As proof that automakers can never have too many crossovers these days, Nissan introduced the 2018 Nissan Kicks as its third small CUV and its fifth CUV overall. The 2018 Nissan Kicks is aimed at the red-hot subcompact crossover segment, but it is actually sized more closely to a compact on the outside with even larger dimensions on the inside thanks to a shared platform with Nissan’s small yet deceptively roomy Versa and Versa Note.
So how does the all-new 2018 Nissan Kicks fit into this growing segment? We spent a week in the top Kicks SR trim level to find out.
2018 Nissan Kicks Exterior
The overall design language of the 2018 Nissan Kicks is far more conventional than the Nissan Juke, yet it isn’t as conservative as rivals like the Ford EcoSport and Chevrolet Trax. While it’s easy to see the resemblance between the Kicks and the rest of the Nissan CUV lineup (Pathfinder, Murano, Rogue and Rogue Sport), this subcompact also has a very distinctive design. The Nissan family face includes signature cues like the LED daytime running lights and the V-motion grille, and, in an interesting nod to its predecessor, the Kicks’ headlights have a raised edge on the top similar to the alligator-like lights found on the Nissan Juke. At the rear, the pinched D-pillars and boomerang-style taillights are similar to the Murano.
One of the best styling elements available on the Nissan Kicks is the two-tone roof – a $545 optional that adds an especially contrasting touch with this tester’s Aspen White/Super Black paint combo. Stepping up to the SR trim level adds further touches as well including LED headlights, LED turn signals on the mirrors,17-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, dark satin chrome grille, rear spoiler and body-colored bumper and side sill inserts.
2018 Nissan Kicks Interior
As is the case with Nissan’s versatile Versa, the 2018 Nissan Kicks is far roomier than its exterior dimensions would suggest. In fact, despite competing in the subcompact segment, the Kicks offers enough cabin space to warrant a midsize classification from the EPA! That means this little crossover can tote your family, friends and plenty of cargo (25.3 cubic feet with the rear seats up and a whopping 53.1 cubic feet behind the front seats), while still packing content some buyers might not expect from a vehicle priced starting under $18,000.
This low price is for the base S trim level, which packs steel wheels with hubcaps and lacks Apple CarPlay/Android Auto functionality and satellite radio, but our tester was the top SR trim level. This trim is priced at $20,290*, and in addition to getting a seven-inch touch-screen display, seven-inch Advanced Drive Assist Display in the gauge cluster and NissanConnect (with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto), the SR gets trim-specific add-ons like orange cabin accents, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob and sport cloth seating with orange accents; leather seats are optional.
As nice as roomy as the Kicks’ cabin is, the one downfall is that it does not offer a full center console between the front seats. While this is fairly common among entry-level subcompact vehicles, rivals like the Hyundai Kona and Mazda CX-3 – two of the more well-equipped offerings in this segment – do offer a full console with armrest for both front passengers. What the 2018 Nissan Kicks does get is a single fold-down armrest for the driver, and a primitive center console with room for three cupholders and two USB charging ports. My favorite feature in the Kicks SR is the Advanced Drive Assist Display – a large digital display on the left side of the gauge cluster. This display can be configured as a digital tachometer or an information display screen, and one of the coolest parts of the Kicks’ cabin is can be fully blacked out at night with the ability to turn off the gauge cluster, infotainment screen and all other ambient lighting.
2018 Nissan Kicks Powertrain
Like the Versa, the 2018 Nissan Kicks is powered by a 1.6-liter four-cylinder with an output of 125 horsepower and 115 lb-ft of torque, and this engine is mated to Nissan’s proven Xtronic continuously variable transmission. This powertrain combination gives the Kicks EPA-rated fuel economy estimates of 31 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway**, which is good enough for a best-in-class claim. The sole disadvantage of this powertrain, though, is that unlike the Juke (and most other vehicles in this segment), the Kicks does not offer all-wheel drive.
On paper, the engine’s output might seem low, but with this loaded SR tester weighing just 2,672 pounds, it doesn’t feel underpowered. Hard acceleration can get the engine racing as a result of the CVT, but at least the Kicks can get off the line confidently including being able to merge onto the interstate without fuss. As a result of the low curb weight, the 2018 Nissan Kicks is surprisingly agile. As is the case with the vast number of subcompact CUVs on the market, the 2018 Nissan Kicks feels more like a tall hatchback rather than a small crossover.
2018 Nissan Kicks Safety
The 2018 Nissan Kicks has not been rated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, but there are plenty of standard safety features. In base form, the Kicks comes with seven airbags (including a driver’s knee airbag) and automatic emergency braking, while the top SR trim level adds Intelligent Around View Monitor, blind spot warning and rear cross traffic alert.
2018 Nissan Kicks Overall
The 2018 Nissan Kicks might have a goofy name, but it is one serious contender in this subcompact crossover segment. Not only does it offer excellent fuel economy and a spacious, practical cabin, the Kicks also has an incredibly low starting price of just $17,990*, which is $2,000 less than the Ford EcoSport. Factoring in the top SR trim level and the optional two-tone paint job, this Kicks had an as-tested price of $22,025 making it $6,200 less than the 2019 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring FWD we recently tested.
Make sure to visit your local AutoNation Nissan dealership> and test drive the 2018 Nissan Kicks today!
*MSRP excludes tax, license, registration, destination charge and options. Dealer prices may vary.
**Based on 2018 EPA mileage ratings. Your mileage will vary depending on specific vehicle trim, how you drive and maintain your vehicle, driving conditions, and other factors.