Since the mid-1980s, Nismo has cultivated a reputation for transforming ordinary Nissans into extraordinary ones. Nissan recently announced that its performance sub-brand will play an increasingly important role in the company's future product strategy. One such contributor to this skunkworks approach is the 2014 Nissan Juke Nismo RS. 

Based on the Juke Nismo introduced in 2013, the RS model takes this unexpectedly successful formula and turns it up to 11 by way of increased horsepower, larger brakes, and bespoke chassis components. Speaking of power, the RS' reworked engine internals, revised software tuning, and  freer-flowing exhaust system bump horsepower from 197 to 215 in 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive form and to 211 in the CVT-equipped, all-wheel-drive version. These performance enhancements along with standard Recaro bucket seats carry with it a $3,000 premium over the standard Juke Nismo.  

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A Re-mixed Bag

Sharing the same in-your-face exterior aesthetic, the Juke Nismo and Nismo RS look like nothing else on the road today. So if attracting attention at every turn isn't your cup of tea, this may not be a good thing. But for buyers who are indeed looking for a quirky head-turner, the Juke Nismo RS has a lot going for it. Aside from a noticeable amount of torque-steer (front-drive vehicles have a tendency to pull left or right under hard acceleration), the RS accelerates with the fervor of a dedicated sports car thanks in large part to short gear ratios and minimal turbo lag. Corners are dispatched with a high level of predictability and minimal body lean. Plus, the Juke's taller ride height and longer-travel suspension affords far more compliance over rough pavement than rival coupes and sedans like the Scion FR-S and Subaru WRX.  At the end of the day, however, the Juke is still, at its core, a sub-$20,000 car. As such, the interior lacks sound insulation, a center armrest and is laden with hard plastics. The heavily-bolstered Recaro seats are also excessively aggressive for around-town driving and road trips.  

While it might not be the most practical small SUV available, the Juke Nismo RS is truly unique in that it's the only vehicle of its kind. Whether or not there's a market for a $28,000 entry-level sports SUV remains to be seen. But for our money, the standard Juke Nismo offers a better balance between performance and price. 

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