Anyone else have "Pumped Up Kicks" by Foster the People stuck in their heads? Well, you do now. I couldn't be the only one. Anyway, the 2018 Nissan Kicks is a thing. It replaces the Nissan Juke, which Mr. Stocksdale thought was a bad idea and Mr. Myself thought was a smart idea. Nevertheless, neither of us were especially pumped up by the Kicks.
However, the majority of car buyers are all about SUVs, and this littlest segment of them has been multiplying like Tribbles in the past few years. The Juke was one of the first of these subcompact crossovers, but it was probably too oddball for a mainstream audience (not to mention inefficient) and never really caught on. Newer competitors certainly didn't help.
Well, to see how the Kicks compares to those very competitors, lets fire up the Autoblog Comparo Generator 3000 (TM). Specifically, we'll be looking at those subcompact crossovers with similarly small dimensions, especially low prices and/or a disinclination to offering all-wheel drive. We're talking about the Nissan Kicks vs the Toyota C-HR, Hyundai Kona, Kia Soul, Honda HR-V and Jeep Renegade. Now, if you're interested in literally the exact opposite SUV segment, check out our recent Mercedes G-Class comparo.
Otherwise, on to the spreadsheet:
Dimensions and passenger spaceIn terms of exterior dimensions, the new Kicks is right smack in the middle of the segment. It's virtually the same as the Honda HR-V, yet manages to eek out a few extra cubic feet of cargo space behind its raised back seat. The Honda and its "Magic Seat" still beats it in terms of maximum capacity, but it sure is close. The Kia Soul has the biggest maximum number, but that's largely the result of being a box. Its small behind-the-back-seat cargo number is likely a better indicator of how much you'll be dealing with on a day-to-day basis. And in that day-to-day way, the Kicks is excellent.
Backseat legroom seems to be a Kicks downside, as all but the C-HR surpass it. (Seriously, it's almost impressive how large the C-HR is on the outside but cramped inside.) However, the Kicks' tall greenhouse not only allows for ample headroom, but seats that are mounted high off the ground. This means there's actually more legroom than the numbers would indicate since there's ample under-thigh support and therefore less space needed to the front seat backs. That advantage doesn't mean anything when fitting rear-facing child seats, though, so one of the competitors with a bigger back seat legroom will still likely be better for parents of small children.
What do their interiors look like?Why waste keystrokes when you can take a look for yourselves?
Drivetrains, performance and fuel economyAll-wheel drive. Want it? Too bad, the Kicks, C-HR and Soul don't offer it. We're guessing that's not a problem for many, but if it is, check out the Kona and HR-V, plus the Renegade that offers multiple systems. The Subaru Crosstrek also comes standard with all-wheel drive.
As for performance, want that too? Too bad, the Kicks produces a measly 125 horsepower and a weak-sauce 115 pound-feet of torque. That's less than even the base Soul and the notoriously glacial HR-V. During our Kicks quick spin, we found the throttle response and smartly tuned CVT manage to actually match this deficiency around town, but highway merging and other moments in need of aggressive acceleration revealed its true underwhelming colors.
If you do want power, you'll want to look at the turbocharged Kona, Soul and updated 2019 Jeep Renegade with its new 1.3-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder. We haven't had a chance to extensively drive that yet, so stay tuned.
On the upside for the Kicks, with no power comes great fuel economy. With an EPA-estimate 33 mpg combined, it pretty much blows away its rivals. It's better than even the HR-V. The Renegade's meager fuel economy with the base engine is another strike for that unappealing powertrain (after unimpressive acceleration and a frustrating 9-speed automatic transmission).
Really, if you're looking for a balance of performance and fuel economy, the Kona would seem to be your best bet in this group. It also offers all-wheel drive, and its traditional six-speed automatic transmission won't dissuade like a CVT might.
Are there songs related to any of these crossovers?Sure are!
Pumped Up Kicks by Foster the People
Renegades by X Ambassadors
Soul Man by Sam & Dave (plus, you know, eleventy million other songs)
Jai Bhule Jai by Kona (thank you, YouTube)
Holiday by HRVY (ditto)
Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke (we could link to that video, but then we'd have to C-HR. Get it? OK, it's a stretch)
How do they compare in pictures?2018 Nissan Kicks
2019 Toyota C-HR
2018 Hyundai Kona
2018 Kia Soul
2019 Honda HR-V
2019 Jeep Renegade