2018 Nissan Kicks: First Drive Review

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceCompact Crossover
There are so many different shapes and sizes of crossovers available in the U.S. that if car shoppers can’t find one that fits their needs, they are clearly not in the market for a crossover. Nissan offers a wide variety of crossovers and is joining the growing compact segment with the all-new Kicks. Positioned as the entry level of the Nissan crossover family and slotted just below Rogue Sport, the Kicks features a comfortable interior, plenty of value and familiar Nissan styling guaranteed to make a big splash in the compact crossover pool.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceAll New
“The new Kicks is designed to fit the needs of singles or couples looking for expressive styling, personal technology, smart functionality and advanced safety features at an affordable price starting under $18,000,” said Michael Bunce, vice president if product planning at Nissan North America. “Kicks’ unique combination of expressive design, excellent fuel economy, intelligent technology and advanced safety features adds up to one thing — exceptional value,” added Bunce. “And, with its good ground clearance, high eye point, electric power steering and small turning radius, Kicks is a great vehicle for both everyday and weekend adventures,” Bunce concluded.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceModel Lineup
Kicks is available in three trim levels: S, SV and SR. Aside from one available package on the SR, there are no factory options, which makes ordering the Kicks a simple task. All models have standard front-wheel drive, and Automatic Emergency Braking also is standard on every Kicks.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceNissan Kicks S
The base-level S trim of the Kicks lineup has a starting price of $17,990. Standard features include air-conditioning, Bluetooth connectivity, a 7-inch color touchscreen display, an AM / FM / CD audio system with 8 speakers, a rearview camera, three USB outlets and 60/40 split-folding rear seats. Also standard are roof rails and 16-inch steel wheels.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceNissan Kicks SV
Likely to be the most popular version of the Kicks, the SV is priced at $19,690. The SV upgrades the S with automatic climate control, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a 7-inch driver assist display, push-button start, blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert. Additional standard features include 17-inch alloy wheels and body-color door handles, helping the SV stand out from the base Kicks S.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceNissan Kicks SR
With a base price of $20,290, the SR is the top-level trim of the new Kicks. The SR receives high-gloss black mirrors, a dark satin-chrome grille, a rear spoiler, LED headlights and fog lights. The SR also adds Nissan’s Around-View monitor.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperiencePremium Package
An SR premium package is available for an additional $1,000, featuring a high-level Bose audio system with headrest speakers, Prima-Tex trimmed seats, heated front seats and a security system.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceTwo-Tone
Nissan is offering a number of two-tone paint combinations for the Kicks, adding some fun and style to the lineup. Available on the SV or SR for a mere $150, the dual-color combinations will help the Kicks stand out from other models in the compact crossover segment.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceInner Space
This may be the smallest crossover in the Nissan lineup, but inside it feels rather spacious. There’s plenty of headroom up front and seats are big and comfortable. The center console has two cupholders with additional space in the doors for water bottles. There’s also space ahead of the gear shift for a smartphone, conveniently located near the front USB outlet. Two additional USB outlets are located between the front seats — easily accessible from the rear seat as well.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceNice Materials
A dashboard with soft-touch materials and contrasting stitching gives Kicks a more luxurious feeling. We spent most of our time in the top-level SR and found the seats quite attractive thanks to contrasting bolsters and diamond stitching.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceClear Display
Even the base-level Kicks gets the 7-inch color display which is easy to read and use. We appreciate the volume and tuning knobs and easy access to phone and other audio sources. While there is no navigation available as a factory option, the integration with Apple Carplay or Android Auto works well and provides navigation when needed.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceRear Seat
The rear seat is perfectly usable by at least two adults. We found the seats to be supportive with plenty of legroom and headroom. Middle seat passengers will feel a bit cramped, but with a flat floor the space would be bearable for shorter drives.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceRoom for Stuff
Cargo space is larger than expected with plenty of room for luggage, groceries or other cargo. The available integrated tonneau cover keeps items secure and out of sight.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceNot Quite Flat
Rear seats can be folded easily to increase cargo space; however, the seats don’t fold flat to the level of the cargo floor. While this still improves the utility of the Kicks, the uneven floor can make loading large items difficult.

© Nissan North AmericaDark Interiors
One item that seems trivial but may turn off particular shoppers is the interior color — the only color available is Charcoal. Darker interiors tend to get warmer during the summer, so some consumers may balk at this limitation.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceUnder the Hood
Powering all trims of the Nissan Kicks is a 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine producing 125 horsepower and 115 lb-ft of torque. The only transmission available is Nissan’s Xtronic continuously variable transmission. The Kicks is available exclusively with front-wheel drive — all-wheel drive is not an option, which is somewhat surprising for a crossover.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceFuel-Efficient
What the engine doesn’t make in horsepower, it makes up for with impressive fuel economy numbers. The Kicks is rated at 36 mpg highway / 31 mpg city and 33 mpg combined. This is in line with numbers on the trip computer during our press drive, which showed around 32 mpg in mostly city driving.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceOn the Road
We were a bit concerned about the low power numbers, but in most driving situations the Kicks doesn’t feel slow at all. Nissan has programmed the transmission to simulate gear changes on acceleration from a stop which makes the Kicks feel a bit quicker off the line. Around town we never felt like we couldn’t keep up with traffic and found the powertrain to be more than adequate.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceNoisy When Pushed
Under hard acceleration the lack of power in the Kicks becomes noticeable. Full throttle with the CVT will keep rpm high, resulting in a noisy engine but not much speed. Moderate throttle provides reasonable performance without the sound of an overworked motor.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceSmooth Ride
Although acceleration may be a little tepid, once at speed the Kicks cruises easily at 70 mph. The ride is smooth and surprisingly quiet with very little road or wind noise. Increasing speed from 50 mph to 60 mph to get around slower vehicles seems effortless. Steering feels precise and on the whole the vehicle is tight and solid — not often the case with an entry-level vehicle.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceRight for You?
There are dozens of crossover models available in America, and the fastest growing segment is where the Kicks resides — the compact crossover. Kicks offers a great value with popular standard features, a stylish and comfortable interior and familiar Nissan design. While many may take issue with the low horsepower numbers, performance is much better than the numbers predict, as well as the added benefit of great fuel economy. For a roomy, comfortable and economical crossover, the Kicks is certainly worth checking out.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceRating: 8.0
Pros: Upscale interior; quiet ride; useful cargo space.
Cons: Only dark interior; no all-wheel drive; underpowered in some situations.
Bottom Line: Nissan introduces a strong contender within the growing compact crossover market.

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