by: Mike Ginsca,
The 2018 Nissan Kicks is an all new model that replaces the … unique … looking Nissan Juke. It’s part of the increasingly popular subcompact SUV segment so it competes against vehicles like the Mazda CX-3, Honda HR-V, and Buick Encore to name a few.
Engine – The only engine available with the Nissan Kicks is a naturally aspirated 1.6L that produces 125 hp and 115 lb-ft of torque. It is not a lot of power but the Kicks only tips the scales at approximately 1,200 kg depending on what features and options you choose. All-wheel-drive is not an option which is weird considering that the CX-3 and Encore both have it as options. However having front wheel drive only and such a small displacement engine means that the fuel economy is pretty good. It is rated at 6.6 L/100km on a highway and 7.7 L/100km in a city. During my week long drive with the Kicks, I managed to get a combined rating of 7.4 L/100km.
Transmission – A 7-speed dual clutch transmission is…. no I‘m just kidding. Nissan likes to use CVT transmissions and this Kicks is no exception. The reason is for good fuel economy but the downside is no enjoyment to drive. This particular transmission though has an odd programming because it tries to mimic a normal automatic when accelerating hard, as in it replicates shift points. When accelerating normally in city traffic though, it behaves like a normal CVT, as in it keeps the engine’s revs at a constant to accelerate and then as low as possible when cruising at a constant speed.
Braking – There’s nothing too spectacular about the brakes of the Nissan Kicks. They bring the crossover in a reasonably short distance. One thing to note is that emergency automatic braking is standard on all trim levels of the Kicks which is a nice addition.
Handling – The Kicks was never meant to go canyon carving. It was meant to be quick and nimble on city streets and it shows. It comes with variable steering which requires less turning of the steering wheel at slow speeds to make the front wheels turn and vice versa at highway speeds. The steering is light at slow speeds which makes parking easy but it doesn’t provide any sort of feedback or feel.
Ride Comfort – This being a city runabout type of CUV, the ride is compliant over rough streets. You’ll still notice the potholes and cracks in the road, but they don’t make the ride jarry or too uncomfortable.
Seating – The front seats are relatively comfortable and offer a good amount of soft padding. The biggest issue is that the driver’s seat has a center armrest that is higher than the door armrest. It is very uncomfortable to sit in a crooked position with uneven shoulder heights and I just had to fold up the center armrest and not use it. Both the front and rear occupants have plenty of headroom but rear occupants will find legroom very tight. Trunk space is exceptionally large for a vehicle in this class.
Noise, Vibration, & Harshness – For an entry level subcompact crossover, the 2018 Nissan Kicks has a relatively quiet cabin. Engine noise intrudes only at higher rpms and wind & road noise are bearable.
Interior Design – The Kicks has a clean and easy to use interior design. The center console is not overcrowded with buttons but rather just climate control and quick access infotainment buttons. It looks thoroughly modern unlike some other Nissan vehicles like the Pathfinder. What I also like is the steering wheel which is very reminiscent of a sports car steering wheel. A bit odd in a vehicle like this but I’m ok with it.
Odds and Ends
Gadgets – Opt for the SR trim and it’s basically a fully loaded Kicks. You get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a headrest mounted Bose speaker (but only in the driver’s seat), a 360 camera system, blind spot sensors, rear cross traffic alert, and the aforementioned emergency automatic braking. The only thing that some shoppers may want that is not available in terms of tech is lane departure warning but for most I don’t think it’ll be a deal breaker.
Exterior Design – The Nissan Juke that this Kicks replaced had a polarizing design. Some liked it, others hated it. There was no middle. The Kicks by comparison has a more subdued and traditional design. There’s nothing about it that really stands out except for the contrasting roof which is an option.
The 2018 Nissan Kicks is aimed at city dwellers on a budget but who also want the latest safety and convenience teach. All-wheel-drive may not be an option with the Kicks but most city streets get plowed during the winter and the lack of power means that you won’t be spinning the front tires that much when accelerating in the wet. What’s more with a starting price of just under $18,000 CAD and a fully loaded price of just under $23,000, it is one of the least expensive subcompact crossovers on the market today.
Thank you to Nissan Canada for providing the vehicle. www.Nissan.ca
Editor at large and gearhead. Can drive anything on 4 or 2 wheels... sometimes 3 wheels too.