education Award, given annually to a person who has gained distinction in the field of consumer education. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award in the Media category and inducted into the Legends of Motorsports Guild at the Carquest World of wheels custom car show in Chicago in January, 2006.

Jedlicka was a member of the North American Car and Truck of the Year jury, composed of a select number of auto journalists from throughout the country, from 1995 until 2009. From 2010 to 2012, he was a member of Consumer Digest magazine's auto experts panel that gave Best Buy new vehicle recommendations.

He is a 1987 graduate of the Bob Bondurant Race Drivers School and later of the BMW "M" and Skip Barber Advanced Driving schools. He was a member of the U.S. team that participated in the 1987 1,000-mile Mille Miglia race/rally in Italy and has been a race winner at the Chicago area's Santa Fe Speedway.

Jedlicka has owned 25 classic cars, including 1950s and 1960s Ferraris and 1950s and 1960s Porsches, a 1965 Corvette, a 1967 Maserati and a 1957 Studebaker supercharged Golden Hawk. Jedlicka resides with his wife, Suzanne, in the Frank Lloyd Wright historic district of Oak Park. They have two children, James and Michele.

For more reviews from Dan, visit Facebook.