Underwhelming: the new Nissan Juke Nismo RS

While the power is there, the Juke Nismo RS never feels quick enough

Price: £21,650
Engine capacity:1.6-litre petrol
Power output (bhp @ rpm): 215 @ 5,700
Top speed (mph): 124
Fuel economy (mpg): 39.2
CO2 emissions (g/km): 165

It used to be simple. If you were a twentysomething lad (or lass) from Slough and you wanted something fast to pull doughnuts in at the nearest out-of-town retail park, you dreamt of owning a hot hatch. You might even dream of one in a nasty neon colour, such as lime-green or blood-orange.

These post-pubescent dreams, which I (born not too far from Slough) still enjoy, would be for a Ford Focus RS or a Vauxhall Astra VXR. Sure, an Aston Martin would have been nice, but these £20-25k pocket-rockets were something you could actually imagine owning (secondhand) by the time you were in your thirties. (For the record, I still don't own one.)

But now there is a challenger to the traditional hot hatch and the new kid on the block comes in the form of a dinky little crossover from Nissan. The Japanese firm has pedigree with fast cars – the Nissan GT-R is one of its best models – but the Juke Nismo RS is based on a school-run-friendly crossover, which perhaps isn't the best start.

It's squat and raised off the ground, which is hardly a recipe for cornering excellence when trying to show off at your local McDonald's Drive-Thru. Also, my test model came in a rather pedestrian white, far from the usual brightness of a hot hatch.

As a crossover, it should have more room to breathe, but inside it feels cramped, and a little cheap, with a mass of hard plastics. The rear seats are a pretty tight affair, too, with very little headroom and poor rear visibility.

The Juke Nismo RS does share some characteristics with hot hatches, though: it has a notchy manual gearbox, a firm ride and a sporty soundtrack courtesy of a retuned exhaust system with a large diameter silencer. There is plenty of power from its 1.6-litre engine, but try and put this down on a bend and you will be well wide of where you want to be (many rude boys will like this, I suppose).

The real issue though, is that while the power is there, the Juke Nismo RS never feels quite right or even quick enough. It doesn't have the unhinged feel of the Astra VXR or the delightfully competent power delivery of the Focus ST. In fact, it's underwhelming, proving that if you want a fast motor for suburbia, go for a hot hatch, not a pimped-up school-run wagon.

Search for used cars