Day One: Street Test
Sixth Place –2014 Nissan Juke NISMO RS FWD
Attention Internet: Commence Outrage! A loathsome crossover just beat a Civic Si and a MX-5 in a fun to drive comparison! How can this be? What are the editors at AutoGuide.com smoking these days?
Honestly, we’re still scratching our heads as well. Going into the shootout, no one had much hope of the Juke doing anything but floundering in a hot mess of sloppy vehicular dynamics. But the more we drove the NISMO RS, the more it won us over.
The key to the NISMO RS lies under the hood. The 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine is boosted to an inch of its life, now producing 215 HP and 210 lb-ft of torque. Not only are these figures impressive, but on the road the Juke feels like they might actually be underrated. Comments on how no subcompact crossover or 1.6-liter engine should be this powerful could be overheard repeatedly during test days. Stab the gas, let the turbo boost and hold on as the Juke torque steers its way down the road.
Inside, Nissan has done a good job trying to give the illusion that the Juke NISMO RS is sporty. Aside from faux-suede inserts on the steering wheel, a set of real, no compromises Recaro bucket seats have been installed. Supportive to no end when flogging the Juke, the Recaros did get a bit uncomfortable for some of our staff during longer drives behind the wheel.
SEE ALSO: 2014 Nissan Juke NISMO RS Review
Steering is hair-trigger responsive and makes the NISMO RS feel like it handles better than it actually does. But, this is a high riding crossover after all and no amount of sport suspension, large wheels and grippy tires can overcome the laws of physics. Toss the Juke hard enough into the corner and it will quickly remind the driver that it is no FR-S.
Practical, surprisingly efficient and affordable, the Juke NISMO RS is a rather shocking alternative to the usual sporty compact crowd that we never saw coming.
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
Fifth Place – 2014 Ford Focus ST
The Focus ST is a torque monster. With 270 lb-ft on tap from the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, there is always power on hand to thrust the Focus forward and/or rip the steering wheel out of the driver’s hand. Like many other vehicles in this shootout, the Focus utilizes a sound tube that amplifies engine noise into the cabin, making it arguably the second best sounding vehicle in the shootout after the GTI.
All of the brake vectoring trickery the Focus ST utilizes on the racetrack is present on the street as well, but less noticeable. This doesn’t mean the ST can’t negotiate a corner, because it can. Thanks to quick steering and grippy tires, the Focus tackles bends in the road at alarming speeds. The problem is the car is almost too composed. It lacks the raw, visceral sensation behind the wheel that the Fiesta ST and FR-S provide. It feels like the car is more in charge of the Focus ST’s cornering prowess than the driver.
Comfortable and Practical
On the upside, the car’s refinement does come with some positives. Ride comfort is much better in the Focus than its little brother, the Fiesta ST. As well, being a compact hatchback, practicality is near the top in this comparison. Even the Recaro seats fitted into the Focus were found to be more comfortable than the ones in the Juke NISMO RS or Fiesta ST.
SEE ALSO: 2013 Ford Focus ST vs 2013 Mazdaspeed3
Refined and fast, the Focus ST does not come cheap. Nearly as expensive as the MX-5 once the optional Recaro seats are added, the Focus ST only beat the surprisingly inefficient Civic Si during our fuel economy testing. This was enough to keep the Focus out of the top half of street portion of the shootout, but with all that power and capable handling ability, maybe it’ll move up once we hit the track.
Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, 252 HP, 270 lb-ft
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Drivetrain: Front-wheel drive, eTVC differential
Fuel Economy Ratings: 23 MPG City, 32 MPG Highway
Fuel Economy Observed: 27.1 MPG
Price: $29,000 after destination charges