By on July 15, 2019

2019 Nissan Kicks front quarter

2019 Nissan Kicks SR

1.6-liter inline four, DOHC (122 hp @ 6300 rpm, 114 lb/ft. @ 4000 rpm)

Continuously-variable transmission, front-wheel drive

31 city / 36 highway / 33 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

34.0 (observed mileage, MPG)

7.7 city / 6.6 highway / 7.2 combined (NRCan Rating, L/100km)

Base Price: $21,015 US / $25,341 CAD

As Tested: $23,330 US/ $26,164 CAD

Prices include $1,045 destination charge in the United States and $1942 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can’t be directly compared.

I’m not a well-traveled man. While I’ll happily drive for fifteen hours or more from my Ohio home, I rarely fly anywhere — and now that I have kids, the expense involved in winging it keeps my wallet firmly in my pocket as I gird for some windshield time. Accordingly, other than a couple of very brief hour-long jaunts to Niagara Falls and Windsor, I’ve never traveled out of the US.

But this publication — and, ultimately, my paycheck — comes from Canada. Thus, I’ve been casually dreaming of a road trip to the Great White North, exploring where many have been before — and doing it like a local. I’d stuff myself with poutine, Timbits, and donair, all while driving the unofficial car of Quebec — the dirt-cheap Nissan Micra.

I’ve yet to apply for a passport. But I have Tim Hortons here in Ohio, and I can drive something close to the Micra – the 2019 Nissan Kicks. Sure, it’s a crossover rather than a microcar, but the essence remains. Cheap, efficient, cheerful, and not-at-all sporty make for an appealing package to this dad on a budget — especially as one of the kids will be driving in a couple of years.

2019 Nissan Kicks profile

While Nissan is careful not to call the Kicks a replacement for the still-available-elsewhere Juke, it most certainly is from the view of the consumer. It’s not nearly as funky looking — which can be a double-edged sword. That Nissan offers a couple of funky color packages — like the orange/copper roof atop this grey body — shows they are looking to grab some eyeballs with an otherwise-conservative crossover package.

2019 Nissan Kicks front

I’m actually fond of the Kicks’ styling. I’m especially enamored with the low beltline, allowing for great visibility to all four corners. While this is a low-riding car being sold as a crossover, one does get the feel of a higher ride height since the eyes sit high up in the cabin. It’s nice to have a commanding view even in a subcompact crossover.

2019 Nissan Kicks rear

Unless you live in a neighborhood dripping with old Yugos and Geos, you will not win any stoplight races in the Kicks. 122 horsepower is adequate for most driving needs but, when paired with the standard continuously-variable transmission, it’s not a recipe for rapid acceleration. I never had problems when merging onto the interstate, though. Just don’t do it for pink slips.

2019 Nissan Kicks rear quarter

The handling is exactly what one would expect from a budget crossover — competent for city and highway driving, but in no way fun to drive. The steering gives little feedback, but when paired with the excellent outward visibility, it’s easy to place the Kicks in tight gaps in city traffic. Using the top-down view from the surround-view camera makes parking in tight garages a cinch. No, all-wheel drive isn’t available, and I’m sure that it’s a deal killer for some. While winter had left us in Ohio during our test, I’m sure that front drive paired with a raised ride-height will be suitable for all but the worst snow situations.

On the highway, the ride is quiet and controlled. Very little wind or road noise filters through to the cabin. Only while accelerating do you really hear the racket of the four-cylinder and CVT — and you do hear it. But otherwise, the Kicks is a pleasant place to while away the miles.

2019 Nissan Kicks front seat

The front seats are Nissan’s Zero Gravity seats, and they are marvelous. They do a great job of minimizing fatigue over a long drive. The kids had plenty of rear-seat room, as well — at a bit over six feet and several bites above my “ideal” weight, I can fit in the rear for short drives, but my knees do press into the driver’s seatback while adjusted to my size. Folks below the 95th percentile will be fine.

2019 Nissan Kicks rear seat

Cargo space is good, if not all that wide due to the intrusion of the wheel wells. A week’s worth of groceries for this family of four didn’t tax the hatch, but I did have to angle a pair of folding camp chairs across the hatch floor.

2019 Nissan Kicks cargo area

The optional Bose audio system fitted to this SR trim is quite good — as it borrows a trick from my now-ancient Miata. The Bose system places a speaker in the driver’s headrest to help put the sound right where you want it. I’m sure some audiophiles will chime in here telling me that it isn’t a good speaker placement — but those audiophiles likely stopped reading when I wrote Bose anyhow. All I know is the music from the SiriusXM, Bluetooth, or the paired Apple CarPlay/Android Auto sounds quite good to my unsophisticated ears.

