Words: Don Cheng
Photography: Don Cheng
Published: July 26, 2020
Nissan has never been shy about naming conventions and often eschewed model numbers in place of quirky names like Cube and Versa. In Nissan’s home market of Japan, perky models like the Sunny roam the streets but the latest addition here in Canada has been dubbed the Kicks, a subcompact SUV targeting a younger market and subsequently giving the Juke a swift boot out the door.
The Kicks is a sharp looking package thanks to its handsome familial DNA. Up front is the V-Motion grill, a hallmark of Nissan’s contemporary design, as well as boomerang-shaped LED daytime running lights. Its silhouette also draws prompts from its siblings, including a waistline that kicks up high at the C-pillar and a floating roof effect. Certainly from a looks perspective, the Kicks comes out ahead of the Juke, whose bulbous fenders and rounded rear hatch looked more like a squatting frog than an actual automobile.
Owners can express their personalities through the many exterior colours (and their names) including two-tone options like Fresh Powder with Deep Blue Pearl. My test vehicle was the top-trim SR model draped in two-tone Cayenne Red with Super Black. Inside ruins some of the vibe with charcoal being the only colour available. SR models also receive orange contrast stitching, contoured prima-tex seating, and a pleather dash to break up the monotony of the black surfaces.
Fit and finish is on par with a vehicle of this calibre, and I like the presence of different textures found throughout. While the leather-wrapped steering wheel felt particularly thin, the combination of orange contrast stitching and the D-shaped wheel provides a sporting flair. Trunk space is a standout feature, managing a cavernous 716 liters with the seats up and over 1,500 liters with them down, an almost best-in-class showing just behind the Honda HR-V. One unexpected annoyance however, is the lack of fold-flat rear seats, and the trunk floor dips lower than the seat cushions, which can make loading large objects cumbersome.
Nissan includes lane departure warning, blind spot warning, pre-collision braking, cross traffic, and park distance control as standard. Moving up to the middle trim level nets a few extra conveniences, namely Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Step into the top SR trim, and the Kicks will include a 360 degree camera, a remote engine starter, and 2 UltraNearField speakers mounted in the driver’s headrest. A note on the last item, I thought it was a marketing gimmick but the dual 2.5-inch neodymium speakers work really well. Through Bose’s PersonalSpace Virtual Audio Technology, the sound emitting from the front, side and UltraNearField speakers are stitched together and created an incredibly immersive listening experience. It’s no Naim system from Bentleys, or Bowers and Wilkins from Audis, but it’s damn good at this price point.
With the Kicks, Nissan has clearly focused on practicality and technology, with performance sitting much lower on the peg board. A full-beans sprint from 0-100 km/h takes over nine seconds and if that sounds slow to you, it’s because it is. Engine and transmission choices here are nought, with a four-cylinder engine punting out 122 hp through a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Torque maxes out at 115 lb-ft which can make highway passing more of a planned manoeuvre as opposed to an afterthought. Mash the go pedal and the 1.6-litre buzzes loudly (along with the CVT) which further attributes to the anxiety of whether or not you’ll successfully pass the car the lane over. On the plus side, city goers should have no issue with its lethargic performance, and the Kicks offers a rather compliant ride and comfortable ride, with enough suspension travel to keep occupants isolated from even the harshest of impacts. The steering is light, well-weighted and accurate, leading to an agile drive, and the low curb weight contributes to its fun-to-boot attitude around town. Fuel consumption was impressive as well, with the Kicks averaging 8.4 L/100km over the course of the week despite my heavy-footed driving habits. This was with an equal mix of both city and highway driving.
By and large, Nissan has done a great job with the Kicks and among its immediate competitors, demonstrates good value. At an as-tested price of $24,903, our loaded SR model comes just a thousand dollars less than the mid-range Mazda CX-3, and well under the $26,000 starting price of the Honda HR-V. Yes, the Mazda comes with more gruff from its larger engine, and the HR-V bests the Kicks’ storage capacity (only just), but the Kicks straddles a fine line between price and street performance, offering what most young audiences will want in a small urban SUV. Either way you slice it, the Kicks kicks ass.
Model: 2020 Nissan Kicks SR
Paint Type: Super Black / Cayenne Red
Base Price: $24,098
Price as Tested: $24,903
Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,295 / 1,760 / 1,586
Curb weight (kg): 1,197
Engine: 1.6-litre four-cylinder
Horsepower: 122 hp @ 5,800 rpm
Torque: 114 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, FWD
Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway ) L/100km: 7.7 / 6.6
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 8.4