Get Yer Kicks: Nissan's Latest Utility Vehicle Will Soon Be Its Tiniest

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

The dubious long-term sales potential of the subcompact crossover segment isn’t swaying Nissan from introducing a B-segment vehicle in the United States. The automaker’s seventh utility vehicle, carrying the youthful name Kicks, debuted at the L.A. Auto Show today.

The Kicks is the only way Americans can take home any part of a Nissan Micra, as the diminutive crossover rides atop a second-generation version of that vehicle’s platform. The first-generation platform, you’ll recall, underpinned the funky Nissan Juke. That model, known for its polarizing styling, isn’t long for this world.

In its place, the Kicks offers slightly larger dimensions and — most importantly — safe and modern styling.

Everything about the Kicks seems designed to lure young, urban, tech-obsessed Millennials to the brand’s utility lineup, where Nissan hopes they’ll stay (and one day purchase a Rogue Sport, Rogue, Pathfinder, Murano, and Armada). The model’s anything but America-focused, however. It first went on sale in overseas markets in 2016.

When it arrives next June as a 2018 model, the Kicks faces no shortage of competition. The Chevrolet Trax, Mazda CX-3, Ford EcoSport, Honda HR-V, Jeep Renegade, and Toyota C-HR lie in wait to challenge the new Nissan for subcompact sales.

In terms of abilities, the Kicks, which stretches just over half a foot longer than the Juke, boasts more ground clearance than some of its competitors (7.0 inches), but comes only in front-wheel drive. It’s available in eye-catching colors, and its blacked out C-pillar and roof is in keeping with current design trends, both corporate and industry-wide. Viewed from either the side or front, there’s Nissan cues everywhere. There’s also five available two-tone colour combinations, with the roof coming in white, orange, or black, depending on your preference.

Naturally, there’s lower bodyside and wheel arch cladding aplenty. Combined with the model’s generous ground clearance, the plastic trim gives the Kicks enough of a butch stance to avoid a “cute ute” label.

The only available engine won’t set any speed records, but should be adequate for a vehicle of this size. In this application, Nissan’s 1.6-liter four-cylinder makes 125 horsepower and 115 lb-ft of torque. When combined with the only available transmission, an Xtronic continuously variable unit, Nissan predicts a combined fuel economy figure of 33 miles per gallon.

Befitting of a youth-targeted model, the base Kicks S arrives with decent content. Automatic emergency braking, forward collision warning, and a rearview monitor come standard, as does roof rails, intelligent auto headlights, and Bluetooth. Nissan’s Vehicle Dynamic Control system (VDC) and hill-start assist helps base model drivers avoid getting into trouble.

Of course, if you’re looking for the two most popular driver’s aids — blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert — you’ll need to step up to the midrange SV model. That trim also adds Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and a proximity key. The SR is the sportiest Kicks variant, adding go-fast appearance bits like a rear spoiler and body color bumper inserts, LED headlight bling, and a more colorful interior. Besides the addition of 17-inch wheels (the SV gets the same), SR buyers receive a more stable ride thanks to Nissan’s Integrated Dynamic-Control Module.

Like Toyota’s C-HR, it’s assumed that sporty Kicks drivers won’t want for more power.

Pricing remains a mystery for now. However, Nissan claims its price points (scheduled for publication next spring, just prior to launch) will be “among the most competitive in the segment.” It wouldn’t be a Nissan it there wasn’t some sort of value proposition.

[Images: Nissan]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • Facepunch Facepunch on Nov 30, 2017

    "The Kicks is the only way Americans can take home any part of a Nissan Micra..." Huh?? If Americans yearn to experience the Canuck Micra, they can get a much better sense of the car just by getting into a Versa sedan or Note. They're all built on the same platform in the same Mexican factory and share major components: same HR16DE engine, manual transmission, shared suspension bits, brakes, many shared interior bits (seats, cluster, dashboard bits etc).

  • Tankinbeans Tankinbeans on Dec 03, 2017

    When I hear Kicks I think of wannabe trendy 1990s teenagers who are buying the newest ugly shoes because everybody's got to have them. I will say that is the first Nissan in quite awhile that hasn't given me the urge to have a personal protein spill. It's much better than the Maxima pad and its slightly small brother the Altima. There's nothing here that I would want, but I imagine it'll serve its purpose in the same way the micro-SUVs from Toyota, Honda, Mazda, GM and Ford serve theirs. Tastefully boring is much better than tastelessly garish.

  • Bkojote Allright, actual person who knows trucks here, the article gets it a bit wrong.First off, the Maverick is not at all comparable to a Tacoma just because they're both Hybrids. Or lemme be blunt, the butch-est non-hybrid Maverick Tremor is suitable for 2/10 difficulty trails, a Trailhunter is for about 5/10 or maybe 6/10, just about the upper end of any stock vehicle you're buying from the factory. Aside from a Sasquatch Bronco or Rubicon Jeep Wrangler you're looking at something you're towing back if you want more capability (or perhaps something you /wish/ you were towing back.)Now, where the real world difference should play out is on the trail, where a lot of low speed crawling usually saps efficiency, especially when loaded to the gills. Real world MPG from a 4Runner is about 12-13mpg, So if this loaded-with-overlander-catalog Trailhunter is still pulling in the 20's - or even 18-19, that's a massive improvement.
  • Lou_BC "That’s expensive for a midsize pickup" All of the "offroad" midsize trucks fall in that 65k USD range. The ZR2 is probably the cheapest ( without Bison option).
  • Lou_BC There are a few in my town. They come out on sunny days. I'd rather spend $29k on a square body Chevy
  • Lou_BC I had a 2010 Ford F150 and 2010 Toyota Sienna. The F150 went through 3 sets of brakes and Sienna 2 sets. Similar mileage and 10 year span.4 sets tires on F150. Truck needed a set of rear shocks and front axle seals. The solenoid in the T-case was replaced under warranty. I replaced a "blend door motor" on heater. Sienna needed a water pump and heater blower both on warranty. One TSB then recall on spare tire cable. Has a limp mode due to an engine sensor failure. At 11 years old I had to replace clutch pack in rear diff F150. My ZR2 diesel at 55,000 km. Needs new tires. Duratrac's worn and chewed up. Needed front end alignment (1st time ever on any truck I've owned).Rear brakes worn out. Left pads were to metal. Chevy rear brakes don't like offroad. Weird "inside out" dents in a few spots rear fenders. Typically GM can't really build an offroad truck issue. They won't warranty. Has fender-well liners. Tore off one rear shock protector. Was cheaper to order from GM warehouse through parts supplier than through Chevy dealer. Lots of squeaks and rattles. Infotainment has crashed a few times. Seat heater modual was on recall. One of those post sale retrofit.Local dealer is horrific. If my son can't service or repair it, I'll drive 120 km to the next town. 1st and last Chevy. Love the drivetrain and suspension. Fit and finish mediocre. Dealer sucks.
  • MaintenanceCosts You expect everything on Amazon and eBay to be fake, but it's a shame to see fake stuff on Summit Racing. Glad they pulled it.