2019 Nissan Kicks center stack

One can indeed get into a Kicks right around $19,000 should the budget be especially tight. At that number, colors are limited to silver, white, and black, and bumpers and mirrors are black rather than painted. You give up fog lights, the eight-speaker Bose audio (that was optional even on my loaded tester), Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, the nicer 7-inch screen, push-button start, and the top-down camera view when parking. The big features that the base model lack are blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert — though you naturally have rear-view camera. At that price, it’s a compelling package  — and the roughly four thousand dollar jump to this loaded SR trim isn’t too hard to swallow should the fancier bits be attractive.

2019 Nissan Kicks interior

I’ve yet to find a subcompact crossover that is perfect. Some drive beautifully but have limited passenger and cargo space. Others are comfortable but dull to drive. This Nissan Kicks errs on the comfortably numb side – but it’s a well-priced conveyance for those non-enthusiast car buyers who inexplicably can’t rattle off zero-to-sixty times. Rather, it’s a great choice for someone who just wants to hop in and drive to explore the continent.

2019 Nissan Kicks badge

[Images: © 2019 Chris Tonn]


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37 Comments on “2019 Nissan Kicks Review – Shut Up And Drive...”

  • avatar

    IB4 people complain about back seat room in a (sub?)compact vehicle…

    If space is a concern, you aren’t the target market.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      20 fewer horsepower than was available in a Sentra 25 years ago. It’s a plie for a number of reasons.

      And plenty of people complain about trucks not fitting in their garage so it seems valid.

      And yes, if you are going to put doors back there, people should fit.

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        Of course, the old 94 Sentra didn’t run as clean, got 22% worse fuel economy, and was a death trap despite weighing only 200 lbs less than the Kicks.

        • 0 avatar

          Agreed. The Kicks is a good value for what it is and is certainly a much safer and more confidence inspiring vehicle than an old Sentra. For someone who needs a cheap new car, its hard to do worse given the dollar to value ratio.

        • 0 avatar

          “Of course, the old 94 Sentra didn’t run as clean, got 22% worse fuel economy, and was a death trap…”

          I’d guess the dollars saved by the increased MPG will likely be lost when it comes time to media-blast the intake valves clean and/or replace the fragile Nissan CVT. We all got by just fine, for many decades, driving what are now suddenly scary “death traps!”
          I’d gladly take a (new) ’94 Sentra over a Kicks (what sarcasm!).

  • avatar

    I like this little Nissan, but what kills it for me in regards to all CVT Nissans is their transmission. I just rented a 2018 Nissan Altima SL and put about 2200 miles on it. Decent car overall, although not in Accord or even Camry league, but made horrendous by its CVT. It had the 2.5 4 cylinder of course but that transmission was made just for the flat interstate. You take it to hilly terrain, God forbid mountains of NC? Good luck. Make sure you plan your passings well in advance or better yet, don’t pass anything. All that car makes when you stump on the gas is noise. Oh, the CVT has an “S” mode? More noise. Yes, I know they get great mileage because of it. My rental got 36 mpg overall ( mostly hwy) but I rather get 34 mpg and have a properly calibrated 6-8 speed auto.
    By the way, the Donair is a gyro abomination. You aren’t missing much.
    As the Kicks goes? Nice looking little mini SUV, much better looking than the old bug eyed Juke. Too bad they don’t come with a 5-6 speed manual. That would make it perfect.

    • 0 avatar

      I can’t find anything attractive about a CVT-equipped vehicle. We had a rented 2018 Murano this weekend which my wife drove us around in. She never thought about it, but I didn’t care for it.

      OTOH, Nissan has mastered the “fake shifts” and dramatically lowered the NVH in that Murano, and the mpg was decent. All that driving we did, and it was a bunch, yet it only took one quarter of a tank to fill it up to the top of the filler-tube.

      That Murano was as quiet as a tomb in city traffic and on the interstate. Probably should not expect the same from this Kicks.

      • 0 avatar

        I don’t see any point or benefit to fake upshifts in a CVT. A big selling point of a CVT is a buttery smooth drive without the jerkiness and gear hunting of a stepped automatic. Instead of four or five ratios that are never quite right, the car can adjust the ratio constantly: you always have the power you need without wasting gas to get it. So why ruin it? Because the salesman is too dumb to explain how a CVT works? Because the driver is so set in his ways that wants his underpowered car to prematurely upshift and bog because that’s what he’s “used to”? It makes no sense.

