Silly Wabbit, Kicks Is For Kids!
The 2018 Nissan Kicks is an all-new subcompact crossover utility vehicle, which was designed for one of the hottest and most competitive passenger vehicle segments.
Its arrival this past spring enables Nissan to double-down in a market where consumers continue to move away from sedans to utility vehicles. Nissan hasn’t abandoned its cars, but it is in excellent shape with its utility vehicles as the Kicks replaces the Juke. After the Kicks, shoppers might consider the small Rogue Sport or the Rogue, the medium Murano or the Pathfinder, or the full-size Armada. All except the truck-based Armada are crossovers.
Good-Bye Juke, Hello Kicks
So, what happened to the lovable, but ugly Juke? After a seven-year run, Nissan’s polarizing coupe-like crossover is gone. Anyway, credit should be given to Nissan for bringing the Juke to the market ahead of most competitors.
This writer had the opportunity to drive a pair of Jukes, including one NISMO model that my youngest son and I took on the twisty roads of the southern Appalachian mountains in June 2013. That front-wheel-drive turbocharged vehicle had a six-speed manual gearbox and handled itself quite well as we climbed and descended hill after hill and enjoyed tackling several switchbacks.
Alas, the Kicks has neither a turbo nor a stick shift nor even available all-wheel drive. Good-bye, Juke…you were homely, yet fun.
2018 Nissan Kicks: Three Grades Available
The Nissan Kicks is a somewhat basic package with a surprisingly big value proposition. This front-wheel-drive-only model seats five and comes with a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine paired with a continuously variable transmission.
Nissan offers the 2018 Kicks in three grades: S ($17,990), SV ($19,690) and SR ($20,290). Add $995 for the destination charge. Individual options include premium paint ($395), premium paint with a two-tone body/roof ($545) or two-tone paint alone ($150).
The lone available package is the SR Premium Package ($1,000). This package includes a Bose Personal Plus sound system that has a pair of speakers in the driver’s seat headrest. The package also brings in imitation-leather seats, heated front seats and a vehicle security system.
Contemporary Style, Out and In
Where the Nissan Juke once polarized, the Kicks actually soothes. Clearly, Nissan wanted to make a clean break with the previous design. And they did.
Perhaps what is most interesting about the Kicks’ design is how sophisticated it looks. Indeed, the front fascia has the smallest interpretation of Nissan’s “V-motion” grille yet, which is honed by a pair of sleek headlamps.
That said, the profile is the most interesting of all exterior features as if has long flowing lines and a beltline that suddenly rises ahead of the rear door handle. The two-tone look of my test model reminded me a lot of the Volvo XC40, a model that costs twice as much. From the rear, the Kicks has a clamshell liftgate and stylish wraparound tail lamps.
The standard exterior features include automatic halogen headlights, manual-folding side mirrors, 16-inch steel wheels and roof rails. Upgrades include LED low-beam headlights, front fog lights, heated side mirrors with LED turn signals, 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels and a rear spoiler.
A Surprisingly Refined Cabin
Inside, the cabin is surprisingly refined or least it doesn’t scream cheap. Sure, you’ll find hard plastics on the doors and lower dashboard, but my test SR model offered a layered dash with soft-touch materials and double-stitched at that. The patterned fabric on the door inlay and seat bolsters were a surprise as was the quilted design of the seats. Clearly, Nissan was looking for a way to avoid the “low budget” label and they succeeded.
The interior room is ideal up front, but legroom is tight in the rear. Still, two average-sized adults can sit in comfort for short trips, although families with children in booster seats should be pleased. The overall cabin layout is straightforward, if not simple, which should appeal to most drivers.
You’ll find ample storage behind the second-row seat with that space doubled once the rear seat is folded. Under the storage compartment is a donut spare tire, which is encased in a Styrofoam block that holds the jack and other accessories.
Among the standard interior features are power windows, power door locks, a tilt steering column, and air conditioning. The list of upgrades includes automatic temperature control and a tonneau cover.
