• Floating roof design
  • Optional LED headlights
  • Available 17-inch wheels higher in trim line
  • Strut front suspension, twist-beam rear suspension
  • Available front seat heating
  • Flat rear-floor design for enhanced practicality
  • Available leather for the steering wheel and shift knob
  • Flat-bottom steering wheel
  • Nice selection of safety technology features
  • NA 1.6-liter four-cylinder is only engine option
  • More subdued styling versus the Juke

Nissan expands is CUV offerings with the new subcompact Kicks

The Kicks is Nissan’s latest crossover offering, and it’s widely based on the 2014 Nissan Kicks Concept that debuted back in 2014 at the Sao Paulo International Auto Show. In essence, the new Kicks CUV is quite similar to the concept, and most of the design cues carry over. As always, the overall design has been toned down a bit because, well, the production models are never as good as the concepts. Major features include a floating roof with a “wrap-around visor,” a comprehensive infotainment system, and best-in-class rear passenger space.

Keno Kato, the Vice President of Product Planning for Nissan, said, “With Kicks, we have developed a compact crossover in the best Nissan tradition, and thanks to the unmatched experience we have in creating vehicles to meet the needs of car-buyers around the world, Kicks will offer best-in-class design, convenience, and technological innovation. And, it will demonstrate Nissan’s commitment to Nissan Intelligent Mobility. Kicks is a car to confidently take on the city.”

So far, we don’t have full details about the CUV, but those should become available closer to its official on-sale date. With the rumors that the Nissan Juke may soon be discontinued, the Kicks may be the replacement for Nissan’s Funky little Juke SUV. So, until we have more information, let’s take a closer look at the Kicks and discuss what we do know about Nissan’s newest offering.

Keep reading for our full review of the Nissan Kicks.

Exterior

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On the outside, the Kicks is pretty similar to the Kicks Concept. In fact, the official debut model is even covered in the same greyish-silver paint, plus burnt-orange-like finish on the “floating” roof. Of course, it also has Nissan’s V-motion grille (because it wouldn’t be a Nissan without it), and it has boomerang-styled headlights up front. As you can see, those headlights are recessed into the fascia and sit just below the hood. The inner point slants upward to kiss the upper point of the grille. The hood itself is relatively smooth, with a small ridge just before the hood drops at the waistline on each side. Down below, fog lights are integrated into the corners of the fascia, and the air dam sits just above a dominate bottom lip that runs between the two corner cutouts.

As you can see, the burnt-orange finish on the roof wraps around to the sides to create the “wrap-around visor” effect on the top of the doors.

Moving over to the sides, the rearmost point of the headlight lens transitions into a powerful body line that curves downward, terminating just past the front-most door seam to create a dominate front wheel arch. Another body line runs along the center plane of the door handles and transitions into the front-most corner of the wrap-around taillights. Toward the bottom of the vehicle, another body line runs from door-to-door, slanting upward as it gets closer to the rear. The body cladding on the doors have a light gray insert to give the side more character. It should also be noted that the black cladding that starts at the front of the front wheel arch extends over the arch and across the bottom to wrap around the rear wheel arch. As you can see, the burnt-orange finish on the roof wraps around to the sides to create the “wrap-around visor” effect on the top of the doors.

To the rear, the design gets even more interesting. The rear hatch has a short overhang that is painted in the same finish as the roof. A black coloration travels from the rear-most edge of the rear doors and across the rear quarter, transitioning into the black tint that surrounds the hatch window. The taillights are also of the “boomerang” style, which is frankly a very odd design that features a wide reverse light at the bottom of the lens. The hatch itself is almost hourglass-shaped, with a profile that slumps inward around the taillights and gets wider toward the bottom. The black cladding from the sides continues around back and covers the entire rear fascia. There is another light-grey insert that runs the width of the rear fascia, with rectangular reflectors mounted below it. All told, it’s a fresh and unique design, and should this model replace the aging Juke, customers should find it a worthy successor, at least in the looks department.

Exterior Dimensions

Length 4,295 MM (169.09 Inches)
Width 1,760 MM (69.29 Inches)
Height 1,590 MM (62.59 Inches)
Wheelbase 2,610 MM (102.75 Inches)

Interior

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Inside, the Kicks is even more interesting. It has what Nissan calls the “Gliding Wing” dashboard, which basically means the rim that curves around the top of the dash transitions perfectly into a styling line on each door’s trim. From an inside perspective, it almost gives the feeling that you’re sitting inside a bubble. The corner HVAC vents are round and come integrated with the dash, creating a hump on the dashboard’s surface. There is also another elevated area of the dash with the instrument cluster and center HVAC vents sitting below.