        That said, I finally got to experience CVT dislike on a trip to the Sierras in a rented Mitsubishi Outlander. Uphill, the CVT did exactly what you’d want, making the trip quieter, smoother and more pleasant than in a comparable car with a stepped auto. But downhill, the two artificial downshift points on the selector didn’t work in a particularly satisfying or predictable way to retard speed. I’d trade them in a second for the “downhill mode” in Ford’s CVT: engage it at any given speed and the car will use engine braking to maintain exactly that speed as best it can.

        P.S. For the love of all that is holy, stop filling to the neck of the filler tube. From the US EPA website: “In this era of high gas prices, it doesn’t pay to top off your gas tank. Those extra drops of gasoline may not end up in your tank, even though you pay for them. Instead, gasoline is probably being sucked back into the gas station’s vapor recovery system or evaporating into the air, causing air pollution. When the pump automatically shuts off, that’s the signal your gas tank is filled. Putting more gas into an already full tank can actually damage your car’s vapor recovery system.”

        • 0 avatar

          “stop filling to the neck of the filler tube.”

          Learned from experience to top off the gas tank BEFORE turning in a rental.

          Been nipped on my credit card too many times by various car rental companies who topped off the tank with their $10/gallon gas, after I had turned it in when the gas pump had indicated my tank was full.

          No such problems when filling up to the filler neck.

        • 0 avatar

          Not sure how Mitsubishi’s CVT is but Nissan’s is horrendous on hills. I know Honda has some of the best CVTs in the business but I didn’t have a chance to drive one in the hills. I thought the Nissan did ok on the downhills.

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t know if a conventional auto would improve things, but this seems like a very unpleasant experience.

  • avatar

    What a strange vehicle to have a 360 camera view. I’m afraid to ask since I probably know the answer already, but do people really struggle to park tiny cars like this? Yikes.

    • 0 avatar
      Secret Hi5

      It’s all about sight lines, regardless of size.
      e.g. I had to get used to reversing a hard-top Miata into a parking spot because of awful rear visibility. The Kicks, though, looks like it has decent vis. Unfortunately Mr. Tonn didn’t address that topic in his review.

      • 0 avatar

        Yes to an extent, but with a subcompact vehicle like this, you don’t need to have the sightline to place the corner of the car right at the edge of the line, because the spot is sized for a full sized truck or SUV. Come in at an angle, or leave it 2 feet short, or whatever, and there’s still room on all sides.

        My F350 has a bird’s eye camera system, which I appreciate because in that vehicle there is no margin for error in a tight spot.

        • 0 avatar

          The northeast is going to European style “pay and display” parking, so parallel parking spots are now randomly sized – overall a great thing for those of us who like small cars. Anything that let’s you position the car better is a boon, since cars are no longer designed to be seen out of.

    • 0 avatar

      In Minnesota crossing the center line for a reversing 90° park is an automatic fail. I see so many people driving mass market people mobiles who seem to have a complete inability to back 90° instead doing this weird 130° maneuver that takes them 20 minutes to accomplish. There is nothing available to Joe Schmo that can’t be reversed 90°.

      On the few occasions I’ve borrowed my friend’s F150 I’ve found a 90° backing park to be easier that parking nose in.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Chris, I agree with all your comments on this car.

    I came within minutes of buying a Kicks last fall, except the dealer’s used car assessor had left for the day. I ended up with the Ioniq EV instead, without trading my hybrid. The Kicks remains on my list.

    Personally, living in the Pittsburgh area I have no need for AWD or more power, and that slimming is what allows the Kicks to achieve such good fuel economy. It’s far more driveable than my Optima Hybrid, with just about the same fuel economy, and higher seating.

    This car continues to sell well, which is good news for Nissan.

    • 0 avatar
      Secret Hi5

      Kicks, too, is near the top of my list for a secondary car. I’d like to see how the Hyundai Venue compares. Venue supposedly will have a manual transmission!

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        Agreed – the Venue looks like a nice alternate choice (on paper). I’m no fan of a CVT, but I think Nissan’s CVT is pretty well sorted out by now, and it seemed responsive enough.

        I’m probably done with manuals, except for a project car someday.

        Overall, I prefer either a 6-speed automatic or a 1-speed EV. :)

  • avatar

    I think this one would be too slow even for my nonenthusiast family members.

    Decent observed MPG though.

  • avatar

    If this was Mazda…

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    My better half loves her Rogue, with one caveat. She thinks that it is ‘too big’. Since our local Nissan dealer has been ‘aces’ (both in service and sales), we therefore, are thinking seriously about another Nissan.

