2019 Nissan Kicks — Feature packed, efficient and value priced

By Jim Prueter

(July 3, 2019) Last year, we drove Nissan’s then all-new and smallest utility vehicle, Kicks, a replacement for the quirky Juke. Kicks carries strong DNA from the brand’s other utility-vehicle offerings, most noticeably Rogue Sport. This week, Nissan dropped off the 2019 Kicks in the top-level SR Trim for a week of test driving. All-new last year, Nissan hasn’t changed anything on the 2019 model.

The front-wheel-drive only Kicks is marketed as a crossover, but lacks the all-wheel drive option found in many of its competitors. Some would argue it’s actually a five-door hatchback. It’s available with just one engine choice: a 122-horsepower non-turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder with an automatic CVT with simulated shift points.

Power is sluggish at best, puttering from zero to 60 mph in 10 seconds flat. It’s one of the slowest subcompact crossovers we’ve tested; only the Ford EcoSport, with its 1.0-liter three-cylinder, is slower. We found our 2019 Kicks less satisfying to drive than last year’s model with all road imperfections pronounced and transferring into the cabin for a much noisier and less composed handling experience. Steering is light and braking takes a bit longer to bring it to a complete stop compared to others in this class vehicle.

Kicks delivers a better driving and handling experience for zip-around in-town urban driving. Parking and maneuvering in traffic is a breeze. However, getting up to a necessary speed to merge onto the Interstate can be challenging, requiring the gas pedal to be punched all the way to the floor. The overall combined fuel economy of 33 mpg earns it best of class in its competitive set.

Kicks is offered in a choice of three trim levels: The base S starts at just $19,685; mid-level SV at $21,395; and SR at $22,015. All prices include $1,045 destination charge.

Nissan offers what they call “Color Studio,” with 12 pieces of the car — including the roof spoiler, rearview mirrors, door handles, wheel inserts and more — customizable in five colors. We found our $200 optional Gun Metallic gray with its Monarch orange roof paint accent particularly attractive.

The well equipped SR comes loaded with standard features like blind spot warning, Intelligent Key, attractive quilted sport cloth seat trim with contrasting color accents and stitching, push-button start, LED headlights, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, around view exterior camera, 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, remote engine start, rear-cross traffic alert, seven-inch touchscreen with navigation.

Our SR added the $1,000 optional Premium Package that includes the excellent Bose Personal studio system with eight speakers including Bose UntraNearfield driver headrest speaker, Prima-Tex (an excellent faux leather) seat trim with orange accent and French stitching, heated front seats and a vehicle security system.

A few of its strongest high points are the much “roomier than you think” cabin, the simple and easy-to-use operating controls with straightforward knobs and buttons for audio and climate control and most other functions. Tilt and telescoping steering is standard. There are enough power ports for your devices; Android Auto™ and Apple CarPlay™ are standard on upper trim levels.

The cabin in our SR was attractive with a soft touch instrument panel and door armrests. Still there was ample hard plastic, but it was fairly well executed with a matte finish. There’s no covered center console or center armrest, the emergency brake is the old-style pull handle, headliner is finished in “mouse fur,” and there’s no sun or panoramic roof option. There is a pull down armrest for the driver’s right arm but because the seats are very narrow it was more comfortably used by my front seat passenger’s left arm.

The rear seat is mostly comfortable for adults so long as it isn’t an extended trip. However, when a taller driver is behind the wheel, rear seat legroom completely disappears with the front seats adjusted all the way back. Seats are manually adjusted with electric adjustments unavailable. Cargo area behind the back seat is surprisingly large given the diminutive size of the Kicks but annoyingly, the rear seats do not fold flat and there’s a six-inch drop between the folded rear seats and the cargo floor.

Forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking come standard on all trim levels. Blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert are standard on all but the base S and isn’t even available as an option. And, surprisingly, it comes with a spare tire where most vehicles in its class do not.

Overall, there is a fun factor here with just enough utility, ample standard operational and safety features, a roomy interior front and back, all while delivering function, fashion, flair, and fuel economy at a bargain price.

If you’re looking for the best value in the subcompact segment, you should definitely put Kicks on your shopping list.

Vital Stats
Base Price: $19,685 - $22,015
Price as Tested: $23,330
Powertrain: 1.6-liter, 125 horsepower four-cylinder engine with an automatic CVT
Seating: 5

Where Built: Agues, Mexico

Crash Test Ratings: The 2019 Nissan Kicks has earned an impressive 2019 Top Safety Pick from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and four out of a possible five stars from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Competes With:
Fiat 500X
Ford EcoSport
Honda HR-V
Hyundai Kona
Jeep Renegade
Mazda CX-3
Mitsubishi Outlander Sport
Subaru Crosstrek
Toyota CH-R

Fab Features
Loaded with standard features
Class leading fuel economy
Superb bang-for-the-buck value