The interior has a two-tone color scheme, with light brown used for the seats, the front face of the dash, and the insert that surrounds the pull handle on the door trims

The instrument cluster itself is something I like to call a hybrid unit. It has a traditional analog needle gauge for the speedometer, but to the left of that, there’s a rectangular digital display that serves as a driver’s information center for stuff like fuel level and engine temperature. As you can see in the interior images, the instrument cluster is displaying the selected transmission gear in the middle and the fuel gauge to the left, with a temperature gauge just below it. The three-spoke steering wheel adds a bit of sportiness to the cabin with its flat-bottom design. Inside the center stack sits an infotainment system with a 7-inch touchscreen. The system features physical buttons and a knob on each side of the display. In all honesty, it looks similar to some Chinese brands of aftermarket displays available on popular auction sites.

The interior has a two-tone color scheme, with light brown used for the seats, the front face of the dash, and the insert that surrounds the pull handle on the door trims. The carpeting looks like felt, with a sculpted look and tight lights up front. The rear portion of the center console sits below the seats and features dual cup holders, a small storage cavity, and the hand brake. Farther up, the center console elevates to house the gear shifter and another storage pocket. The HVAC controls are positioned between the center stack and the center console and looks like a futuristic representation of the old-school, dual-knob radios of the past. The same color scheme is carried over in the rear seating area. It looks like the rear seats feature a 60-40 split, but there is also a rear deck behind the seats, which seems rather odd, given the CUV nature of the vehicle.

All told, I would normally talk smack about how cheap some of the interior looks, despite the decent fit and finish, but this model will be sitting pretty low in Nissan’s SUV/CUV lineup. Taking that into consideration, the interior is decent for where this model will sit in the lineup.

Drivetrain

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So far, Nissan hasn’t given any details about the drivetrain. The only thing we know for sure is that it’s offered with an automatic transmission, given the automatic shifter shown in the official release images. With the Nissan Juke potentially getting the axe, it’s possible that the 188-horsepower, turbocharged, 1.6-liter is hidden under the hood. Alternatively, Nissan could opt for the 170-horsepower, naturally aspirated, 2.5-liter from the Nissan Rogue – assuming the Kicks is actually coming to the U.S. market, that is.

It’s a global vehicle that will be sold in 80 different countries, with Brazil being the main focus. That said, it could borrow drivetrain elements from the Qashqai, which would bring 1.2-liter and 1.6-liter gasoline engines, or 1.5-liter and 1.6-liter diesel units. More information will be available closer to the Kicks’ official on-sale date, so stay tuned for additional details.

Prices

Pricing is another mystery at this point. Given the overall design and look, plus the fact it may take the Juke’s place, I would expect the model to start somewhere in the $20,000 range. Of course, that’s just a rough guesstimate. With the somewhat cheaper-looking materials inside, I could see the model going for a little less, so let’s say $17,000 at the lower end and $22,000 at the top.

Competition

Honda HR-V

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The Honda HR-V actually started life as the Honda Vezzel in the Japanese market, and has the same underpinnings as the Honda Fit. The HR-V is powered by a 1.8-liter four-cylinder that develops 138 horsepower and 127 pound-feet of torque. It’s available with a CVT transmission in AWD form, but in two-wheel-drive form, a six-speed manual is available. As of this writing, the HR-V is available in three different trims – LX, EX, and EX-L. The LX and EX trims start at $19,215 and $21,265, respectively. Jumping up to the CVT transmission increases the price of each trim level by $800. Moving up to AWD will set you back by $2,100. In EX-L form, two-wheel-drive models cost $24,690, and AWD models come in at $25,990.

Read our full review on the Honda HR-V here.

Mazda CX-3

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After a lot of waiting, here it is folks: the 2016 Mazda CX-3.

The CX-3 was also a new offering for the 2016 model year, and was designed to slot below the CX-5 as Mazda’s subcompact SUV. The CX-3 is offered in three different trims, all of which come with the same engine – a 2.0-liter, Skyactiv-G four-cylinder that delivers 146 horsepower and 146 pound-feet of torque. The lowest trim is the CX-3 Sport, which includes 16-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, a rearview camera, and the Mazda Connect infotainment system for $19,960. The CX-3 Touring includes rear cross-traffic alert, leatherette-trimmed sport seats with red stitching, and advanced blind spot monitoring. Pricing is $21,960 before options. The range-topping trim is the Grand Touring, which includes 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, automatic climate control, and leather-trimmed seats. It starts at $24,990 before options, taxes, and delivery.

