Seventh Place – 2014 Nissan Juke NISMO RS
I think most of us at AutoGuide assumed the Nissan Juke would finish last, and not because it’s slow or lacking in personality, because the truth is it’s pretty darn quick in a straight line and is plenty of fun to rip around in. But as a crossover based platform with a relatively high center of gravity, the assumption was it just wouldn’t cut it around our test track.
A half-second quicker than the Civic and less than 1.5-seconds behind the universally loved MX-5, the Juke Nismo RS acquitted itself quite nicely, thanks in large part to the proper 6-speed manual gearbox it’s equipped with along with an equally proper helical limited slip differential. Combined with the punchy turbocharged 1.6L 4-cylinder engine and a curb weight under 2900-lbs (over 100-lbs lighter than the Civic Si) and you’ve actually got all the right ingredients for a fun-machine.
SEE ALSO: 2014 Nissan Juke NISMO RS Review
The high seating position and sensation of body roll does take some of the fun out of it around the track, though, as does the understeer that creeps in as you turn up the aggression in the corners. In fact, it posted the lowest peak cornering g-forces of any car in this competition, but thanks to the aggressively bolstered seats, Alcantara wrapped steering wheel and torquey power delivery, it does feel more engaging to drive than the Civic.
Lap time: 1:30.805 (7th) Top Speed: 95.1 MPH (6th) Max Cornering G-Force: 1.01 (8th) Max Braking G-Force: 0.74 (7th) Fun To Drive On The Track (out of 25): 17 (7th) Engine: 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, 215 HP, 210 lb-ft Transmission: Six-speed manual Drivetrain: Front-wheel drive, helical (gear-type) LSD Fuel Economy Ratings: 25 MPG City, 35 MPG highway Fuel Economy Observed: 34.6 MPG Price: $26,930 after destination charges
GALLERY: 2014 Nissan Juke NISMO RS
Sixth Place – 2014 Mazda MX-5 Club PRHT
There’s really no disputing the fact that the Mazda MX-5 is a hoot to drive on the street or around a race track. But in this company, it does feel under-sprung, under-damped and under-powered. For such a compact and lightweight roadster, the MX-5, even in Club trim, simply has too much body roll to feel completely at home on the race track.
Still, the MX-5 does enjoy the inherent goodness of rear-wheel drive, so even though you have to wait for the body motion to settle during the first phase of each corner, you can use the throttle to adjust the car’s attitude once you’re past the apex. There is some turn-in understeer to combat, though, and because the Mazda only makes 167 hp, it’s not always as simple as mashing the gas to get the chassis to rotate.
SEE ALSO: 2014 Mazda MX-5 Review
With a bit more power and better body motion control, the MX-5 would be a lot faster and more engaging around the race track. But thanks to its low mass, outstanding steering feel and response, and tossability (it just encourages you to chuck it into the corners as aggressively as you dare), it scored second highest in the Fun To Drive category here.
Lap time: 1:29.462 (6th) Top Speed: 93.9 MPH (7th) Max Cornering G-Force: 1.10 (5th) Max Braking G-Force: 0.80 (3rd) Fun To Drive On The Track (out of 25): 22 (2nd) Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder, 167 HP, 140 lb-ft Transmission: Six-speed manual Drivetrain: Rear-wheel drive, torque-sensing (gear-type) LSD Fuel Economy Ratings: 21 MPG City, 28 MPG highway Fuel Economy Observed: 31.4 MPG Price: $29,460 after destination charges