2017 Los Angeles Auto Show – Nissan Brings Subcompact 2018 Kicks to the U.S.
Entry-Level, Front-Drive Crossover Should Start Under $19,000
Nissan surprise-announced it would sell the 2018 Kicks subcompact CUV in the U.S., giving us a crack at the vehicle that’s been in global markets since 2016 after being revealed in concept form at the 2014 Sao Paulo International Motor Show.
Smaller than even the compact Nissan Rogue Sport, the Kicks is an entry-level, front-drive–only crossover that Nissan promises will start at “well under $19,000,” giving customers a vehicle that offers the higher seating position of a crossover without busting the budget. Indeed, aside from the $18,445 Jeep Renegade Sport, we can’t think of another CUV that starts at less than $19,000.
Of course, there are some tradeoffs for the low price, and they include a rather anemic-sounding 1.6L I-4 with just 125 hp and 115 lb-ft. Mated to a continuously variable transmission, the Kicks probably won’t be much fun to drive, but on the plus side, Nissan expects a decidedly thrifty 33 mpg combined from the package. That would make the Kicks one of the most thrifty crossovers on the market today, eclipsing even the efficient Chevrolet Equinox Diesel’s 32 mpg combined.
Helping efficiency is the Kicks’ small exterior size. At 169.1 inches long, it’s exactly the same length as the diminutive Honda HR-V, and it’s even shorter than the Toyota C-HR. Its wheelbase of 103.1 inches is a bit above average for its size class, while its 69.3-inch width is a bit below average, and at 62.4 inches tall, it promises a reasonably high seating position. Nissan won’t cop to a curb weight yet, but we hope it’s less than 3,100 pounds to make the most of the limited engine output.
The base Kicks S will come standard with one surprising feature: automatic emergency braking. That sets it apart from other small cars and crossovers, which require costly option packages to provide such safety and convenience, if it’s even offered at all. Also standard on the base model are three USB ports, Bluetooth connectivity, a 7.0-inch infotainment display, wiper-activated headlamps, and roof rails.
The midlevel Kicks SV gets Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, a proximity key with remote engine start, and some added interior comforts. It also replaces the base model’s 16-inch steel wheels with 17-inch alloys, shared with the top-of-the-line Kicks SR. That model also receives foglights, LED headlamps, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a 360-degree camera, and some styling accents that set it apart from lower trims. Also available on the SR is an option package that includes a Bose Personal Plus audio system, bundling two 2.5-inch speakers into the driver’s headrest for improved sound.
Calling it the ideal crossover for the city, Nissan cites a tight, 34.1-foot turning radius, pothole-friendly 7.0-inch ground clearance, and hill-start assist for the Kicks. By the company’s ruler, it also has 25.3 cubic feet of rear cargo space, beating out the larger Rogue Sport crossover as well as the incredibly space-efficient Honda HR-V. Rear-seat room is understandably tight in the Kicks, though comfort for three passengers is improved thanks to a flat floor with no center hump. Furthermore, the 60/40 folding rear seats expand cargo- and people-carrying flexibility.
The Kicks is pretty attractive, with a Nissan-signature V-shaped front grille, available contrast-color roof, blacked-out roof pillars, and angular lighting elements. Bulging wheel arches give the Kicks an aggressive stance, writing checks the plebian front strut/rear twist-beam suspension probably won’t be able to cash. Then again, the company does pretty magical things from the same suspension layout when it’s sitting under a Nissan Juke Nismo, so there may be some hope for the Kicks yet.
Cabin styling is also surprisingly handsome; gone are the days when budget pricing meant a boring penalty box of an interior. Colorful trim rings are available for the HVAC vent bezels, and the same SR option package that brings premium Bose audio also includes contrast-stitched, heated faux leather seating. The standard 7-inch audio screen and available 7-inch gauge cluster information center can display fuel economy data, audio information, and other driver-assist features as needed.
Pricing for the Kicks, aside from its promised sub-$19,000 base price, has yet to be announced, but we’d be surprised if it eclipses $25,000, even fully loaded. It will go on sale in the first half of next year.