Topical: Nissan's Okay With a Front-drive Crossover, but Toyota Has Regrets

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

This morning’s Question of the Day was all about all-wheel drive and which models could stand a dose of four-wheel traction. So far, no one’s talking about the Nissan Versa Note.

Nissan, however, is more than happy to talk about the fact that its upcoming Kicks subcompact crossover will arrive with power relegated only to the front wheels. Hardly a brawny setup for a high-riding vehicle, but the automaker doesn’t seem to care much about the buyers it might be leaving behind. Toyota, on the other hand, harbors lingering regrets over its entry in the B-segment class, the C-HR.

Speaking to Wards Auto at the recent L.A. Auto Show, Michael Bunce, senior vice president for product planning at Nissan North America, expects sales near the top of the segment for the oddly-named Kicks.

“We don’t introduce cars in the U.S. – unless they’re the halos, the Zs and the GTRs – under (the) 50,000/60,000 (annual sales target),” Bunce said.

Geared towards singles in their 20s and 30s, the Kicks arrives next spring with modest power from its sole powertrain (125 horsepower and 115 lb-ft of torque from a 1.6-liter four-cylinder, mated to a continuously variable transmission), 7.0 inches of ground clearance, the aforementioned FWD, and a long list of two-tone color combinations. The automaker expects high fuel economy, predicting a combined figure of 33 miles per gallon. Nissan’s plan is to market the hell out of the product to the youthful urban crowd – buyers who probably aren’t concerned about fording rivers or climbing mountains.

Also speaking to Wards was Bob Carter, president of Toyota Motor Sales USA. While Toyota’s C-HR also sports funky, youthful styling — funkier than the Kicks, for sure — as well as two-tone color combinations, the model’s sales aren’t exactly skyrocketing. Carter claims the C-HR’s front-drive-only setup has hurt its sales potential. Other subcompact rivals, like Honda’s HR-V, offer all-wheel drive.

The HR-V went on sale in May 2015, racking up 6,381 U.S. sales in that first month. Since then, the model’s monthly sales have nearly topped 10,000 units on several occasions, with November’s showing of 6,153 units serving as a 10-month low. The C-HR first appeared on lots in April of this year. While a ramp-up is to be expected, so far the model hasn’t cracked the 4,000-unit barrier. November’s C-HR sales amounted to 3,391 vehicles in the U.S.

It’s no wonder Toyota is talking about adding another small crossover (this one with all-wheel drive and a more rugged persona) to its lineup.

As for the Kicks, a volume floor of 50,000-60,000 vehicle per year would place it well below the HR-V in terms of sales, but (unless something changes) significantly above the C-HR. Bunce doesn’t feel like FWD will handicap the Kicks, as he doesn’t feel that the C-HR’s drive wheels was the problem. He blames price.

“In the U.S. there’s still a great correlation between size and price point, and we look at vehicles like the one you just mentioned where the price point is relatively high,” Bunce said. “When the customer sees it, they’re looking for AWD.”

With a planned entry price of less than $19,000, the Kicks would undercut the C-HR by roughly $3,500 — not an insignificant gap, and not a price point where one would expect all the trimmings.

[Image: Nissan]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • Sector 5 Sector 5 on Dec 15, 2017

    All about getting them hitched to the brand them moving up to a Rogue. What's Toy presently got that meets Rogue sales-wise?

  • Yahne-san Yahne-san on Dec 20, 2017

    So basically Nissan has decided that since ugly and squareish failed in the Cube, it is time to try ugly and pointy in the Kicks?

  • Rust-MyEnemy Whoa, what the hell is wrong with Jalop1991 and his condescension? It's as if he's employed by Big Plug-In or something."I've seen plenty of your types on the forums....."Dunno what that means, but I'm not dead keen on being regarded as "A type" by a complete stranger"" I'm guessing you've never actually calculated by hand the miles you've driven against the quantity of gas used--which is your actual miles per gallon."Guess again. Why the hell would you even say that? Yes, I worked it out. Fill-to-fill, based on gas station receipts. And it showed me that a Vauxhall Astra PHEV, starting out with a fully charged PHEV battery, in Hybrid mode, on my long (234-mile) daily motorway daily commute, never, over several months, ever matched or beat the economy of the regular hybrid Honda Civic that I ran for a similar amount of time (circa 5000 miles)."You don't use gasoline at all for 30-40 miles as you use exclusively battery power, then your vehicle is a pure hybrid. Over 234 miles, you will have used whatever gas the engine used for 200 of those miles."At least you're right on that. In hybrid mode, though, the Astra was using battery power when it wasn't at all appropriate. The petrol engine very rarely chimed in when battery power was on tap, and as a result, the EV-mode range quickly disappeared. The regular hybrid Civic, though, deployed its very small electric reserves (which are used up quickly but restore themselves promptly), much more wisely. Such as when on a trailing throttle or on a downward grade, or when in stop-start traffic. As a result, at the end of my 234 miles, the Civic had used less gas than the Astra. Moreover, I hadn't had to pay for the electricity in its battery.I look forward to you arguing that what actually happened isn't what actually happened, but I was there and you were not."Regardless, that you don't understand it appears not to have stopped you from pontificating on it. Please, do us all a favor--don't vote."You really are quite unpleasant, aren't you. But thanks for the advice.
  • Tassos Jong-iL Electric vehicles are mandated by 2020 in One Korea. We are ahead of the time.
  • 1995_SC Can you still get some of the tax credits under the new program?
  • Analoggrotto HyundaiGenesisKia saw this coming a long time ago and are poised for hybrid and plug-in hybrid segment leadership:[list=1][*] The most extensive range of hybrids[/*][*]Highest hybrid sales proportion over any other model [/*][*]Best YouTube reviews [/*][*]Highest number of consumer reports best picks [/*][*]Class leading ATPs among all hybrid vehicles and PHEVs enjoy segment bearing eATPs[/*][/list=1]While some brands like Toyota have invested and wasted untold fortunes into full range electric lineups HyundaiKiaGenesis has taken the right approach here.
  • EBFlex The answer is yes. Anyone that says no is just….. wrong.But the government doesn’t want people to have that much freedom and the politicians aren’t making money off PHEVs or HEVs. So they will be stifled.
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