A look at the 2018 Nissan Kicks
From the August 2018 print edition
There’s a famous saying, “to strike while the iron is hot.”
For today’s auto industry, that refers to the crossover/SUV boom that has shifted plenty of resources to the utility vehicle side, and in some cases, exclusively in that direction. For Nissan, crossovers have propelled its growth to an all-time monthly Canadian company sales record of 14,932 units, lead by the Rogue and Qashqai.
Nissan has taken on these favourable crossover conditions and played the market well with its second new nameplate introduction in back-to-back years. For 2017, it was the Qashqai, and now the Japanese brand gets smaller with a new subcompact crossover labelled the Kicks.
The Kicks—a concept that’s Brazilian-inspired and built in Mexico—somewhat takes over for the Juke in Canada, but is not a like-for-like replacement. It enters a growing list of subcompacts that include the Ford EcoSport, Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-3, Hyundai Kona, Toyota CH-R and Chevrolet Trax.
Standing out from the crowd
With an eye to attracting a younger demographic, Nissan made sure to make the Kicks a fun and vibrant compact. Even though the Juke and Kicks may both have quirky names, the Kicks doesn’t take on a quirky shape; rather fitting quite well with what buyers are looking for in this fastest growing segment: expressive design, impressive technology, some roominess and great value.
The most noticeable feature on its exterior has to be its two-tone colour scheme. My tester was of the orange and black variety, and in my opinion, the sharpest of the five total combinations. In addition, single colour options for the less adventurous types are available and actually come standard for the base models ($150 extra for two-tone on the S trim). The two-tone look adds some flair that works well with Nissan’s trademark V-motion grille and boomerang headlamps and taillights for that curvy and expressive style that screams for some attention.
When situated comfortably in its “zero-gravity” Nasa-inspired seats that come heated in the second-tier SV trim, occupants will enjoy a well-equipped and open cockpit environment that centres around its colourful seven-inch touchscreen. The Kicks’ seating position is unexpectedly high for its size due to its tall roof which will be appreciated by six-feet-tall passengers in the front and rear. For its segment, it has best-in-class front seat legroom at 1,110mm and ample space behind those seats totalling 915 litres and an impressive 716 litres for its trunk.
A leather-wrapped flat-bottomed steering wheel is a nice edition for its top-of-the-line SR trim, but that’s nothing compared to an eight-speaker Bose Personal Plus audio system mounted in the driver’s headrest aimed towards its targeted younger buyer. It’s the first of its kind to be set up by an automaker where occupants can adjust the sound through the infotainment unit to either be spread from door-to-door or just to the driver’s ears. It may not work perfectly for all music, but when you find the right tune, it allows the driver to enjoy a unique and gratifying listening experience.
It’s a mover and shaker
The Kicks gets moving from a 1.6-litre four-cylinder that produces 125hp and 115lbs-ft. of torque mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Nissan has kept costs down by simplifying the buying process for consumers with no manual transmission offering, nor all-wheel drive. Every Kicks is set-up with front-wheel drive and if you want more than that, simply upgrade to the Qashqai.
Performance numbers will be higher with other competitors, but on this drive program in Montreal, the Kicks did an admirable job navigating within the city centre and along the countryside. It charged along in a quiet and calm manner showing off its rapid and direct manoeuvring skills when faced with curvy roads. Only briefly on the highway when in need of acceleration did the Kicks show a little power deficiency, but otherwise it came across as a nice travelling companion with an expertise in the handling department.
The drive was effortless thanks to its 1,200kg. curb weight. That power-to-weight ratio and its improved CVT contributes to a combined 7.2 L/100km with a best-in-class highway rating of 6.6, that I was able to lower at one point to 5.9 during the drive.
The 2018 Nissan Kicks arrives in Canada at a time when crossover is king. With Nissan sales already at an all-time high, the Kicks provides one of the most affordable offerin
gs at a starting price of $17,998. The highest SR trim doesn’t cost much more, topping out at $22,798 which includes the Bose personal sound system, a 360-degrees Around View Monitor with Moving Object Detection, other advanced safety technologies, roof rails and leather throughout.
Even in its base package, value is what will propel the Kicks to be one of the more popular subcompact crossover options in the market. Just make sure to get the two-tone version in order to stand out from the crowd. The Kicks’ handling, roominess and charm will do the rest.
Engine: 1.6L four-cylinder
Power: 125 hp, 115 lb.-ft. of torque
Transmission: Continuously variable transmission (CVT)
Rated Fuel Economy (L/100 km): City 7.7/ Hwy 6.6