MORE SEAT TIME CONFIRMS FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF NEW NISSAN KICKS
First impressions more often than not turn out to be accurate, at least according to my cursory research on the subject.
For instance, my first take on the new Nissan Kicks when it was introduced at a media preview in late June was that of all the small hatchbacks that the Japanese automaker had come up with in recent years (Cube, Juke, Versa Note) this one was the best of the lot.
But it also lacked power and was shackled to a CVT (continuously variable transmission), two things that might give second thoughts to the young millennials who are seen as prospective buyers.
They, like me, might want a little more in the way of a fun driving experience.
Now that I have had a slightly longer stint with it, I find no reason to change my mind. It just needs more punch. (For more details on my first drive experience, check my June blog.)
The 1.4-liter, 4-cylinder engine with its peak 125 horsepower and 115 pound-feet of torque just doesn’t offer much in the way of throttle response, though its good fuel economy numbers (31 mpg city, 36 highway, 33 combined) mitigate that somewhat.
But the low power and good fuel numbers, plus its styling, also plays in its favor. It would make the Kicks an ideal choice for a teen’s first new car.
It is a bargain in that it starts at well under $20,000 and doesn’t rise high above that mark while offering a slew of features often absent from that price range, and in an attractive package as well.
It is strong, very strong, on styling, the result of a collaboration between the company’s design studios in Brazil and San Diego. The Kicks Concept was shown at the Sao Paulo Motor Show in 2014, and marketers push its Rio-Carnival heritage.
Yet its looks are not as out-of-the-box as the aforementioned Cube and Juke models.
Probably the funkiest thing about the Kicks are the five two-tone exterior color combinations that are offered along with seven other exterior colors. Three utilize a black roof with white, orange or red body. A fourth pairs an orange roof with a gray body, a fifth a white top and blue body.
But that’s not where the color styles end.
You can also personalize your kicks by choosing from among five colors for accessory items such as the front lip finisher, rear spoiler, door handle covers, etc. for the exterior and rearview mirror cover, door sill protector, air vent rings, and floor mats for the interior.
Finally, you have a choice of stand-alone black 10-spoke, 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels or black 10-spoke 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheel with color inserts on SV and SR trims.
That’s a lot of options in color alone.
Speaking of options, the Kicks come with a pretty good array of standard equipment, reducing the need to add many that would jack up the cost.
Even the base S trim gets such niceties as a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, automatic headlights, hill start assist, automatic emergency braking, cruise control, air conditioning, a height-adjustable driver's seat, Bluetooth, a 7-inch touchscreen, Siri Eyes Free integration, three USB ports, a rearview camera and a six-speaker audio system.
The SV and SR models add safety features like a blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert as well as NisscanConnect with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard. The two upper trips ride on 17-inch wheels, the S on 16s.
Most of the options offered are available only on the top dog SR model with the big ticket item being a Premium Package that features an 8-speaker Bose sound system, Prima Tex leather-appointed seats, heated front seats and a security system.
The Kicks starts at $17,990 for the base S model (plus the $975 destination and delivery charge). The SV checks in at $19,690, the SR $20,290. The SR Premium Package adds $1,000, and selected paint combinations can add from $150 to $545 for premium paint.
What I liked about the 2018 Nissan Kicks: Nissan has made available a lot of premium content that you don’t find in a vehicle in this price range, some of it standard on upper trim levels. Even the base S model gets emergency braking as standard. A surround-view camera also is standard on the SR trim. It offers nice cargo room (25.3 cubic feet) without the need to lower the second-row seats.
What I didn’t like about the 2018 Nissan Kicks: It could use a bit more grunt (actually quite a bit more). Lack of a manual transmission takes away from the ability to get more fun out of it. It is offered in front-wheel drive only.
Would I buy the 2018 Nissan Kicks? For a second car, yes, especially if I faced doing a lot of driving in an urban environment. Its styling also might make it an ideal choice for a young driver.