2018 Nissan Kicks: First Drive — Cars.com

We’re here in San Diego California with
the newest member of Nissan’s lineup the 2018 Nissan Kicks. Nissan tells us that
the Kicks shouldn’t be thought of as a direct replacement for the Juke since
the Juke will still be sold in some global markets like Canada in Japan.
However for us in the United States effectively means that the Juke is dead
long lived the Kicks. While the outgoing Juke was definitely categorized as a
compact entry-level SUV, the Kicks is not so easily placed in any single
category. It has more in common probably with cars like the Hyundai Kona and the
Kia Soul rather than other SUVs like the Toyota C-HR or the Honda HR-V.
Part of the reason for this is that the Kicks is only offered in front-wheel
drive, if you want all-wheel drive you’ll have to go for one of Nissan’s other
SUVs. While the Juke was known for having very quirky styling the Kicks is a bit
more sedate and even though we’re not sure whether or not we should call in an
SUV it does have a few styling cues that are hallmarks of SUVs starting with this
lower black cladding along the body that makes it look more rugged. Nissan does
offer a heavy dose of interior and exterior customization with the Kicks.
Now the car that we’re looking at here is gun metallic with a monarch orange
roof and they also offer several other two tone paint configurations. You’ll
also have the chance to add accessories to the car much like this one has orange
inserts in the wheels an orange front lip spoiler and orange mirror caps and
each of those don’t actually cost as much as you might think
the wheel inserts are only about 75 dollars so if you find yourself jealous
of all the other kids with their Pumped Up Kicks it won’t cost you too much to
play along. The Kicks excels in two areas that are actually pretty important for
shoppers in this segment the first one will be value and the second will be
packaging and by packaging what we mean is how efficiently the car uses it’s space.
Now the Kicks is not a large vehicle it’s only about a hundred and sixty nine
inches long but the way that it uses that space is really impressive starting
with the cargo area. Now behind the rear seats there’s 25.3 cubic feet of cargo
space and that’s better than most everything else in this segment. Toyota
C-HR and the Hyundai Kona for example have about 19 cubic feet of
cargo space and both cars are longer than the Kicks. The Kicks backseat also
is split 60/40 and folds down for you to store longer cargo and this cargo cover
here is easily removable and you can store it at home if you need to pick up
things that are taller. Now the Kicks doesn’t just make
efficient use of its cargo area the cabin is also very efficiently used as
well. Nissan says that the Kicks actually has
best-in-class front legroom and headroom and the back seat which is usually an
area of weakness for these cars is actually a strength in the Kicks. I’m
about 5’11” and I’m sitting in the back seat and I’m very comfortable. I have
enough legroom between me and the front seat and there’s a ton of headroom which
is really really appreciated. One of the things that the Kick does very well is
visibility for both front and back seat passengers. The high roofline means that
you get a very clear line of sight through the windows and they’re tall all
around so for me someone who gets carsick that’s something that I really
appreciate and that’s being able to see out of the back seat. You also have
access to a few amenities, there are two USB charge ports right here in the
center console that you can reach easily. If there’s one thing that I don’t like
about the kicks backseat and there are no visible air vents so you’re gonna
depend on the front seat passengers for climate control. The Kicks is a
budget-friendly vehicle but I think that it actually does a pretty good job with
materials for its price. There are some hard points and that’s kind of
unavoidable in a car at this price so you have hard plastics along the windows
here and you know you’re missing things like an armrest for the front seat
passenger. However in the SR trim like we’re in now you that means you also get
a leather wrapped steering wheel and a leather-wrapped shift knob and for those
who want non-cloth seats you can pay an extra thousand dollars for the premium
package and that includes fake leather upholstery which was so good that it
actually fooled me at the LA Auto Show, I thought it was the real thing. The Kicks
does come standard with a 7-inch touchscreen media display however if you
want Android Auto and Apple CarPlay you’ll have to jump up to the SR or SV
trims. The screen itself is nice, it’s actually placed very well and most
people will be able to reach the buttons on either side without much trouble. If
there are too small caveats to it the first one is that it is a fingerprint
magnet you’ll have to carry some kind of cloth to keep it clean and it’s also not
quite bright enough in bright sunlight it gets washed out especially if you’re
wearing sunglasses. The Kicks isn’t really designed to have a really great
driving experience and it kind of shows. It’s what I would call competent on the
road. Under the hood it has a 1.6 liter four-cylinder engine that’s mated to a
CVT and that engine makes 125 horsepower which is enough to get you going but not
real quickly. The name Kicks strikes me as kind of
ironic because when you put your foot on the gas there’s not a lot of kick. This
is one of those CVTs where you get that lag from a stop you don’t get that real
crisp acceleration when you put your foot down. It does sort of downshift
unnaturally but like right there it’s more noise than fury. Now if there’s one
part about the Kicks driving experience that does stand out a little bit it’s
actually its confidence in corners. The Kicks has a very low curb weight about
between 2600 and 2,700 pounds. That puts it at about 600 pounds lower than
competitors like the Toyota C-HR and while this doesn’t really pay off in
terms of acceleration, it does make it feel rather nimble. Now right now we’re
in the SR model which Nissan says is the sportiest of the three Kicks variants
and this comes with something that the other two don’t have which is called active
ride control. Now that kind of sounds like an adaptive sort of suspension but
it’s not it’s actually a kind of a subtle system that uses the brakes as a
form of traction control but instead of just using it to keep the car stable it
can actually detect when you’re hitting bumps or other things in the road and it
uses very minut braking not to slow down the car but to make it stay balanced and
it actually pays dividends. The ride in this car is a highlight for me I think
that does a good job of smoothing out road imperfections and when you’re just
cruising it stays very flat and very composed even at highway speeds.
Another highlight for the Kicks is its fuel economy and that adds to the car’s
value. Now Nissan says that the Kicks has the best-in-class fuel economy for any
car in this class that isn’t a hybrid and it gets 31 mpg in the city and 36 on
the highway that’s good for a 33 combined number with again Nissan says
is class leading. The Kicks also offers good value when it comes to safety
features. All grade levels of the Kicks will come standard with automatic forward
emergency braking and that’s a feature that we really like to have in cars
because it’s proven to reduce accidents. If you jump up to the next level, the SV trim,
you’re gonna get blind spot warnings with rear cross-traffic alerts and if
you jump to the SR you’re gonna add an around view monitor which is very
helpful in situations like parallel parking. Though the Kicks does offer good
value with its safety features it does still trail competitors like the Toyota
C-HR. The C-HR comes with standard adaptive cruise control and lane keep assist
in addition to automatic forward emergency braking and those are two
features that aren’t even offered on the Kicks.
However the Kicks is still I would say above much of the class in this regard
and it’s worth calling out its value. Now whenever automakers releases a new car
they like to explain who exactly the target audience is and for Nissan they say
that they’re targeting multicultural buyers between the ages of 25 and 35
which is, I guess that’s me, and I’m a little bit ashamed to say that I think
that they hit their mark. I really like the Kicks. I think it delivers
excellent value and the interior packaging is great. It’s a small car that
can still fit four adults comfortably. I’m comfortable in saying that I think
that the Kicks will take off for Nissan in a way the Juke never did and a big
part of that is pricing. The Kicks actually starts at just under $19,000
including destination charges and we are here with the Kicks SR, the most
expensive trim, and it’s not even that expensive, $21,265. Compare that to the
Juke which started at just 40 dollars less than that but had less technology
and much less practicality and it’s easy to see why the Kicks is going to have
much more mass appeal. Now those wanting to kick the tires on
the Kicks that a dealership won’t have to wait long the car is in dealerships