Some cars create feelings of joy, wonderment and excitement. Others encourage nothing more than apathy in those who observe them (and this often extends to those who choose to purchase them). Then there are the cars which are entirely competent, but tend to cause extreme reactions out of all proportion to their mundane purpose in life, purely because of how they look. I believe the great English poet Richard Hammond summed it up thusly:
Allow me to let you into a little secret: I take a strange pleasure in driving, enjoying and sometimes even purchasing cars which many car enthusiasts find repugnant. The greater their revulsion, the more amused I am. This is not to say that I'm not a snob and I don't have my own curious prejudices. It's just that other peoples' tend to tickle me more than upset me. This is part of the reason why I've just purchased a bright opalescent green 1998 Toyota RAV4. It upsets the sports car enthusiasts, the off-roaders and those who consider themselves aesthetes (or who are just a bit vain). However, I have to try to bend this tangent back round to the car I've been driving for a few months: the Nissan Juke NISMO RS.
The normal Juke is a competent and well-engineered little hatchback, although it's looks are something of an acquired taste. I like it because it's different. It's not beautiful, but neither is it another anonymous jellymould clogging up the roads with it's banality and neutral colourschemes. Having said that, when I had the opportunity to lease one for a few months, I didn't want to spend my own money on an ordinary one. I wanted something a little more unhinged. And the NISMO RS is plenty unhinged. Sure, it isn't dynamically brilliant, and a power output which would have been mindblowing in a family hatchback 30 years ago hardly raises an eyebrow when the big boys in the next segment up frequently have 300bhp+ charging to their wheels, but these aspects actually make it all the more exciting in combination.
I use the word "exciting" a lot. In this case, it's a synonym for "surprisingly terrifying". You see, my commute isn't on dual carriageways or wide, sweeping A-roads. It's on narrow and extremely bumpy back lanes, with tight blind corners, farm vehicles and overhanging trees. There is a singletrack section in the middle where you are guaranteed to meet someone coming the other way at any moment, and have to choose very carefully which part of the scenery to swerve into, or trust that your opponent knows that the hedge on your side is less forgiving than the grass verge on theirs, and moves over accordingly. For some modern, highly capable performance hatchbacks, this would all be a relative breeze. The JISMORS handles it rather differently.
The tall, narrow body naturally wants to lean going around corners, so the suspension is stiffened to counteract this. On a main road, it feels quite supple, but on a bumpy back road it tends to get a bit bouncy. Try to go a bit faster, and combine accelerating or braking with a bit of turning and things quickly get out of phase and the ESP has to try and reign it all in before you bounce merrily into the scenery. Always best to concentrate on only one thing at a time, unless you particularly enjoy being sweaty and terrified.
Then you have the power delivery. It's smooth at low rpm, and doesn't feel particularly quick. At around 4000rpm, it suddenly feels very quick indeed. This is normally when you are drawing alongside the person you've decided to overtake. Just as the thrust reaches afterburner levels, the LSD locks up and the torquesteer takes over, pulling you suddenly towards the car you're trying to get past. You quickly correct the steering and then hit a mild bump which sends the car off in a completely different direction. With the accelerator on the floor, a sequence of measured but very rapid steering inputs is required to keep things together as the bumps keep on coming and the road appears to narrow considerably, the alcantara patches on the wheel absorbing gallons of sweat and the windscreen filled with your ever-widening eyeballs. You need a minimum of two hands on the wheel with another one for rapidly shifting into the next extremely short gear ratio. While all this is going on, the chap in the diesel hatchback on your tail is wondering why you don't just get on with it, as he has a job to go to, and you're wasting his time.
So, it's funny-looking and dynamically challenged. And I love it. Stringing together a rapid journey in this car is not for the timid, and when you pull together something approaching sustained control over the wee beastie, it gives you quite a rush of adrenaline. Fear-stained adrenaline, but nevertheless a life-affirming experience. Then you see the sneer in the driver of the ultimate driving machine at the next set of lights and can't help but laugh. At least, that's my experience. Your mileage may vary...