Nissan’s Kicks is one such vehicle, and a pretty good one at that — as long as it sticks to its narrowly-defined mission.
Like other commuter vehicles, such as the boxy Kia Soul or Hyundai Venue (or predecessors like the Nissan Juke), the Kicks is aimed at the city dweller. The one who needs something with hatchback utility that’s easy to park more than an engaging driving experience.
Nissan’s press materials call the 1.6-liter four-cylinder that makes 122 horsepower and 114 lb-ft of torque “sporty” and well, that’s just press release spin of the highest order. It ain’t sporty. Good enough to get you around town, sure, but that’s about it. It does go about its business quietly, which is nice.
The same release called the suspension “responsive,” and that is only true in the most technical sense – the front independent strut/stabilizer bar and rear twist-beam and twin-tube shock suspension does respond to the road.
It actually does respond well enough for commuting – the ride is stiff but not unpleasant, and the Kicks doesn’t feel discombobulated in a corner. But “responsive” as written in the release seems to promise a level of sportiness that’s not offered here – and frankly, not expected in this type of car.
In other words – the Kicks doesn’t suck to drive. Not at all. But it’s programmed for urban driving, and that’s what it’s best at. It’s not going to feel at home if you challenge it further.
Which is why the steering is light and artificial. Kicks customers aren’t going to care, if they even notice. And hey, it makes parallel parking easier.
The digital pages you’re reading are aimed at enthusiasts, and I’m an enthusiast, so it’s hard not to judge vehicles by that metric, but you and I know most of the marketplace isn’t aimed at car lovers. Rather, it’s aimed at car buyers.
[Get new and used Nissan Kicks pricing here!]
Still, even those who don’t know what CVT stands for want to know how every vehicle, no matter how plebian, drives. If they didn’t, I’d not have this job. And you’d have to find another way to waste your employer’s time.
So that’s why I’m describing how the Kicks drives, despite the fact that most buyers won’t care. It’s perfectly competent for its mission and money. It’s not a box of sadness, but it’s also not secretly fun, the way a Kia Soul can be.
Speaking of CVTs, that’s the only transmission here, and it mostly avoids the usual problems associated with continuously-variable automatics.
Nissan serves up the Kicks in three trims, and the one detailed here was a mid-range (also, the volume trim) SV. That trim includes Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, automatic climate control, keyless entry and starting, 17-inch wheels, tonneau cover, remote start, and satellite radio as standard.
The only options were premium paint, premium audio, and carpeted floor and cargo mats. So the base price of $20,250 went to just $22,700 with those three options and the $1,045 destination fee.
That’s not bad for a small, boxy crossover. It’s not particularly fun, but that’s okay. Sometimes competent transport at a value price is all one needs.