A pint-sized crossover with mass appeal.
The Nissan Kicks has all the makings of a great subcompact crossover. A spacious cabin, an impressive selection of standard safety equipment, and a mere $18,870 starting price are among the highlights. But in this ultra-competitive class, even the mostly great Kicks has its flaws – minor as they may be.
For one, better driving characteristics would go a long way for the Nissan Kicks; we wish the pint-sized SUV were as fun to fling around as its name suggests. But the crossover also lacks some of the nicer cabin materials of its classmates, particularly the SV trim tested here, and the exterior styling could put some people off. Customers wanting something more eye-catching, like the Juke that the Kicks replaces, might find this crossover a bit blasé.
The tiny Nissan Kicks may look small on the outside, but it actually has one of the most spacious passenger compartments of the entire class. Front legroom (43.7 inches) is segment best, and front headroom (40.7 inches) is second only to the Jeep Renegade (41.1 inches). For your six-foot-tall author, the Kicks offers more than enough room to sit comfortably both in the front seats and back. Alternatives like the Toyota C-HR and Kia Soul feel more cramped by comparison.
Cargo space is another calling card of the Kicks. The Nissan’s 25.3 cubic feet of storage space behind the second row is best in class, beating even the larger Rogue Sport (20.0 cubic feet). Only the Honda HR-V (24.3 cubic feet) comes close in the class. Plus a low liftover height and a nice, wide opening make it easy to put things in and take things out of the trunk. Overall, Nissan's subcompact SUV offers some of the best packaging you'll find anywhere.
Not only is it one of the most spacious, but the Nissan Kicks is also one of the safest subcompact crossovers you can buy. It's the only vehicle in the class that has both front and rear automatic emergency braking as standard, and it’s one of the few with an available 360-degree camera (on the range-topping SR model). The Kicks is also an overall Top Safety Pick by the IIHS. If you’re looking for safety in the subcompact crossover segment, the Nissan Kicks is the vehicle to get.
You can buy a brand-new Nissan Kicks for as little as $18,870. Admittedly, it’s not the most affordable of the bunch (both the Hyundai Venue and Soul are cheaper to start), but even our fully-loaded SV tester tops out at just $24,810 with a laundry list of options. Some of those add-ons include an upgraded Rockford audio system ($665), an interior electronics package ($575) – which has interior ambient lighting, a door pocket light, and a frameless rearview mirror – optional 17-inch black wheels ($495), two-tone paint ($250), exterior ground lighting ($275), and a few others.
The Nissan Kicks is pretty pedestrian from the driver's seat. The 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine’s 122 horsepower feels like just enough, the continuous variable transmission is mostly inoffensive but can get whiny at speed, and the suspension is soft and squishy, which makes for a comfortable but uninspired ride. If you want a subcompact with a little more verve, both the Hyundai Kona and Toyota C-HR are more thrilling.
We don't expect luxury car quality in this class, but even the Nissan Kicks feels second-rate by comparison. There's a lot of hard plastic on the door panels and the knobs and dials are a bit flimsy. The cloth seats on our SV tester have nice stitching to them, but don't feel of the highest quality. And you have to select the range-topping SR trim for things like a stitched, leather-wrapped steering wheel and Nissan's fake “Prima-Tex” leather seating, which we prefer.
The Nissan Kicks looks fine. But in following the wildly styled Juke, the Kicks's clean exterior is too boring by comparison. And while certain colors look great on the Kicks – like Monarch Orange with a contrasting black roof, or our tester's Cayenne Red exterior, black roof, and black wheels – other more standard colors don't really do the SUV justice. It looks sort of frumpy in certain combinations.