For enthusiasts in the know, Nismo means Nissans with notable upgrades to styling and performance. While many manufacturers are notorious for slapping "M" or "R" or "Sport" on various models with nothing more than a deck spoiler and new wheels, the Nismo model designation is usually reserved for models with a demonstrable difference from their mainstream stablemates. The Juke Nismo follows that tradition with tangible performance-oriented upgrades over the standard model.

Differences That Make a Difference

Often, with new variations of models, styling changes are often accompanied with the terms "sporty appearance" or "race-inspired," but do nothing to actually improve objective performance. It's not often that styling changes are quantified with "37-percent improvement in downforce." But that's what Nissan is claiming with the aero tweaks to the Nismo Juke. The front fascia, side skirts, liftgate spoiler, and rear diffuser all contribute to that improvement. The Juke itself is unlikely to be confused with any other car on the road, and with the changes to the Nismo Juke's exterior, it's unlikely to be mistaken for its run-of-the-mill siblings.

Starting at the front, the round lower foglights are replaced with LED light strips, over vent scoops. And on at least the CVT-equipped AWD models, one of the vents is functional, with the left-hand-vent channeling airflow to the CVT oil cooler. A red accent stripe frames the lower grille, and continues on the side skirts and lower rear bumper. All Nismo Jukes get body-color wheelarch accents, as well as red painted exterior mirrors, regardless of color choice, which, for the record, are Sapphire Black, Brilliant Silver, and Pearl White.

Unique 18-inch 10 split-spoke dark anthracite-painted wheels are shod with 225/45-18 Continental summer tires, compared with the 215/55-17 all-season rubber on standard Jukes, sitting slightly lower than standard Jukes, with revised suspension tuning. The Juke's electric power-assisted steering gets a calibration change for a sportier feel and improved handling. As on other Juke models, the center control cluster includes the I-CON controller to adjust throttle mapping, steering effort, and CVT shift schedules on AWD models.

Have a Seat, or Two

Appropriately for a Nismo-badged model, the Juke Nismo features upgraded front seats with suede trim and added lateral support over the Juke's standard front thrones. They're finished in red stitching with the Nismo logo embroidered on the seatback, and the rear seats get red stitching. Red is also the backdrop for the tachometer face, as well as the top-dead-center marker for the steering wheel, a feature also seen on, ironically enough, the Ford F-150 SVT Raptor. The other colors on the Juke Nismo's interior palette are Dark Smoke and Gloss Black, which surrounds the HVAC and audio controls. The Juke Nismo has a black headliner only. Want a moonroof? Sorry, not available. But for serious gearheads, that's a small sacrifice.

Power of Choice

Of course, all the styling aggression and upgraded rolling stock would be for naught were it not accompanied with a little more power, and the Nismo Juke delivers on that front, if only by a little. The Juke's 1.6-liter direct-injected turbocharged I-4 gets a bump from 188 to 197 hp and from 177 to 184 lb-ft of torque. Buyers can choose between a six-speed manual and front drive, or an Xtronic CVT and all-wheel drive, no substitutions. Given our choice, we'd take the stick with the AWD, but that combination is not offered. The power bump takes no toll on fuel economy, at least as far as Uncle Sam is concerned, with the same 25/30-mpg ratings for the AWD model and 27/32 for the front-drive model.

Pricing has not been released, nor has an on-sale date, but for fans of Nissan's adorably ugly runabout who don't live in Dubai or have 10-figure bank accounts but still want something sportier than the "regular" Juke, the Juke Nismo is a worthwhile upgrade.