Driving Impressions : 2020 Nissan Kicks SR CVTBy: Mark Moskowitz MD
Nissan can claim success with the Kicks. In 2019, its first full year of release, it eclipsed the annual sales records of its predecessor, the Juke, by over 20,000 units. The sales figures are not a surprise as the Nissan is a solid entry in the subcompact crossover class and, excepting the Kia Soul, the least expensive.
The Kicks is striking; its new style maintains the Juke's headroom and near greenhouse effect without being ugly. An exaggerated swage line above the door sill parallels a sloping more subtle line through the paint-matched door handles. On either end of the lines are black-framed wheel wells surrounded by heavy sculpting. The embellishment tricked my eyes into thinking I was viewing dent not design. Last year I drove a Deep Pearl Blue Kicks with a white top. It looked like a Mini on steroids. I opined that the body lines would seem different under a lighter color. My 2020 Kicks appeared in an optional two-tone scheme-Aspen White Tricoat on the body and Super Black on most of the roof. It was gussied up with all sorts of cosmetic options including a Rear Roof Spoiler, Exhaust Finisher (extension), Illuminated Kick Plates, Interior Ambient (20 Color) Lighting, Black (instead of silvered) Alloy Wheels and Exterior Ground Lighting. These added significant expense as noted below, but the effect was transformative. Suddenly, the Kicks and I expected to be cast as background for a Fast and Furious movie.
Three levels of Kicks are offered. All have push button ignition, a 7-inch touch-screen, front wheel drive, strut front and rear torsion bar suspension, a CVT transmission, front discs, rear drums, and a fuel-injected 122 hp DOHC 4-Cylinder engine. New this year is the across-the-line inclusion of Nissan's Safety Shield 360 technology - automatic front and rear emergency braking, lane departure warning, blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert, high beam assist and more.
The base Kicks S lists for $18,870 before transport. The SV lists for $20,500. Additions include Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, 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 a chassis dynamics package which aids handling and ride by brake application and engine control, LED headlights and accents, and surround view monitoring.
All models have attractive standard cloth seating with a quilted pattern and double stitched accents. Add a thousand dollars (we are up to $22,120) for the SR premium package with heated front seats covered with an advanced vinyl (Prima-Tex) and a Bose stereo with headrest speakers. Seats required manual adjustment but were comfortable and supportive once adjusted. The seat and side bolsters were prominent and might 'hem in' bigger folks. Knees fall comfortably outward but would touch the door on the left and an appropriately angled and modestly padded console support on the right. The console housed a single open compartment. This forward space can store a large cell phone and keys but its smooth surface allowed the fob to constantly skate. There are other generous spaces in the doors and an optional ($320) compartmented center armrest.
Large rear doors afforded easy entry to 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). 25.3 cubic feet behind the rear seats allow for a lot of luggage - the space among the largest in its class. Rear seats fold down though they do not lie flush with the rear floor.
The 7-inch center touch screen is easy to see and reach. It responds quickly. There's no nav but cell phone connectivity allow same.
The Kicks offers a pleasant driving experience. Acceleration is not its forte; 0-60 times in the high 9's were typical. Steep slippery hills and freeway entry require a bit of forethought. The continuously variable transmission was smooth and performed faultlessly within its limits; some will miss that sudden downshift and burst of power. With struts up front and torsion beam suspension in the rear, it handles bumps with aplomb. Steering is precise. There's moderate body lean. On street surfaces at reasonable speeds, handling seems similar to that of last year's model.
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 and a host of standard features. Driving Impressions recommends the Kicks SR. The additional $2300 spent adds surround view, more tech, better connectivity and bigger wheels and leaves the cost still well below many in its class.