Nissan says its 2019 Kicks, the sixth member of Nissan’s crossover and SUV lineup, is designed to fit the needs of singles or couples looking for expressive styling, personal technology, smart functionality and advanced safety features at an affordable price. First introduced in spring 2018, Kicks enters the 2019 model year relatively unchanged. Metro News Service photo

Nissan’s Kicks goes at the youthful subcompact crossover segment

Little kicks

My tester this week has a name that gave me lots of smiles. The name invoked several memories – aa favorite breakfast cereal, a schoolyard game and an episode of my all-time favorite TV show, Seinfeld.

My tester this week is the 2019 Nissan Kicks, not to be confused with Kix, the underrated cereal, or kickball or the little kicks dance Elaine did on Seinfeld.

The Kicks has a youthful-sounding name. It replaces the equally youthful-sounding Juke. The Kicks falls into the same little niche as the Juke did. Think of it as a rebadged/rebranded Juke. While the Juke did not sell well, it actually was enjoyable to drive. Sure, it was a little kooky-looking, but I like cars with personality. The Kicks has plenty of personality, too.

Technically, the Kicks isn’t a car; rather, it’s a subcompact crossover. But it drives more like a car and feels like a car. The Kicks is similar to the Kia Soul, and that’s probably its main target. The Soul was the original youthful entry and has found its niche for more than a decade now. The Kicks has a lot of the same playfulness.

The Kicks has a more streamlined look than its Juke predecessor, which was really just too weird-looking to gather much of a following. The Kicks has a floating roofline design, which is popular for this segment (see the Toyota C-HR and Hyundai Kona). The front end is understated and could use a little more styling. The profile is very attractive and the back side has good, youthful styling, including a rear spoiler. All-in-all, the Nissan Kicks is a much better-looking vehicle than its predecessor.

The subcompact crossover segment is full of adequately powered, entry-level vehicles. Therefore, the Kicks fits right in with its 1.6-liter, 4-cylinder engine. The 122 horsepower suffices but is uninspiring. The last Juke I drove had more punch. The Kicks felt sluggish; its continuously variable transmission didn’t help that feeling. The CVT held its little bit of power back and then it would catch up. Highway speed was OK, but rapid acceleration and getting to highway speed took a little extra time. For a starter vehicle for a new driver, the Kicks is ideal. There will be no street racing in the Kicks! The small size and controlled steering made the Kicks feel confident in turns; the overall handling was outstanding. Front-wheel drive is standard, with all-wheel drive not currently available. For this segment AWD is not overly common.

Inside, the Kicks felt nicer than others in this segment. For an “affordable” vehicle, it has nicer touch points and higher-quality materials. My tester had a leather-wrapped steering wheel and leather shift knob, with chrome accents. The stitching on the seat was attractive. While the Kicks’ interior had a youthful vibe, it also had enough of a mature quality that gave it broader appeal.

The seven-inch touchscreen was responsive with a good combination of knobs and switches. There was smart phone integration with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The cargo room is immense for such a little vehicle. Behind the rear seats, there’s 25.3 cubic feet of cargo space, which is near the top of the segment.

Nissan keeps it simple with the Kicks by offering only three trims. My tester was the top-of-the-line SR. This trim has LED headlights and foglights. The aforementioned rear spoiler is only available on this trim, as are body-color matching bumpers. There’s also an upgraded Bose sound system which sounds really good inside the cozy interior. Base price for this trim was $20,870, but the lower trims can be had for under $18,000.

The Kicks, thanks in part to the fuel-efficient CVT, has an EPA rating of 31 mpg/city and 36 mpg/highway. During my weeks with this vehicle, I averaged almost 34 mpg.

The Kicks invoked some fond memories for me. And it put to rest the weird memory of the Juke. With the Kicks, Nissan offers a playful, youthful starter vehicle in a very competitive segment.

2019 NISSAN KICKS SR

  • Price/As-tested price………………………………………… $20,870/$23,330
  • Mileage…………………………………… 31 mpg/city; 36 mpg/hwy
  • Engine……………………………………… 1.6-liter, 4-cylinder
  • Horsepower…………………………… 122 hp/114 lbs.-ft.
  • Transmission…………………………… CVT
  • Drive wheels……………. Front-wheel drive
  • Final assembly point……………. Aguas, Mexico

Thank you for reading the Springfield News-Sun and for supporting local journalism. Subscribers: log in for access to your daily ePaper and premium newsletters.

Thank you for supporting in-depth local journalism with your subscription to the Springfield News-Sun. Get more news when you want it with email newsletters just for subscribers. Sign up here.