Lawyers are the fun police, aren’t they? Always getting in the way of you doing something interesting and/or stupid, right? Every week when I get a new vehicle to test, it’s prefaced by a few pages of legalese to be electronically signed, with a number of restrictions and prohibitions on what you can and cannot do with the vehicle.
Upon scheduling the delivery of this 2022 Nissan Kicks, I spoke with a Nissan representative, thinking I might be able to weasel my way past one of those lawyerly lines keeping my teenage daughter, turning 16 the day the Kicks arrived, from driving the smallest Nissan. No dice, I’m afraid, so I had to put myself (figuratively, of course) into her shoes, imagining what the Kicks might be like for a new driver.
On paper, the 2021 Nissan Kicks doesn’t seem all that different.
And really, it isn’t – most changes involve the addition of new features, though the exterior is also refreshed, getting a new grille and available LED headlights.
The only real mechanical change is the addition of rear disc brakes for the SV and SR trims.
Yet when Nissan loaned me a Kicks some months back (the snow in some of these pics is a giveaway), I immediately noticed a difference, in terms of ride and handling, between the 2021 model and previous versions I’ve piloted.
The difference was slight but nonetheless noticeable.
Almost every day I go for a walk that takes me up the hill behind my apartment. And on that route, I pass by a black, base model Nissan Kicks parked in my neighbor’s driveway. A value special, for sure, and one with a decent amount of attributes — its starting price being topmost among them.
In a country far, far away, Nissan just introduced an altogether different Kicks, and at least one part of it should make its way stateside.
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.
Not concerned with offering all-wheel drive, Nissan’s recently launched Kicks subcompact knows its ground clearance, styling, and low, low entry price is what customers will take notice of, not its perceived off-road prowess. It doesn’t have any (though on dry and flat boulder-free trails, it would probably do fine).
After Nissan unveiled its pricing in the U.S. and Canada, we noticed that the normal north-of-the-border markup was missing in action. As a result, buying a base Kicks S in Canada is just eight bucks pricier than an American purchase ($17,998 vs. $17,990). Both Canada and the U.S. love their big trucks, I said at the time, but this little ute will do better north of the border.
It’s always nice to be proven right.
Nissan may have discontinued the North American-market Juke earlier this year, but the model remains a popular item in the European market, dating back to its 2010 debut. There, its polarizing looks and role as an enjoyable to drive city car helped keep the model relevant.
As even the freshest of takes can get stale after seven years, the Juke is due for a redesign. But will Nissan change the formula to give the small crossover broader appeal, or will weirdness, once again, rule the day? Considering Americans no longer have to contend with its quirks, as we have the subcompact Kicks working as its replacement, there’s real no reason for the brand to pull any punches. Likewise, Nissan global design boss Alfonso Albaisa’s description of the second-generation model promises anything but an average automobile.
A reader sent us a link to a Mexican handling test of Nissan’s new, front-drive Kicks crossover, and one glimpse of the vehicle’s “moose test” will have you on your knees, thanking the deity of your choice for electronic safety nannies.
We all know that high-riding vehicles suffer from an inherent top-heaviness, born of a high center of gravity and compounded by long suspension travel. As SUVs grew in popularity in the ’90s, a slew of alarming videos arose showing popular SUVs flipping or riding on two wheels while swerving sharply to avoid a object, then recovering. The moose test is the ultimate test of a vehicle’s stability, and it’s the test most likely to see a tall vehicle — thanks to rapid weight transfer — roll more than it yaws. Sometimes with disastrous results.
The advent of electronic stability control was a godsend for these types of vehicles, helping overcome much of the roll and yaw, but, while it’s mandated in the U.S., Canada, and Europe, in some markets it’s absent from certain models or trim levels. Take a look at what happens without it.
The phrase “Nisan just built its one-millionth Juke” would probably be the first question on a Voight-Kampff test for automotive lovers residing in North America. The information is totally incompatible with everything you thought you understood about the world around you, and processing it begins scrambling your brain as you frantically hunt for an escape from it. An open window? The sweet release of death?
Relax. While the news is scary and difficult to comprehend, don’t forget that there is an entire world out there with a populace that’s not subject to the same predilections as ours. The Juke may have been too funky to become a massive hit in the United States and Canada, but it had a few good years and Nissan planted seeds all across the globe.
