2019 Nissan Kicks SV Review - Commuter Special

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey
Fast Facts

2019 Nissan Kicks SV Fast Facts

1.6-liter four-cylinder (122 hp @ 6,300 rpm, 114 lb-ft 4,000 rpm)
Continuously-variable automatic transmission, front-wheel drive
31 city / 36 highway / 33 (EPA Estimated Rating, MPG)
7.7 city, 6.6 highway, 7.2 combined. (NRCan Rating, L/100km)
Base Price
$20,250 (U.S) / $21,998 (Canada)
As Tested
$22,700 (U.S.) / $22,418 (Canada)
Prices include $1,045 destination charge in the United States and $1,942 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can't be directly compared.

As long as individual private vehicles exist for sale, there will be a place for cheap commuter vehicles.

They don’t get much love, few aspire to buy them, but they exist to make sure that even those on a budget can get wheels that aren’t used.

Nissan’s Kicks is one such vehicle, and a pretty good one at that — as long as it sticks to its narrowly-defined mission.

Like other commuter vehicles, such as the boxy Kia Soul or Hyundai Venue (or predecessors like the Nissan Juke), the Kicks is aimed at the city dweller. The one who needs something with hatchback utility that’s easy to park more than an engaging driving experience.

Nissan’s press materials call the 1.6-liter four-cylinder that makes 122 horsepower and 114 lb-ft of torque “sporty” and well, that’s just press release spin of the highest order. It ain’t sporty. Good enough to get you around town, sure, but that’s about it. It does go about its business quietly, which is nice.

The same release called the suspension “responsive,” and that is only true in the most technical sense – the front independent strut/stabilizer bar and rear twist-beam and twin-tube shock suspension does respond to the road.

It actually does respond well enough for commuting – the ride is stiff but not unpleasant, and the Kicks doesn’t feel discombobulated in a corner. But “responsive” as written in the release seems to promise a level of sportiness that’s not offered here – and frankly, not expected in this type of car.

In other words – the Kicks doesn’t suck to drive. Not at all. But it’s programmed for urban driving, and that’s what it’s best at. It’s not going to feel at home if you challenge it further.

Which is why the steering is light and artificial. Kicks customers aren’t going to care, if they even notice. And hey, it makes parallel parking easier.

The digital pages you’re reading are aimed at enthusiasts, and I’m an enthusiast, so it’s hard not to judge vehicles by that metric, but you and I know most of the marketplace isn’t aimed at car lovers. Rather, it’s aimed at car buyers.

[Get new and used Nissan Kicks pricing here!]

Still, even those who don’t know what CVT stands for want to know how every vehicle, no matter how plebian, drives. If they didn’t, I’d not have this job. And you’d have to find another way to waste your employer’s time.

So that’s why I’m describing how the Kicks drives, despite the fact that most buyers won’t care. It’s perfectly competent for its mission and money. It’s not a box of sadness, but it’s also not secretly fun, the way a Kia Soul can be.

Speaking of CVTs, that’s the only transmission here, and it mostly avoids the usual problems associated with continuously-variable automatics.

Nissan serves up the Kicks in three trims, and the one detailed here was a mid-range (also, the volume trim) SV. That trim includes Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, automatic climate control, keyless entry and starting, 17-inch wheels, tonneau cover, remote start, and satellite radio as standard.

The only options were premium paint, premium audio, and carpeted floor and cargo mats. So the base price of $20,250 went to just $22,700 with those three options and the $1,045 destination fee.

That’s not bad for a small, boxy crossover. It’s not particularly fun, but that’s okay. Sometimes competent transport at a value price is all one needs.

[Images © 2020 Tim Healey/TTAC]

Tim Healey
Tim Healey

Tim Healey grew up around the auto-parts business and has always had a love for cars — his parents joke his first word was “‘Vette”. Despite this, he wanted to pursue a career in sports writing but he ended up falling semi-accidentally into the automotive-journalism industry, first at Consumer Guide Automotive and later at Web2Carz.com. He also worked as an industry analyst at Mintel Group and freelanced for About.com, CarFax, Vehix.com, High Gear Media, Torque News, FutureCar.com, Cars.com, among others, and of course Vertical Scope sites such as AutoGuide.com, Off-Road.com, and HybridCars.com. He’s an urbanite and as such, doesn’t need a daily driver, but if he had one, it would be compact, sporty, and have a manual transmission.

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2 of 41 comments
  • Speedlaw Speedlaw on Apr 21, 2020

    There are two car markets....the one where your fingerprint on a hood can be a $7500 option, and another where "What is the least crappy new car for my money ?" The glory of used cars is that the B&B can keep that used car 400k miles going for $12 but for the great unknowing a few inconsequential check engine lights in a row can destroy a household budget. If you can do a few basic things there is no fear, but you do realize a lot of people barely own pliers ??? Cars like this are sold to folks who have had too many used cars...they know they could get a much nicer Accord, etc for the money or even a bottom CPO BMW stripper if they go for the long payments, but for three years JUST WANT IT TO START-and that means new. Since we are past the world of Ring Time, max HP, whining about the ICE, or the bend of a fender at this point, we are like McD's - Super Size me. The food doesn't improve, but more of it ! That is why the world is trucks, be it Escalade or...this. Toss in the un maintained roads we suffer, which tend to mirror the quality of the area they are in and that cheap CUV will have a roach like survival rate which would crush a butterfly's wings....

  • HotPotato HotPotato on Apr 23, 2020

    My wife's dad bought one of these when they came out. The higher hip point and roof are good for a very tall old guy with a bad back. All the safety nannies are good for an old guy who can't turn his head like an owl to see what's behind him. (He still managed to crunch it a wee bit, which is truly an accomplishment.) The MPG isn't Prius level by any means, but it's certainly better than his old SUV. The value for money is rock-solid, though of course the dealer gave him an anal-probe of a loan. This category of vehicle sells to young people buying their first new car, and old people buying their last one.

  • Mgh57 I should just buy an old car where everything is analog.
  • Fred I've only had it for about 7 months and I like it. Mostly because I have a hard time seeing my phone screen. So even tho my Honda's screen is 6" it's a lot easier to see than my phone.
  • Cha65697928 I'm 48. Both our cars have it, I'm never going back. Being able to activate calls, messages, music, nav, opening/closing garage doors all via voice command is awesome. Now if Audi would just allow Google maps to mirror in the middle of the driver's display instead of only allowing the native nav...
  • 3-On-The-Tree Totally Agree War is total hell!
  • SCE to AUX JFK used to pronounce Laos as "lay-oss", so I want to call this car "tay-oss". But I'm told by a true VW lover that it's pronounced "ta-owse", rhyming with "house". Maybe VW should rethink a few of their product names.