It’s becoming increasingly difficult to find a brand new vehicle with a real sense of joi de vivre.

Enter the Nissan Kicks. Launched in 2018 for North America, the Kicks effectively serves as the Nissan Juke’s replacement in that market. It’s dimensionally similar to the Juke, but with a longer wheelbase that allows for additional legroom in the cabin and a slightly more stable, comfortable ride.

Despite its minuscule price tag, the Nissan Kicks still has plenty to offer the pragmatic car shopper. Affordability is its chief virtue, with a base MSRP in the US of just $18,640 before destination—thousands cheaper than most everything else in the segment. Yet the Kicks isn’t exactly spartan, shipping standard with push-button ignition, automatic emergency braking, cruise control, and a 7-inch infotainment touchscreen with Bluetooth.

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Similar in footprint to the Rogue Sport, the Nissan Kicks has brought a certain amount of redundancy to Nissan’s lineup. But that model line sits higher up-market than the Kicks, offering AWD and a more premium look and feel—effectively a “Rogue Lite”. The Kicks is simpler and more humble in its aims.

Nissan Kicks Pricing

Affordability is the Nissan Kicks’s main draw; where else can you get such a spacious, versatile vehicle with this level of equipment for under 19 grand? The base 2019 Kicks S has an MSRP of just $19,685 including destination, and the step-higher SV stickers for $21,395. But at that point, you might as well spring for the range-topping Kicks SR, which costs just an extra $620 at $22,015.

At that level, there’s an available $1,170 SR Premium Package, which includes sweet Prima-Tex-wrapped seats with orange contrast stitching, premium eight-speaker audio from Bose, and more. Spring for that and the most expensive available paint option, and you’re still out the door for a scant $23,780.

Nissan Kicks Features

The Nissan Kicks is well-equipped for such a low-priced vehicle, with standard push-button ignition, automatic emergency braking, and a 7-inch infotainment touchscreen. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard from SV up, along with blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, automatic climate control, and remote start.

At the top of the trim hierarchy is the Nissan Kicks SR, which piles on LED headlights, a 360-degree camera, and other top-shelf goodies. That model has an available Premium Package with premium Bose eight-speaker audio, heated (front-only) Prima-Tex-wrapped seats, and a security system.

Yet among the most compelling features available for the new Nissan Kicks are all the unique, colorful bolt-ons that can be ordered through the Kicks Color Studio. The number of possible combinations is nearly incalculable, with things like door mirror caps, body accents, HVAC bezels, etc., etc. that can be had in any one of five hues.

Nissan Kicks Review

“In reality, I shouldn’t have fretted because the Kicks is an admirable effort made all the more impressive by a parsimonious base price of just 18 grand. Most of its youthful target buyers probably spend more on music downloads and smartphone apps each calendar year than that.”

Read the full Nissan Kicks review here

Nissan Kicks vs Ford EcoSport

The Ford EcoSport hasn’t made quite the splash in the U.S. market that Ford was probably hoping for, selling a small fraction of the units the Escape sold in 2018. This could perhaps be attributed to its proximity in price to the Escape, its unsuitability for wide-open American roads, or an overall sense of cheapness—or maybe all of the above.

What’s more, the EcoSport starts at $21,580 with destination—nearly two grand more than the Nissan Kicks. Unlike the Kicks, the EcoSport does offer all-wheel drive, but that’s really all it has over Nissan’s nicer, more joyful subcompact crossover.

Read More 2018 Ford EcoSport Review

Nissan Kicks vs Hyundai Kona

Hyundai being rather known for its low MSRPs, it’s no small thing that the Nissan Kicks is less expensive than the Korean automaker’s new subcompact utility vehicle—by about $1,500. Both vehicles take a similar approach, appealing to a youthful audience with funky color options and an overall sense of joviality, although the more expensive Kona packs a few standard niceties not found until higher trim levels on the Kona—things like alloy wheels and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto.

And, the Hyundai Kona offers AWD as an option, although whether front- or all-wheel-drive, the Korean crossover loses out to the Nissan Kicks for fuel economy.

Read More 2018 Hyundai Kona Review

Nissan Kicks vs Kia Soul

The Kia Soul could well be considered the prototypical subcompact crossover, and its success in the U.S. market might well be the reason Nissan decided to bring in the similarly boxy Cube starting in 2009. American buyers didn’t bite with the Nissan, but the Soul soldiers on, undercutting the Nissan Kicks by roughly $1,000.

As funky as the Kicks is, here, it must bow to the Soul; Kia’s boxy crossover-wagon-hatchback thing looks unlike anything else on the market. That’s both good and bad. Like the Nissan Kicks, the Soul is FWD-only. Fuel economy isn’t as good as in the Nissan, although it packs substantially more power.

Read More 2020 Kia Soul Review

Detailed Specs

Engine / 1.6-liter 4-cyl
Horsepower (hp) / 125
Torque (lb-ft) / 115
Transmission / Continuously-variable transmission (CVT)
Drivetrain / Front-wheel-drive

Our Final Verdict

Calling the Nissan Kicks “cute” would belie its smart execution as a contender in the subcompact crossover segment. It is cute, but it has plenty more to offer besides, like a low curb weight, best-in-class fuel economy, and cargo capacity toward the top of its class. A ridiculously low starting price only sweetens the pot, almost making some of its rivals look bloated and overpriced by comparison.

The Kicks could do with all-wheel drive, but that’s by no means a dealbreaker; the elevated ride height and stable, predictable FWD should be plenty good enough for most customers’ winter needs, and considering its price point, beggars can’t be choosers.

The Nissan Kicks is no Juke—and plenty, we’re sure, will celebrate that fact. Instead, it’s around 2,600 pounds of pure, refined subcompact crossover virtue, hold the frills.

4.5