The 2018 Nissan Kicks, which replaces the Juke, is aimed at “city-living consumers” according to the Japanese manufacturer. So it seemed ideal for me to spend hour after interminable hour stuck in Atlanta traffic while behind the wheel of the small crossover.
It’s not that my commute takes me through the congested city streets. No, thankfully I am happy to both live and work in the ‘burbs where gridlock is still ubiquitous on roads of all shapes and sizes, but it’s not enough to drive me to murder. Which is what I might be forced to do if I had my wife’s commute.
Each day she wakes up while the sun is still somewhere over Europe and fights the clogged arteries, much of the time at a snail’s pace, from well north of Atlanta to its heart. And each evening, she is able to count the number of stiches in her passenger seat with ease as she sits motionless on the city’s major interstates.
I do not deal well with traffic, and that became evident to my wife, my younger brother and his new girlfriend as we all sat in the Nissan Kicks, traversing just a few miles over the course of nearly two hours through downtown streets. My sunglasses had been thrown off in rage, a seemingly endless stream of expletives filled the Kicks’ cabin and I had undeniably scared the bejesus out of my brother’s quiet and seemingly innocent new girlfriend during that time. So, clearly I’m not one for ‘city living,’ but what about the Kicks?
It’s proper that the Kicks should be geared to those of an urban disposition, because it’s not for enthusiasts.
The 1.6-liter four cylinder comes with 125 horsepower and 115 pounds of torque. In short, it’s slow, but coupled with a CVT transmission it can be a bit sprightly under acceleration. Of course, you won’t be doing a lot of accelerating or much movement in downtown Atlanta, so for that, the Kicks’ performance is adequate.
The crossover’s steering is extremely light and lacking any measurable “feel”, which is a boon for parallel parking on a busy city thoroughfare, but gives the driver little to no confidence on winding roads.
The Kicks’ brakes are also impassive and give the impression you are pushing against a wall under heavy braking. Again, not very noticeable when you’re stuck in crawling traffic.
The suspension certainly opts for comfort over sportiness, so when you do find an open stretch of road, the Kicks’ ride is smooth but not firmly planted when driving with gusto.
One aspect missing from the Kicks is all-wheel drive. All models send their power solely to the front wheels.
While the Nissan may not tick boxes for those who enjoy a sporty drive, it certainly has its appealing aspects.
Perhaps the most significant is the price. After all, when you have to dish out rent for a downtown apartment, it helps to have an affordable set of wheels.
Base S models start at $17,990 and the top-trim SR I tested with optional premium paint and floor mats rang in at $21,000.
Nissan does offer good bang for your buck. The S comes standard with roof rails, automatic headlights, a 7-inch infotainment screen, three USB ports, smartphone connectivity, rearview monitor, power windows, LATCH system rear seats and automatic emergency braking.
The SR trim adds 17-inch alloy wheels, leather steering wheel, a rear spoiler, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, Sirius XM capability, an all-around view monitor and automatic temperature control. Blind spot warning and rear cross traffic alert also come standard in the top-trim.
You’ll also save some coin at the pumps. The Kicks’ small engine gets a combined 33 mpg.
Nissan may have learned its lesson from the extremely polarizing looks of the Juke the Kicks replaces. The Kicks has a handsome exterior and you can add some spunk with monarch orange paint, either on the roof, body or both.
The interior styling feels more upscale than a typical $20k car. The dash features a black leatherette face that makes a statement with orange stitching. The cloth seats are made attractive with faux-quilting and weren’t too uncomfortable in the two hours I spent in them cursing at the motionless Atlanta traffic. While otherwise rather featureless, the doors come with orange and black fabric inlays which adds a nice touch.
With a width under six feet, the Kicks does not come with enclosed storage in the center console but provides an ample amount of storage space in the rear for a small crossover. The 25.3-cubic feet of storage space in the cargo deck beats out the Kicks’ rivals.
For people, there is adequate leg and headroom in the front and rear for my brother and his terrified girlfriend, though seating any more than two in the rear, even small kids, is like packing sardines.
If you’re looking for a sporty crossover, the Kicks doesn’t foot the bill. But if you are after an attractive, spacious small crossover with plenty of standard tech and safety features in an affordable package, it does.
And if you’re looking to drive the Kicks at more than walking speed, never, ever venture through Atlanta.