The introduction of a completely new breed of performance car – in this case the Nissan Juke Nismo – is something to celebrate, but the launch of a whole new performance brand is an even rarer and more special occasion.

This road test is marking both as Nismo – Nissan’s dedicated motorsport arm turned go-faster road car specialist – arrives in the UK. And its introductory model is a hot hatchback from way out in the left field: a 197bhp Juke crossover. The Juke Nismo was replaced with the Nismo RS which gained some styling cues from the monstrous GT-R and a lick of performance fine-tuning.

Nismo – Nissan Motorsport International Limited – was formed in 1984, when Nissan fused its customer and works racing departments

The performance division then entered the Le Mans 24 Hours for the first time in 1986, built its first bespoke racing machine in 1988, and developed its first road car – the Skyline GT-R 'R32' – for release in 1989. 

The Juke Nismo first appeared as a concept at the 2011 Tokyo and 2012 Paris motor shows, while the Le Mans 24 race of 2012 marked the public reveal of the performance-orientated crossover.

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A barrage of questions presents, ranging from the straightforward (read ‘easy to answer’) to the other sort. What is a Nismo Nissan? Are the people who design them, develop them and build them different from those who make regular Nissans?

What kind of performance machines can we expect them to be? Distinct from, say, a Volkswagen Golf GTI or a Vauxhall VXR? How, exactly, can we expect them to drive? And how high should our expectations be of them as dynamic entertainers?

You’re about to find out. You’re also about to learn what happens to a high-rise supermini when you bolt in an engine from an experimental race car. Here’s a clue: it doesn’t hang about.

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First drives

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