The Nissan Kicks is the brand’s first new badge in eight years, adding a city-friendly crossover to its lineup. It replaces the outgoing Juke, sort of, because the Kicks stands on its own as an entirely new vehicle targeting a whole new audience.
The Juke was a cute, quirky little thing with a polarizing design. People either loved it or you hated it with no middle ground. The Kicks has its own unique styling, but it doesn’t stray quite so far from the rest of Nissan’s crossovers and SUVs. It falls right in line with the slightly larger Rogue Sport, but with a wide, low stance and a range of colors that let you have some fun.
Power comes from a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine with 125 horsepower and 115 pound-feet of torque paired to a continuously variable automatic transmission. That’s not a lot of horsepower, and it does show when it comes time to accelerate into heavy traffic. The CVT, which can be loud especially in lower-priced vehicles, is nicely muted and does its job unnoticed in the background. The upside to this mild powertrain is outstanding fuel economy with an EPA-estimated 33 miles per gallon combined.
A sports car this is not, but that doesn’t mean it’s not fun to drive. There’s an independent front strut with stabilizer bar, rear twist beam suspension, and twin-tube shock absorbers. It gives this crossover solid handling that lets you take corners with a bit more spirit and keeps the Kicks on track. You’ll enjoy your time behind the wheel.
It also has standard traction control, vehicle dynamic control, and hill start assist. The top trim gets active engine brake, active trace control, and active ride control for even better handling. On the downside for all of us in the Northeast: The Kicks is strictly front-wheel drive only, which could make it more challenging come winter.
The interior is quiet and comfortable. It’s also surprisingly upscale with quality materials throughout, which is impressive considering this crossover starts at $17,990 for the base S trim. It comes standard with roof rails, automatic headlights, and a 7-inch color touchscreen with a 6-speaker audio system.
The SV trim comes in with a price of $19,690 and adds larger 17-inch wheels, heated outside mirrors, and NissanConnectSM with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Sitting at the top of the lineup is the SR, which is priced at $20,290. This trim gets is own grille, a rear spoiler, LED low-beam headlights, front fog lights, Intelligent Around View monitor, and several unique options.
These options include leather sets with heating and cooling for the driver and front passenger. This is also the only trim with an available upgraded Bose audio system that’s truly something special. It’s an eight-speaker system featuring 6.5-inch Bose Super65 speakers in the front doors, cross-firing 1.0-inch tweeters in the A-pillars, and 5.25-inch wide-range speakers in the rear doors. Finally, there are two 2.5-inch Bose UltraNearfield neodymium speakers built right into the driver’s headrest.
The Kicks also offers a solid selection of standard and available safety features. Every Kicks comes with automatic emergency braking, even the base model. This feature has proven so effective in preventing accidents that automakers like Nissan have voluntarily pledged to make it standard on every vehicle by 2022. Take one step up from the base and both blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert also become standard.
There’s room for up to five passengers with a tight rear seat for three and an additional 25.3 cubic feet behind the rear seats for cargo. With the 60/40 split-folding rear seats down, that number grows to 53.1 cubic feet. Add in a low load floor and wide cargo opening, and the Kicks is a versatile vehicle.
The all-new 2018 Nissan Kicks is well-priced with great fuel economy, solid safety and technology features, and styling that makes it a winner. It adds an affordable an attractive option to the crossover mix.