They say that looks don’t count for much but in the case of Nissan’s Juke, they matter a whole lot. How could they not? Have you laid eyes on this thing?

Love it or hate it, the Juke’s appearance is its most significant asset (or liability), deliberately styled to generate attention. In fact, the Juke’s unique appearance matters so much that Nissan offers a palette of colours to help customize lesser Jukes like the one Peter Bleakney drove last year that featured purple trim bits. Yikes.

The Juke Nismo RS tested here is the top dog in the Juke line up (ridiculous Juke R with its Nissan GT-R supercar mechanicals notwithstanding) and is dressed to look the most badass of the family. Admittedly the Nismo group did a good job making the awkward little crossover look pretty butch with big, black wheels, and a collection of splitters, spoilers and skirts highlighted by red accents. It’s the sort of car that looks like it should sound like… well, like it has a fire-breathing GT-R drivetrain in it.

As a forty-year-old dad, I found myself a little self-conscious driving it around town, feeling the gaze of every souped-up Civic and GTI driver. With its Pokémon styling, I figured my son would think it was pretty cool when I picked him up from school. Instead he stopped in his tracks, looked at it and said, “Is that what you’re driving, dad? I sure hope nobody sees us.” So the Juke creates image problems even for six year olds.

But suppose, like a few people in my neighbourhood who own one, you’re enamored by the Juke’s polarizing styling, what kind of car are you getting beneath all that “style”?

Well, you’re getting a compact crossover that doesn’t really seem to know what it wants to be when it finally grows up. Inside, it’s decked out with some seriously cool performance car kit like an Alcantara-wrapped steering wheel (with requisite wheel-top red marking for when you’re ripping up the back roads, rally-style and get all crossed up), and faux-suede-covered Recaro sport seats.

A moment, please, about those seats, if you’ll permit it. Senior Editor Jonathan Yarkony warned me that these seats could be troublesome for gentlemen entering the car if special care isn’t taken. Taking heed of the warning, I cautiously contorted myself into the Juke every time, protecting my unmentionables. Except for that one time, when, with a lot of my mind and in a hurry to get to my next destination, I swung open the door and flopped rapidly down into the seat, sitting half on the very aggressive – and most unyielding – side bolster sending an instantaneous and very clear message to my brain that a significant unpleasantness had just befallen my precious jewels.

Once safely seated, however, the Recaros are supportive and comfortable, especially for people of fairly slender stature such as yours truly. Huskier individuals will likely find the seats far too confining. A pair of large, round gauges with bold, white letters face the driver, the tach finished in a racy red colour on this RS model. An archaic digital display is squeezed between the two gauges and cycles between a few rudimentary trip computer functions, in addition to small graphics for temperature and fuel level.

Love is not always rational: 2014 Nissan Juke NISMO RS Test Drive

The centre console has a small, low-resolution infotainment display that’s flanked by helpful buttons and knobs. The screen itself offers touch functionality and all in all, it’s a good, simple system to use. Plus, the stereo is boosted by Rockford Fosgate speakers and a subwoofer that create some serious thump, causing the rearview mirror to dance with the beat of most songs, even when turned up halfway.

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