Test Drive: All-new 2018 Nissan Kicks

Greg Zyla More Content Now
2018 Nissan Kicks [Nissan]

Entry Price: $18,290

Price as Tested: $23,045

This week, we’re behind the wheel of the all-new Nissan Kicks, a compact SUV style hatchback that replaces the Nissan Juke. High on features and low on price, Kicks is built on the Nissan Versa car platform and offers those who like a small wagon/SUV style vehicle the opportunity to park one in their driveway at a low price.

The Kicks is available in three trims, including entry S ($18,290) our tester mid-level SV ($19,690) and top line SR ($20,290). All are motivated by a 1.6-liter inline-4 engine that delivers just 125 horsepower and 115 lb. ft. of torque. The engine mates to a continuously variable XTronic automatic transmission with front-drive underpinnings.

Unlike the Juke it replaces, the new Kicks does not offer an All Wheel Drive version or a more powerful turbocharged engine. Both of these features made the quirky looking yet fun to drive Juke the little SUV that many of the younger set came to own. However, if Kicks is successful look for Nissan to perhaps contemplate a 4x4 model with more power under the hood.

The biggest Kicks positive versus the Juke is overall good looks. Its compact SUV motif is quite pleasing to the eye, especially when delivered as our tester arrived finished in Monarch orange with a super black roof. This two-tone feature made for many interested onlookers who were surprised that the Kicks’ entry price was so affordable.

At less than $19,000, the base Kicks S delivers Nissan safety items like high-tech automatic emergency braking and forward Collision warning, four wheel ABS, hill start assist, seven airbags, large view rear safety camera and all the modern traction and vehicle dynamic controls. Amenities like a 7.0-inch infotainment touch screen connected to a six speaker stereo, Bluetooth, USB and even push button start also come on the entry S. (Well done Nissan). Although not yet government safety rated, expect Kicks to end up with four and five star safety ratings similar to its other small Nissan SUVs and Crossovers.

Our Kicks SV tester, meanwhile, costs a bit more and is the recommended entry point in my opinion. Kicks SV adds rear cross traffic alert, blind spot monitoring, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, Halogen headlamps, 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic climate control with rear vents, Nissan Connect SM with navigation and Sirius XM satellite. The SV also adds intelligent key with remote start features, roof rails, tilt and telescopic steering and a CVT transmission shifter with chrome accents.

Inside, Kicks features a cabin that offers great visibility. I had to get used to the higher stance of the driver seat that did not offer power settings, but once I did things went well. Additionally, although roomy overall for four adults, don’t expect the rear-seat middle passenger to be too comfortable over the long haul. Interior features include all the powers, cruise, intermittent rear wiper, split fold down rear seat, and much more. Your Nissan dealer awaits your visit to explain.

Major factors contributing to 31 city and 36 highway fuel economy estimates come from what I call a successful “Versa curb weight diet,” as all kicks weigh-in at less than 2,675 lbs.

On the road, Kicks is a capable performer although the ride is a bit rougher than larger wheelbase offerings. Bumps are more pronounced and there’s also some road noise at times. However, and considering what you receive for your money, Kicks SV arrives with Firestone FT140 all-weather tires that couple well with a strut front and torsion rear suspension setup. The result is good driving characteristics that make the little Kicks a decent handler and comfy freeway cruiser.

More so, even though the 2018 Kicks only offers 125-ponies, it feels more peppy thanks to its overall lightweight build properties. Granted, when you need to pass someone it takes some extra planning, but the initial acceleration is acceptable considering Kicks horsepower and torque limitations.

Consumers can expect good owner satisfaction ratings as our tester came from the Nissan Kicks prototype media pool, which means it might be a bit different from the production model where fit and finish are concerned. However, fit and finish was fine and we had zero prototype negatives during our week long test.

Important numbers include a wheelbase of 103.1-inches, 2,639 lb. curb weight, 10.8-gallon fuel tank, and 25.3 to 32.3 cu. ft. of cargo space.

Nissan Kicks offers everything expected in a small compact SUV style wagon, and is a solid choice if you don’t need a 4x4 style vehicle. If you do live in a harsh climate and demand a 4x4, check out the Nissan Rogue Sport, which starts at just $21,420 and offers AWD models.

Likes: Looks, standard features, price, Nissan reputation.

Dislikes: Rear drum brakes, no turbo, no AWD, not much horsepower.

Greg Zyla writes weekly for More Content Now and GateHouse Media. Contact him at greg@gregzyla.com or at 303 Roosevelt St., Sayre, PA 18840.