    When I drive the Rogue, not often, I find I like the seats, the ‘cinema style’ rear seating and the fuel consumption which is truly parsimonious. The NVH is also more than acceptable.

    One other issue with the Kicks, didn’t some consumer advocates replicate the Saturn Vue/Suzuki Samurai driving experience with one?

    Due to the Kicks being a CVT, I would prefer to lease. Which is how we acquired the Rogue. However since Nissan has more experience with CVTs than the other mainstream auto manufacturers, perhaps theirs is now sorted out? And aside from Hyundai/Kia, it appears that the other manufacturers and particularly the Japanese are turning to the use of CVT’s in their CUVs.

    Other options that I have floated are the Kia Soul and Kia Niro.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      The moose test was performed by an auto reviewer in Mexico, with and without the stability control. Stability control is optional in Mexico, but standard in the US. Without it, the car nearly rolled over.

      Here is the video. The first driver is clearly shaken after his near-rollover experience:

      But the US-spec car performed very well. I’d have no worries.

  • avatar

    I poked around at a couple of display Kicks of varying trim levels while my wife was test driving a Leaf a couple months ago.

    They make no bones about being cheap. Everything feels and looks cheap. But given the price and content that’s not really a problem. It’s a good value and should have just about the lowest TCO of any high-riding car.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Chris, I believe that even with the changes in the law initiated by the U.S. government that a U.S. citizen does not require a passport when entering Canada by car.

    However, you may need some sort of enhanced identification to return to the USA.

    Since I am not an American citizen, I have no first hand experience of this.

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      My experience is that Canada’s government doesn’t require a passport from a US citizen with a driver’s license for entry . . . but the US government requires a passport for re-entry.

      So, the ever-helpful Canadians don’t let US citizens drive in without their passports. They don’t want them stuck in Canada.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Actually, you do now need a passport for both directions, even by car.

      • 0 avatar

        Aren’t the RealID licenses accepted as well?

      • 0 avatar

        “Actually, you do now need a passport for both directions, even by car.”

        That’s correct!

        My own experience driving from the US to Canada at Vancouver. We held out our passports AND our drivers licenses for the border guard to see and she waived us through.

        Ditto entering the US from Canada AND from Mexico, as we often do these days. They’re pretty lax. They look into our eyes. Then wave us through.

        The only thorough passport inspection we’ve had was at Chicago’s O’Hare coming back from Israel by way of Heathrow (London, UK). That old Customs guy was THOROUGH, checking both our passports against the State Dept Data Base, and our Military ID’s against the MilID Data Base, before letting us back in to the US.

        I must have looked like a terrorist to him. And I was clean-shaven, too!

        I think he was just PO’d at the world because he didn’t get laid the night before, and my wife, Kitty, looked really great in her lightweight summer dress and huge sunhat, weighing all of 118 pounds at 5’8″.

        • 0 avatar
          Arthur Dailey

          From the Government of Canada website:
          ‘Citizens of the U.S. who are members of the NEXUS program may present their membership card as proof of identification and as a document that denotes citizenship, when arriving by air (when coming from the U.S.), land, or marine modes.

          Citizens of the U.S. who are members of the FAST program may use their cards as proof of identity when arriving by land and marine modes only.

          Permanent residents of the U.S. who are members of the NEXUS or FAST programs must travel with a passport and proof of permanent residence, and may be asked to present these documents to the officer upon arrival at the border.

          Permanent residents of the U.S. who are members of NEXUS also need an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) when flying to or transiting through Canada. Citizens of the U.S. and Canada are exempted.

          Visa-exempt foreign nationals need an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) to fly to or transit through Canada. Exceptions include U.S. citizens and travellers with a valid Canadian visa.’

  • avatar

    Manufacturers have figured out how to make the subcompact hatchback profitable. The Sparks and Sonics and Fiestas look too dorky in original form, but jacked up and given cyborg styling, they look . . . palatable, if not aspirational. None of these things would sell in regular “car” form, but as a CUV, they look tolerable. Let’s face it, particularly as a man, driving something like a Chevy Spark makes you look ridiculous, or worse, like you live in your parents’ basement off of Diet Dr. Pepper and Cheetos. For ladies, a Spark makes you look like you struggled to get through cosmetology school, but prayed a lot and managed to make it.

    This looks decent and not slumming or People of Wal-Martish. The lower level starts at $19K? The equivalent Versa was somewhere around $12K? This seems like a decent deal, but if I needed rear seat space/real cargo room, I’d look at the Journey again.

    • 0 avatar

      You would look at a Journey? A wagon two feet longer than a Kicks? With much poorer fuel economy? There has to be something in between that you would like.

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