With all the focus on millennials, and their seemingly limitless desire for CUV and SUV offerings, it’s easy to forget that we need to focus on what exactly these key buyers are looking for when they are purchasing a vehicle (many of them for the first time.) To get a better sense of this fact, we asked Nissan to let us go for a spin in their newest CUV offering, (the 2019 Nissan Kicks) to find out what it brings to the table for young buyers, especially those that are making their strides in life on their own for the first time. We learned a lot during our time with it, but did it indeed measure up to our expectations?
The exterior design of the Kicks shares a good deal of its heritage with other members of the Nissan family, and if one is to squint very carefully, you could see subtle hints of the Juke in its core DNA. However, wheras the Juke’s radical styling caused it to not resonate very well with buyers in the U.S. (it’s still popular in Europe for those that are curious,) the Kicks in contrast adopts a far more conventional suit of clothes, with our SR grade tester even adding some athleticism to its flanks.
The Kicks looks much less avante garde, and instead falls more in line with the rest of the Japanese auto giant’s utility lineup. In the case of our tester, it even arrived with several upscale touches, including standard LED headlights, a roof spoiler, and the spunky CUV even comes with a contrasting roof panel to help inject even more amounts of cool into its flanks. When compared to some of its rivals, the Kicks actually blows a few of them right out of the water in this regard, with the Kicks outshining the Jeep Renegade, Ford Ecosport, and even the recently unveiled Kia Seltos. That might please millennials that are looking for a compact CUV that can still look flashy, versus being a mere appliance when out on the open road.
Slip behind the wheel of the Kicks, and you will quickly discover that the Kicks is a much bigger vehicle than it initially presents itself to be. When the Kicks arrived, it appeared during the tail end of this author’s move to a new office in Sterling Heights. While our tester missed out on hauling the big loads, we managed to find ways to use its impressive amounts of cargo space to help tackle smaller jobs associated with the move, including helping to haul smaller components and chairs of a wooden living room dining set. For millennials that are looking for a vehicle that can serve as a key tool in helping to create and establish a household, the Kicks certainly lived up to the hype, with the cavernous cargo hold even swallowing one final load of tools, supplies, and luggage for one last trek to the burgeoning office before it returned home to Nissan.
In addition to its impressive cargo hauling abilities, the rest of the interior excels in providing good amounts of long haul comfort, and it even looks a bit sporty as well. While there are some cheap plastics scattered about that are prominent reminders of the Kick’s price point, we were immediately enamored with the front seats, which came adorned with the optional “Zero Gravity” treatment. These seats are very comfortable, and they even help create a sense of better headroom, which is quite impressive considering that our tester came equipped with the optional power sunroof.
The seats themselves are slathered in Prima-Tex leatherette, and even come with seat heat which helps create a certain degree of specialness. The rear seats were not quite as impressive, with rear passengers suffering from tight knee and leg room, but fold them down like we did, and they play a key role in adding extra cargo space which measures in at 32.3 cubic feet (25.3 cubic feet seats up.) The Kicks features a large rear hatch that swings upward to help improve loading and unloading of cargo, while the low liftover is a god send for bulkier items as well as heavy boxes and certain loads.
Lastly, it would be a crime to not highlight the impressive amounts of technology that comes baked into the Kicks. While the base S and mid-range SV are reflective of their price point, the SR will certainly be the no-brainer choice for many millennials. This is due to goodies such as a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system, the awesome sounding eight speaker Bose Personal audio system (complete with Pontiac Fiero-esque head rest speakers,) as well as a separate 7.0-inch digital display in the instrument cluster. A highlight for us was the integrated Intelligent Around View Monitor system which gives the Kicks the ability to use a 360 degree backup system (one of only a few in the segment to do it) which made parking our tester in some tight spots around downtown Ferndale much easier.
Performance for all three flavors of Kicks comes from a naturally aspirated 1.6 liter four cylinder that is good for 125 horsepower and 115 lb-ft of torque. While it is certainly not the most muscular engine in the segment, it does make more muscle than its other applications in the Nissan Versa and Versa Note, and that allows the engine to have noticeable squirts of muscle when out in urban commuting as well as the rigors of the daily grind. Freeway driving does expose its weak kneed nature, with the engine desperately needing more power for high speed lane changes, but cruising does allow the engine to shine in efficiency with our tester capable of achieving 36 mpg on the freeway (31 mpg in city driving.) These figures put the tiny Nissan in some of the segment’s best, and will help it earn points with fuel conscious buyers.
To really put this to the test, we embarked on our final road trip of the season, with the Nissan being tasked to make the 242 mile drive to Traverse City Michigan for a separate office related item. As the miles passed, we came to appreciate the long haul comfort that the seats had to provide, as well as the seamless cruising experience that the Kicks provided during the trek to this popular tourist destination. The CVT is truly in its element out on the open freeway, and while it will still not quite match the precise nature of a traditional automatic transmission, it did a commendable job of always having the right gear algorithm on hand with very few instances of it stumbling around for a proper ratio. The Kicks even managed to garner a few comments due to its attractive two-tone paintwork, with some of the locals likening it to a trendy set of athletic shoes. We whole heartedly agreed with that assesment, and we came away impressed with the Kicks and all of its charms.
Pricing for the 2010 Nissan Kicks starts at $18,70 for the base S model which also nets you standard rear automatic braking, lane departure warning, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, as well as 16-inch steel wheels. Step up to the mid-range SV model, and be prepared to pay $20,500 though the SV trim is arguably where the technology offensive for the Nissan Kicks starts with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay standard. The dual digital displays also make their first appearance here, and this infusion of technology does allow the Kicks to be on par with some of its rivals in value for the dollar quotients.
Finally the range topping SR model tops out the pricing ladder with a base price of $21,120. Our lightly optioned tester had a final sticker of $23,330, with $200 premium paint and $215 carpeted floor mats coming along for the ride. The big offender here is the $1,000 SR Premium Package which is the only way you can get the novel Bose stereo system. It does inject some much needed fat into the bottom line, but at the same time, the Kicks adds some much needed meat to its safety arsenal as well as its styling game, so in this instance, the slight bump in price is tolerable.
Overall, the 2019 Nissan Kicks is a very compelling entry from Nissan. While we will miss some of the unique quirks that made the now departed Juke a distinct offering in and of itself, Nissan understands that it can’t afford toplay games in this hotly contested segment. With value focused pricing, unique technology, and a spirited personality, the 2019 Nissan Kicks has what it takes to stand out in the hearts of millennials, especially those building their households for the first time. It helped me and my fiance put the building blocks in place for our home, and we suspect it can help you do the same too.