Montreal, QC. With already 20 years of field experience despite my youthful appearance, I’ve developed an ability to gauge new products. This is not exactly a talent, but it helps set expectations and what I love most about my pre-fab beliefs is when I’m off, or wrong. I wasn’t wrong about the Kicks, but it still managed to surprise me.
The Nissan Qashqai is a lovely compact crossover. I enjoy it for its honesty and general modest abilities. Like it, the new 2018 Nissan Kicks delivers on every count and actually turns out to be one of the best in one specific aspect. There are no two ways about it; the Kicks will kick butt in its segment thanks to its impressive value proposition, size, and driving dynamics.
Short on power, big on poise
You were probably not expecting the last point. Its specs don’t read as anything very special mainly if you’re concentrating on the powertrain. Truth be told, the 1.6-litre 4-cylinder engine good for 125-horsepower @ 5,800 rpm and 115 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4,000 rpm is no more than adequate. With a full tank of gas, two passengers and a couple of day bags, the Kicks eventually reached 100 km/h after hammering the throttle somewhere in the Quebec countryside. And realistically speaking, merging onto the highway might mean yielding more often than full-on trying to get ahead of another vehicle. But, I’m sending you on the wrong path now.
What really threw me for a loop was how good the 2018 Nissan Kicks is to drive. The little Kicks’ platform, although shared in part with other small Nissans, is solid and refined. Its ideal tuning allows the dampers and springs to do their work with minimal intrusion or real disruption into the cabin. Some of the roads we covered were in horrible condition, as per the norm in Quebec, but did little to upset the ride quality. Truly impressive.
Meant as an urban-focused crossover alternative to the typical compact car, the Kicks conquers all. Where to begin? Want to know what it costs and what you get for the money? The value proposition is quite a surprise.
Value to the max
At $17,998, the base Kicks S FWD is like an iPhone 8 Plus for the price of a regular 8. In other words, it includes what could normally be considered options for no extra charge. The Kicks features a 7” screen, a D-shaped sport steering wheel, three USB ports, push-button start, Bluetooth, and Intelligent Emergency Braking with Forward Collision Warning. The $20,898 SV adds heated front seats, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, 17” wheels, satellite radio and more. The SR retails for $22,798 and throws in Bose Personal Plus sound system, more components from Nissan’s Intelligent Mobility features including Blind Spot Warning and Rear Cross Traffic Alert, remote start, rear roof spoiler, Prima-Tex synthetic leather and LED low beam headlights with accents.
As we all know, driving is no longer that important. While I continue to struggle with this fact, Nissan’s clearly not set the drive aside, they’ve put the emphasis on what really counts such as the content as you can clearly see. What you can also make out for yourself is that design-wise, both inside and out, Nissan’s not cut any corners. Heavily inspired by the Brazilian Kicks Concept that was revealed at the 2014 Sao Paulo motor show, the production Kicks combines playfulness and purposeful traits. This is made obvious by the $150 optional two-tone paint schemes and exaggerated floating roof-line, and the brand’s signature V-Motion front grille.
Modern and loaded
The cabin as well demonstrates a modern youthful approach ideally blended with serious real-world needs. The dashboard is busy yet simple thanks to its raised 7” screen’s integration. The HVAC controls are uncomplicated and very straightforward and from the SV trim, the gauges include a 7.0” Advanced Drive-Assist display which is configurable.
There’s an enormous amount of room for both passengers, and all the gear. The front seats are comfortable although lack lumbar support for the longer journeys. The rear bench is plenty capable of hauling your three besties and the trunk will hold up to 716 litres of stuff. Storage spots are numerous and useful. While the driving position is good, I found the standard driver side seat armrest to be too high. My drive partner thought it was perfect.
Another of the many draws of the 2018 Nissan Kicks is its best-in-class fuel consumption numbers. They are rated as such but in my mind, a gap of 0.3 or 0.4L/100 km has little bearing in real life. One element that may dissuade potential buyers is the absence of an AWD option. Fact of the matter is that the Kicks is meant to replace the traditional FWD sedan or hatchback, such as the Sentra or Versa Note. In its segment which includes the likes of the Toyota CH-R, Kia Soul, Ford EcoSport, Hyundai Kona and Mazda CX-3, only the latter two offer it. If AWD is a must, the least expensive Qashqai with AWD is $24,898.
To sum up my thoughts of the 2018 Kicks, I can safely say that it has become my favorite Nissan product, only barely edging out my beloved Micra. The Kicks is really that good.