Japanese sales of the model almost matched the U.S., despite having a comparatively minuscule population. Volume also exceeded expectations in Europe, and China has a weird luxury version of the Juke called the Infiniti ESQ. But it wasn’t a good fit for North America and sales suffered as a result, forcing Nissan to call in the Kicks as the Juke’s successor after annual deliveries started plunging a few years ago.
Having released the pint-sized Kicks crossover into the North American market last month, Nissan needed marketing material to help boost visibility. Normally, car ads are platitudinous, offering little in the way of novelty to get us truly excited. The reason for this is because trying something different can result in an overwhelmingly bizarre experience. Kia’s reverse aging of Steven Tyler inside the Stinger GT is a prime example. It was the wrong rockstar for its target demographic and left us scratching our heads.
Other automakers allow marketing companies to pilot the brand into weird abstractions where they aren’t selling a car so much as an identity. Cadillac stumbled into trouble with this a few years ago, leaning into a more product-based advertising strategy ever since.
So what of the Kicks? The vehicle is clearly aimed at trendy youngsters seeking a good deal and some style. Will its ads cater to them, offering something vaguely informational, or will it be another televised dud?
Some of you might have read our first-drive review of the subcompact Nissan Kicks out of simple curiosity, knowing that the vehicle would never find its way into your driveway. And that’s fine.
For myself and others, the Kicks holds more interest simply because of what it is — a lightweight, unpretentious, fuel efficient addition to the crossover space with a very low starting price. Low enough to serve as an effective alternative to thrifty compact or subcompact car buyers. North of the border, that entry price ($17,998, eight bucks more than U.S. MSRP) is four grand less than a base, front-drive, three-cylinder Ford EcoSport. In the States, it’s two grand less.
With the front-drive-only Kicks now available in both countries, its sales performance will be interesting to watch. Actually, it already is.
The subcompact crossover class may possibly offer more varieties of flavor than most. Not in terms of available models, but in types of mission for each model.
You have rugged off-roaders (Jeep Renegade), quirky runabouts (Toyota CH-R, Kia Soul), jack-of-all-trades (Honda HR-V, Hyundai Kona), urban scooters (Chevy Trax/Buick Encore, Ford EcoSport), tall wagons (Subaru Crosstrek), and now the Nissan Kicks.
Nissan employees will quickly correct you if you assert the Kicks is a replacement for the company’s previous entry in this segment, the Juke, which is no longer on sale in North America (but remains available in other markets across the globe). They’ll tell you the Juke was/is aimed at a different customer than the Kicks.
That may or may not be true, but if it is, it also evades at least two other truths about the Juke – it was too weird and too pricey for our market.
Enter the Kicks. Although it still has plenty of quirky details and styling, the overall look and feel is much more conventional. And the price tag is much, much lower than not just the Juke, but some of the key competitors.
Managing Editor Tim Healey is currently behind the wheel of a new, subcompact 2018 Nissan Kicks in the unlikely and extravagant first drive locale of Southern California, but you aren’t allowed to know how it drives until Friday. Stay tuned for that.
In the meantime, you’re allowed to know exactly how much Nissan’s entry-level crossover costs, and guess what? There’s a value proposition at work. Mind you, there’s no all-wheel drive availability with this little model, which could take it right off many buyers’ must-have list, but Nissan clearly wants to appeal to the cost-conscious consumer who shuns steep and muddy terrain and doesn’t live in the depths of the snow belt.
Replacing the toenails-for-turn-signals Juke, Nissan created the Kicks and has been showing it off for some time now. Scheduled to appear on dealer lots later this spring, the company has been mum on pricing, no doubt in an effort to not show its hand in the murderously competitive subcompact crossover segment.
The Canadian arm of the company apparently has no such concerns, releasing pricing details this morning for that market. Safe to say, Nissan is angling for the budget crown, as its base price of $17,995 undercuts its competitors in the land of maple syrup and hockey sticks.
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.
When you burst out guns blazing from the get-go, it’s sometimes difficult to follow up with an impressive sequel. Such is the case with the Juke, which will have no second generation — at least not in North America.
According to two independent sources familiar with Nissan’s future product plans who spoke with TTAC, the Japanese automaker will kill off the funky four-wheel-drive subcompact crossover after the 2017 or 2018 model year, and replace it — in body and name — with the Aguascalientes-built Nissan Kicks.
Representatives for Nissan said it would not comment on future product.
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