Safety and Technology
The Nissan Kicks has a standard automatic emergency braking system, although it does that without adaptive cruise control, which isn’t available. The system will warn you when you’re too close to the vehicle in front and will automatically engage the brakes to avoid a frontal collision.
There are two other driver-assist features available, but not with the base model. Blind spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert are included with the SV and SR trims.
Nissan supplies the 2018 Kicks with a six-speaker audio system. The package includes a CD player, a 7-inch color display, Siri Eyes Free, Bluetooth, smartphone connectivity, USB and auxiliary audio input.
Satellite radio and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone compatibility are available, but not with the base model. Also available is an 8-speaker Bose audio system. Interestingly, there is no onboard navigation system available. Instead, you’ll acquire your directions through your connected Apple or Android device. Perhaps manufacturers will eventually cede navigation assistance to third-party providers, especially as autonomous driving becomes a reality.
Powertrain and Drivetrain
Powering every 2018 Nissan Kicks model is a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine. Nissan matches it with a continuously variable transmission.
This engine has an output of 125 horsepower and 115 pound-feet of torque. If these numbers seem tepid, you need to consider that the Kicks weighs no more than 2,672 pounds empty, which is hundreds of pounds less than some of its competitors.
The Kicks’ lightweight frame means this model can get an EPA-estimated 31 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway. Compare that to the 1.0-liter three-cylinder engine powering the front-wheel-drive Ford EcoSport. That model gets only 27/29 mpg city/highway.
On the Road With a 2018 Kicks
Yes, the Kicks isn’t a power maven by any stretch of the imagination. That said, its leisurely drive likely won’t put off a core segment of consumers, which are urban dwellers. The Kicks has several things going for it, including a small footprint and a tight turning radius. Both supply an advantage in high congestion areas.
On the road, the Kicks’ engine drones on and on, especially under hard acceleration. That’s because it is paired with a CVT, which doesn’t supply gear shifts. But credit Nissan for including technology that eases engine noise, by allowing the engine to drop RPMs at select intervals. As for the steering, it is light to the touch and as for handling, its strong suit is with its adept maneuverability.
One final point about the Kicks’ predecessor before we move on: the Juke definitely had fun driving in mind with its hatchback design, lower profile and turbo engine. The Kicks does what it has to do, by delivering reliable transportation at an affordable price.
Although I don’t grade the vehicles I drive (except when I’m writing a separate review for CARFAX), I give the 2018 Nissan Kicks high marks. That doesn’t mean it is a perfect vehicle, but it does do what it needs to do and does that well. Certainly, style and fuel efficiency are important attributes for this vehicle, but it is its value that should appeal to mostly anyone. Indeed, if you were to outfit this model to the max, you’d be hard-pressed to pay $23,000 for one.
Keep in mind you cannot get all-wheel drive, which is the same limitation offered by the Toyota C-HR. That said, if you want all-wheel drive and additional safety features, then the Nissan Rogue Sport is where you’ll want to shop. Its price is competitive and you’ll enjoy the improved rear seat space too.
2018 Nissan Kicks Specifications
- Priced from $18,985 (includes $995 destination charge)
- Sticker price $22,025 (Kicks SR
- Seats five
- Engine: 1.6-liter four-cylinder gas
- 125 horsepower @ 5,800 RPM
- 115 foot-pounds of torque @ 4,000 RPM
- Continuously variable transmission
- Wheelbase: 103.1 inches
- Length: 169.1 inches
- Width: 69.3 inches
- Height: 62.4 inches
- Passenger volume: 93.9 cubic feet
- Storage volume: 25.3/53.1 cubic feet
- Towing capacity: NR
- EPA: 31/34 mpg city/highway
- Regular gasoline
- Fuel tank: 10.8 gallons
- Curb weight: From 2,639 to 2,672 pounds
- IIHS safety rating: NR
- Limited vehicle warranty: 36 months/36,000 miles
- Powertrain warranty: 60 months/60,000 miles
- Corrosion warranty: 60 months/unlimited miles
- Vehicle assembly: Aguascalientes, Mexico
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