Inexpensive usually equates to underwhelming. After all, you can’t expect filet mignon for the price of a fast food burger.
Whether we’re talking knock-off replacement parts made by a spurious supplier in provincial China, bargain-basement auto insurance or even an entry-level small car, you almost always get what you pay for in the automotive world. But when you can score ground sirloin for the price of generic-brand hot dogs, well, that’s news worth trumpeting.
The Kicks is Nissan’s subcompact or B-segment crossover. It’s a vehicle designed to help quench consumers’ insatiable thirst for these elevated vehicles. Based on the Versa small car, it’s by far the Japanese automaker’s smallest utility offering, at least in North America.
Here are some pros and cons of the 2019 Nissan Kicks.
It Costs How Much?!
With a base price of just $19,535 including $995 in destination charges, this little crossover is an unequivocal bargain. That figure undercuts major rivals including the Chevrolet Trax, Honda HR-V and Ford Ecosport. Heck, the midrange SV model tested here (it slots between the base S and range-topping SR) went for barely more than 21 grand.
ALSO SEE: Nissan Kicks Review
And really, what makes it such a good deal is that the Kicks doesn’t feel cheap. It’s sturdy and decently refined, with a nicer interior than you’d probably ever expect. Even though the cabin is almost entirely hard plastic, it’s attractively grained and not overly shiny. Likewise, the build quality is excellent.
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The vehicle also comes with some welcome standard features, things like a seven-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth, power windows and door locks, remote keyless entry, a trio of USB ports and more. Top-end models can also be fitted with the $1,000 SR Premium Package, which includes niceties like an upscale, eight-speaker Bose sound system, Prima-Tex leatherette seating surfaces and heated front seats.
Every Kicks sold in America is powered by a naturally aspirated 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine. This powerplant delivers 122 horsepower and 114 pound-feet of torque. Making the most of that limited output, the only transmission offered is a continuously variable automatic.
Crazy Fuel Efficiency
Of course, the tradeoff for subsonic speed is enhanced fuel economy. And this Nissan doesn’t disappoint here, either.
Rated by the U.S. EPA at 31 miles per gallon in city use, 36 on the highway and 33 combined it’s supremely economical to operate. In fact, in real-world use, it still averaged around 32 mpg despite almost constantly flooring the accelerator. Driven more responsibly it would no-doubt do even better.
With its small overall dimensions and chunky front end, you might just think the Kicks is cute. Its body is handsome enough and well proportioned, with none of the weirdness of Nissan’s now-discontinued Juke.
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For added flair, various contrast-colored roofs are also available, naturally, for a small upcharge. You can get a red body and black top, a white roof with deep blue paint or even a gray-colored body capped off with bright orange, a particularly fetching combination.
With a wheelbase of just 103.1 inches, the Kicks is a tiny-tot crossover. Still, it offers decent backseat legroom at a maximum of 33.2 inches. That rear bench is fairly upright, though the headroom is likewise excellent. There’s enough room for five people in a pinch.
The Kicks’ cargo space is even more impressive. With the second-row seat up, it provides 25.3 cubic feet of storage space. Fold the backrest flat and that figure grows to more than 53. Both of those numbers are within spitting distance of what a Jeep Compass provides.
It’s a Safe Buy
Even though it’s small, this crossover is remarkably safe. The Nissan Kicks has earned a Top Safety Pick score from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, meaning it’s a smart choice.
Still a Bit Slow
There’s a lot to like about the Nissan Kicks, but it does have a few downsides. As mentioned, the performance it provides is adequate, but a touch more speed would be appreciated. Nissan offers a 1.6-liter turbo-four in the Sentra SR Turbo small car. With 188 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque, it would really wake this crossover up, likely without much of a fuel-economy penalty.
A powertrain upgrade would be welcome, but acceleration is not this vehicle’s most glaring dynamic weakness; unquestionably, it’s steering. The Kick’s tiller about as lifeless as you’ll find in the automotive world today. It gives absolutely zero feedback from the road surface meaning you have no idea what the front wheels are doing. The whole thing feels completely synthesized; you may as well be steering the vehicle with an XBox controller, that’s how disconnected it is.
No All-Wheel Drive
Limiting its appeal in regions that receive wintertime snow and ice, the Kicks is front-wheel drive only. If you need a vehicle with four-corner grip, you’ll, regrettably, have to look elsewhere. Perhaps Nissan’s all-new 2019 Altima sedan is worth your consideration? It’s now available with all-wheel drive.
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