Read our full review on the Mazda CX-3 here.

Chevrolet Trax

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The Chevy Trax was a new offering in the U.S. for the 2015 model year, but it went through a facelift for the 2017 model year, bringing it up to speed with the rest of the subcompacts in the segment. The Trax has a reasonably sporty exterior and upscale interior that should help it against models like the CX-3, HR-V, and Nissan Kicks. Under the hood lurks a shoddy little 1.4-liter, four-cylinder that delivers a miserable 138 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque. One could very easily argue that the Trax is underpowered, but it does pull 26 mpg in the city and upward of 34 mpg on the highway, so at least it has that going for it. Just don’t expect to tow much more than a dirty teenager on a skateboard. So far, Chevy has yet to release official pricing data for the 2017 model year, but given the price of the 2016 model, we expect it to start out around $21,000, and increase to upward of $25,000 fully loaded.

Read our full review on the Chevrolet Trax here.

Conclusion

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What can I really say here? With the SUV craze still in full force, those who can’t afford the larger gas hogs are definitely going for the smaller ones. So, with that in mind, it makes sense Nissan would expand its offerings with another subcompact SUV. Overall, the model does have a reasonably sporty appearance outside, and despite the lackluster materials inside, they do have a good fit and finish, so you can’t really complain about that. Looking at the pictures, though, I can almost smell the cheap plastic. Aside from the materials, the cabin itself is somewhat pleasing to look at. The first thing I would do is swap out the cheap-looking infotainment screen for a more upscale aftermarket unit, but considering this model will probably start out below the $20,000 threshold, you can’t really hate on Nissan for the little things. All told, it should be a pretty successful model assuming interest isn’t lost to other models like the Juke or the Rogue.

  • Leave it
    • Will probably be under powered
    • Some of the interior materials look cheap

Press Release

Nissan’s global leadership in the crossover segment will be further strengthened by the arrival of the all-new Nissan Kicks.

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The production Nissan Kicks retains the basic design cues taken from the Kicks Concept – first shown at the Sao Paulo Motor Show in 2014 – and is a stylish crossover built for busy city-dwellers to tackle everything the city can throw at it.

To meet initial Brazilian demand, Kicks will be produced at Nissan’s benchmark plant in Aguascalientes, Mexico. Ramp-up to full production will start within FY16 at the Nissan facility in Resende, Rio de Janeiro – the site of a $192 million (R$750 million) investment to prepare for Kicks.

Kicks features established design signatures, such as Nissan’s V-motion grille, boomerang head and taillights, and the floating roof with a “wrap-around visor” look to the windscreen and side glass.

During the engineering process, much attention was paid to the car’s overall aerodynamic performance – not only to benefit its dynamic performance, but also its overall refinement by reducing wind noise.

Inside, the story is one of quality and futuristic design in a cabin full of innovative features expected by a target audience who are technology hungry. The interior promises best in class passenger space in the rear – despite the coupé-like roofline – as well as one of the largest load areas in its class.

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Front seat occupants face the latest version of Nissan’s modern and simple Gliding Wing dashboard design, which is dominated by a centrally mounted seven-inch full color display housing a comprehensive infotainment system with Smartphone connectivity.

Among the other technology on-board, Kicks will feature Around View Monitor and Moving Object Detection, which use four on-board cameras to present a view of the car and to warn the driver of any unseen hazards. This is a segment first in the region and, taken together, offers a step on the road to Nissan Intelligent Mobility.

A sporting flavor is provided by the flat-bottom steering wheel, while the crossover stance provides a high eye point to give the driver an empowering viewpoint of the road ahead.

“With Kicks, we have developed a compact crossover in the best Nissan tradition, and thanks to the unmatched experience, we have in creating vehicles to meet the needs of car-buyers around the world,” said Keno Kato, corporate vice president, Product Planning, Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. “Kicks will offer best-in-class design, convenience and technological innovation. And, it will demonstrate Nissan’s commitment to Nissan Intelligent Mobility. Kicks is a car to confidently take on the city.”

Nissan Kicks sales will begin first in Brazil in August, followed by Latin American left-hand drive markets later in fiscal year 2016. And ultimately, it will be introduced in more than 80 global markets.

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Full details of Kicks prices, specifications and equipment will be released closer to its on-sale date.

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