Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Gizmo-packed Juke Nismo means business as a performance car

THE name Nismo conjures up for me that movie from The Fast And The Furious franchise — Tokyo Drift (2006)

THE name Nismo conjures up for me that movie from The Fast And The Furious franchise — Tokyo Drift (2006) — of life in downtown Tokyo where stunt drivers do a very nice line in handbrake turns.

Indeed, Nismo is all about performance driving but perhaps not the fictional kind in films we all know and love. It is, in fact, the name Nissan gives to its “performance brand”.

Nismo is derived from the Japanese carmaker’s motorsports company and the name itself was established in Japan as far back as 1984. The first car to bear the Nismo legend in Britain is this week’s drive, the Nissan Juke Nismo.

The first thing that strikes you about the Juke Nismo is its looks. This might be described by that old phrase “off the wall”.

Unmistakably Japanese in my book, the Nismo “look” seems to bring to life that playful and games-orientated culture that runs through everyday life in Tokyo from myriad amusement arcades to the night-time karaoke bars.

Driving it I almost expected Michael Douglas in his role in Black Rain — when he is pursued by the Japanese Mafia — to pop up in the back and start yelling instructions as we zoomed along.

And zoom the Juke Nismo certainly does. Tucked away behind its dazzling derrière (shaped and streamlined in equal proportions) is a barrel of an exhaust pipe that indicates that this car means business when it comes to performance.

It does not have a giant engine — a 1.6 petrol unit — and 0 to 62mph in 7.8 seconds is not that rapid. Yet the Juke Nismo displays a great eagerness to go as hard as you want to push it, right up to its maximum speed of 134mph. By contrast, it is also a comfortable car — the special brand seats enveloping your body and making long journeys pleasurable.

Whether you drive the Nissan Juke Nismo quickly or slowly, it has a nice feel that filters through from its rather exotic road presence.

The longish bonnet tends to lead the driver into action: you get the impression the car is raring to be off and the atmosphere this creates, which I assume is deliberate, is that this is perceived as an accessible performance car above all else.

In that sense, few people fail to notice the Juke Nismo, especially the test car with its 18in Nismo alloy wheels and Storm White livery.

This striking outside appearance is set off with Japanese flair for the inventive by signature red door mirrors. I was not sure about these at first but after living with the vehicle, I realised they are almost essential for the authentic Nismo look. This “splash” of colour on the car’s exterior sets the tone for the overall impact of the car.

Inside too, the styling is deliberate and moody: from the Nismo sports seats in suede with red stitching, the Alcantara and leather steering wheel and gearknob, the branded luxury velour mats, and (most noticeable of all considering its colour) the black headliner.

All this darkness might be thought to be oppressive but the opposite is true: because the moodiness is offset with striking lines of colour, the effect succeeds.

Another feature I liked inside the car was the rear tonneau cover integrated into the tailgate. This had a practical application, as well as being stylish, inasmuch as it instantly shuts off the contents of the loadspace when the tailgate is closed (in addition to the added security of rear privacy glass).

The standard equipment on the Juke Nismo is prolific: colour reversing camera, hands free phone (Bluetooth), rain sensing wipers, AUX socket for MP3 players, LED daytime running lights, six airbags, heated front seats, electric folding mirrors, front map reading lights... the list goes on.

I have mentioned performance, which is good from this size of engine: the car delivers 40.9mpg on the combined cycle with CO2 emissions of 159g/km.

So all in all, a surprisingly good all-rounder of a car that might be seen by some to possess too much of a highly stylised look for everyone’s taste, but certainly works as a total package.

*The Juke Nismo is the first Nismo-badged road car in Europe

*Nismo racing cars have competed in Le Mans 24-hour race

*Nismo is responsible for the famous 1989 R32 Skyline GTR racing car, nicknamed “Godzilla”

*The Nissan LEAF RC, the world’s first electric racing car, was produced by Nismo

*Nismo Festival, held at Fuji Speedway near Mount Fuji, attracts 30,000 fans each year

By Nigel Wigmore

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