Driving Impressions : 2019 Nissan Kicks SR CVTBy: Mark Moskowitz MD
'Kicks just keep getting harder to find'. It's easy to invoke one of my favorite rock anthems, sung in 1966 by Paul Revere and the Raiders; 'cliché-ish' perhaps but as the song was produced by a cousin I believe I have rights. In fact, the Nissan Kicks keeps getting easier to find. In an incomplete first year of release, it has eclipsed the annual sales records of its predecessor, the Juke. Over 6000 units left US dealers' lots in May.
The sales figures are not a surprise as it's a solid entry in the subcompact crossover class and excepting the Kia Soul the least expensive. Mine appeared in Deep Pearl Blue with a Fresh Powder (white) roof. At first glance it looked like a Mini on steroids, though 18 inches longer and nearly 7 inches taller. It's odd what the colors do: the heavily sculpted wheel wells with their black accents look exaggerated (is that a dent over the rear wheel well?) in Cayenne Red or Monarch Orange. The lines seem to blend better in Aspen White, the test color blue and Brilliant Silver. Up front, the Nissan V-Motion grilles seems well integrated surrounded by painted body panels and bordering a black air intake. The new design maintains the headroom and visibility of the Juke and is far more attractive.
Three levels of Kicks are offered: all have front wheel drive, CVT transmissions, similar suspensions, front discs, rear drums, and a fuel injected DOHC 4-Cylinder engine. Standard features include hill start assist, a 7-inch touch screen, push button ignition and automatic emergency braking. The base Kicks S lists for $18,640 before transport. The SV lists for $20,350. Additions include Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, blind spot warning and rear cross traffic alert, 17 inch wheels and a sophisticated driver's side display with multiple customizable monitoring functions. Another $620 nets the top of the line SR with its rear roof spoiler, LED headlights and accents, and surround view monitor.
All models have attractive standard cloth seating with a quilted pattern and double stitched accents. Add a thousand (we are up to $21,970) for the SR premium package with heated front seats covered with an advanced vinyl Prima-Tex covering and a Bose stereo with headrest speakers. Seats required manual adjustment but were comfortable and supportive once adjusted. Knees could fall comfortably outward but would touch door on the left and an appropriately angled and modestly padded console support on the right. The console housed a single open compartment, a foldable driver's right armrest occupying the space for a closed compartment. The forward space held a large cell phone and keys but its smoothed surface allowed the fob to constantly skate. One could place them in a recess in the door armrests or in generous door pockets but who remembers them there.
I found surprisingly ample and comfortable seating for two 6-foot adults in the back with plenty of room for the feet under the seat (a benefit of mechanical rather than power adjustment in front). Trips to airport were facilitated by a huge 25.3 cubic feet behind the seats, perhaps a zenith in its class. Rear seats fold and though not flush with the rear space offer an additional 28 square feet of storage.
The 7' center touch screen is easy to see and reach. It responds quickly. There's no nav but it's available with cell phone connectivity. I did find it difficult to toggle back and forth between radio functions and those from my connected device and more than once had to reconnect the two.
The Kicks offers a pleasant driving experience. Acceleration is not its forte; 0-60 times in the high 9's were typical. The continuously variable transmission was smooth and performed faultlessly within its limits; some will miss that sudden downshift and burst of power but they won't miss the lag. With struts up front and torsion beam suspension in the rear it handles bumps with aplomb. There's moderate body lean with aggressive cornering but it comes on predictably and the car seems neutral up to the edge of adhesion. Combine those characteristics with precise steering and the experience is best described as sporting rather than high performance. I did find that ascending a steep gravel driveway required planning and stored kinetic energy (a build-up of speed) in the lightweight fwd Kicks.
If your travels do not require four-wheel drive (not available in the Kicks) and you exist to the left of performance junkie, consider the Kicks – an easy-to-use combination of roominess, comfort and fuel economy in a subcompact with an exceptionally low price point. Driving Impressions recommends the Kicks SR. The additional $2300 spent adds tech, safety and convenience and leaves the cost still well below many in its class.