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The Nissan Juke NISMO RS is the perfect car for the penny-pinching, unhinged driver

I have never really gotten the Nissan Juke.

It’s a confusing vehicle, from its market segment to its styling. But I think I have cracked it with the brand new NISMO Juke RS that just debuted at the 2013 LA Auto Show.

The Juke is a car for crazy people. 

The thing is, I mean that in a good way. Nissan has built a car that is so unhinged it actually makes sense. All it took was aggressive sport styling and 30 more horsepower.

The engine is the same basic 1.6-liter set up that you get in the standard car, and the ‘normal’ NISMO Juke. For the RS, though, the turbo has been turned up to eleven. The front-wheel drive version will chuck out 215 horsepower and 210 pound-feet of torque. Oddly, the all-drive version of the RS has been detuned to 211 hp and 184 torques.

See what I mean about the Juke being unhinged? Normally, when you give a car more traction; you add power, not take it away. Practically speaking, this has to do with the transmission options. The AWD version is saddled with a CVT that can’t handle quite the same power.

The good old-fashioned six-speed manual that comes with the FWD version can handle the power. But with all that power going through the front wheels things are going to be a bit twitchy, even with the tricked-out helical differential.

Like the normal NISMO Juke, the suspension has been lowered and stiffened. The RS’s suspension may not be that different, but it does get a reinforced sub-frame that adds structural rigidity. The brakes have also been enlarged, so the car should stop at least as fast as it goes.

All these performance tweaks are sure to make a difference, but what really makes the Juke NISMO RS work are the styling changes.  

The best word to describe the normal Juke’s styling is funky. You are not going to confuse it for anything else on the road, but to achieve this unique look Nissan’s designers resorted to lines that can only be called ‘ugly’.  

By lowering it, adding a front splitter, and adding some sporting touches like red side view mirrors Nissan’s designers have pulled the Juke together. The changes certainly don’t make the Juke NISMO RS a pretty car, but they make all that funkiness seem intentional. 

I like the effect. The Juke RS looks cool and unique, almost as if it came out of an especially well crafted manga.

I still think you would have to be crazy to buy the Juke NISMO RS over something like a Golf GTI or a MINI Cooper Countryman JCW. But, if you were that crazy, you would be getting a car that stands out and sets you apart from the people in practical, restrained hatchbacks and crossovers. In short, you would be crazy, but the kind of crazy I respect.