2018 Nissan Kicks

2018 Kicks Photos
Nissan helped kick off the whole subcompact SUV segment with its Juke, a car that caused head scratching at the time for its bonkers turbo engine, diminutive size, and styling that many considered, well, hideous. It was a huge hit in Great Britain, but like Robbie Williams, less so here. Now, the Juke is gone and in its place the 2018 Nissan Kicks, an all-new model and a major course correction in a more sensible direction. The Kicks is cheaper, more practical and more efficient. It's also considerably less powerful, and not just in comparison to its turbocharged predecessor. With a mere 125 naturally aspirated horsepower, the Kicks is bringing up the rear in a segment that's not exactly in a hurry to get anywhere. As I wrote during the L.A. Auto Show, "I can't imagine the Kicks being anything other than doggedly slow." Well, as it turns out, it kinda depends on how and where you're driving. If you need to merge onto a fast-moving highway, you're going to need quite the gap, as those 125 horses run out of steam quickly. Full-throttle acceleration from a stop? Yep, it sure feels gutless and I'd wager a sundial should suffice for 0-60-mph testing. However, Nissan's engineers adeptly tuned the throttle and standard continuously variable transmission to mask this power deficit when driving sedately around town — you know, exactly how the vast majority of dawdling drivers will. It honestly and quite surprisingly doesn't feel that slow, nor does the CVT constantly make you wish for a manual to better ring out the thimble of oomph that's there. On the contrary, the CVT does a bang-up job. It simulates gears to provide a more natural driving feel and avoid the interminable CVT mooing, but as it's still a CVT, it can still lock onto an ideal rpm to maximize power and fuel economy. This was demonstrated on a gradual grade where a traditional transmission would be forced into either a too-high or too-low gear, resulting in either a bogging or screaming engine. In the Kicks, it just smartly chugged along. So from a powertrain perspective, the Kicks isn't as dreary to drive as was feared. It also seems to have a stout structure and capable suspension tuning (independent strut front, twist beam rear), that demonstrated poise around corners and solidity when encountering deep mid-corner bumps. There's a fair bit of body roll, but that's par for the segment. Unfortunately, the bizarre steering lets the ride down. It's incredibly slow for one, with a 16.8:1 ratio and 3.08 turns lock-to-lock in a segment that's typically in the 13's and mid-2's, respectively. It feels like Nissan wanted the Kicks to feel overtly SUV-like, but in doing so, nullified the car's agility. The weighting is also wildly inconsistent — sometimes there's heavy electric assistance at low maneuvering speeds, other times seemingly none, usually when quickly transitioning from one direction to the next. This is just the latest in a long line of recent Nissans …
Full Review
Nissan helped kick off the whole subcompact SUV segment with its Juke, a car that caused head scratching at the time for its bonkers turbo engine, diminutive size, and styling that many considered, well, hideous. It was a huge hit in Great Britain, but like Robbie Williams, less so here. Now, the Juke is gone and in its place the 2018 Nissan Kicks, an all-new model and a major course correction in a more sensible direction. The Kicks is cheaper, more practical and more efficient. It's also considerably less powerful, and not just in comparison to its turbocharged predecessor. With a mere 125 naturally aspirated horsepower, the Kicks is bringing up the rear in a segment that's not exactly in a hurry to get anywhere. As I wrote during the L.A. Auto Show, "I can't imagine the Kicks being anything other than doggedly slow." Well, as it turns out, it kinda depends on how and where you're driving. If you need to merge onto a fast-moving highway, you're going to need quite the gap, as those 125 horses run out of steam quickly. Full-throttle acceleration from a stop? Yep, it sure feels gutless and I'd wager a sundial should suffice for 0-60-mph testing. However, Nissan's engineers adeptly tuned the throttle and standard continuously variable transmission to mask this power deficit when driving sedately around town — you know, exactly how the vast majority of dawdling drivers will. It honestly and quite surprisingly doesn't feel that slow, nor does the CVT constantly make you wish for a manual to better ring out the thimble of oomph that's there. On the contrary, the CVT does a bang-up job. It simulates gears to provide a more natural driving feel and avoid the interminable CVT mooing, but as it's still a CVT, it can still lock onto an ideal rpm to maximize power and fuel economy. This was demonstrated on a gradual grade where a traditional transmission would be forced into either a too-high or too-low gear, resulting in either a bogging or screaming engine. In the Kicks, it just smartly chugged along. So from a powertrain perspective, the Kicks isn't as dreary to drive as was feared. It also seems to have a stout structure and capable suspension tuning (independent strut front, twist beam rear), that demonstrated poise around corners and solidity when encountering deep mid-corner bumps. There's a fair bit of body roll, but that's par for the segment. Unfortunately, the bizarre steering lets the ride down. It's incredibly slow for one, with a 16.8:1 ratio and 3.08 turns lock-to-lock in a segment that's typically in the 13's and mid-2's, respectively. It feels like Nissan wanted the Kicks to feel overtly SUV-like, but in doing so, nullified the car's agility. The weighting is also wildly inconsistent — sometimes there's heavy electric assistance at low maneuvering speeds, other times seemingly none, usually when quickly transitioning from one direction to the next. This is just the latest in a long line of recent Nissans …
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Retail Price

$18,290 - $20,590 MSRP / Window Sticker Price

Smart Buy Price

$1,407 - $1,724 Nat'l avg. savings off MSRP
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Engine 1.6LI-4
MPG 31 City / 36 Hwy
Seating 5 Passengers
Transmission 2-spd CVT w/OD
Power 125 @ 5800 rpm
Drivetrain front-wheel
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