This is likely a normal occurrence, but this time it was because I was singing praise to a subcompact crossover that nobody seemed to care about – initially. Nissan launched the Qashqai in 2017, but it came in a little bit bigger than its main rivals, the Honda HR-V and Mazda CX-3. They sensed a gap in the lineup that was the right size for this, the 2020 Nissan Kicks. It has been on the market for nearly two years from now and frankly, it’s the best buy in the small crossover segment.
The easiest way to describe this little number is that it’s the cheapest crossover in Canada that’s not rubbish. While incentives may have entry level models like the Ford EcoSport and Mitsubishi RVR fairly close in price, the Kicks’ $18,298 starting price (up from $17,998 previously) has it considerably cheaper than popular sedans like the new Toyota Corolla (reviewed here) and Mazda3. It doesn’t offer all-wheel-drive, and while ground clearance isn’t significant, it’s more than anyone in this segment would require.
It’s not the most gorgeous thing around, but which crossover is? The Kicks loosely replaces the Juke in Nissan’s lineup, and is a huge step up in the looks department. It’s Nissan’s typical variation on the standard two-box crossover design, and has some pleasant bodylines. Most importantly, the cargo area has a wide opening and can actually hold a sufficient amount of things. A standard sized stroller and two carry-on bags fit without issue, and should you need more space, the rear seats fold down to expand capacity even more.
Inside, materials are surprisingly nice for a sub-$25,000 vehicle. The Prima-Tex leatherette seats in our SR test vehicle are comfortable and fit my six-foot frame with no issue. There are some hard plastics throughout the cabin, but most materials are soft-touch and panel gaps aren’t as large as Nissan’s larger models. If anything, the Kicks actually has better build quality inside than the Pathfinder (reviewed here) in base trims. There are some limitations, such as the lack of a center armrest for the front passenger, but when you factor in the price point, these slight omissions don’t matter.
Our top-trim SR test vehicle, and even the mid-trim SV offer a customizable seven-inch display in the instrument cluster. This can be configured to display everything from a standard tachometer to fuel economy and other diagnostics. The main infotainment touchscreen is responsive too, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. We experienced some glitches bringing up CarPlay during our test, but a re-start of the vehicle seemed to rectify this. The sound system sounds extremely good for the class too, and the Bose headrest speakers for the driver are a nice touch.
Only one powertrain is available for the Kicks, and it’s a decent one. The 1.6L four-cylinder is a familiar sight to anyone used to modern compact Nissans, and it’s particularly well suited to this car. Output is a humble 122 horsepower at 5,800RPM and 114 lb-ft. of torque at 4,000RPM. Nissan’s CVT is in play here, and no manual is offered. That said, this might be one of our favourite applications of the Xtronic CVT, as it operates smoothly and imperceptibly. It even simulates “shifts” in normal operation, never letting drivers know that it’s anything other than a conventional automatic.
At just about 2,700 pounds, the Kicks is an extremely light vehicle. As such, it drives small with a tiny footprint, and is very maneuverable. It by no means feels fast, but it doesn’t feel slow either. Drivers will have no issues keeping up with traffic or maintaining highway speeds, and urban driving is easy with the Kicks’ ability to dart around objects with simplicity.
This little Nissan is extremely efficient too, rated at 7.7L/100km in the city and 6.6L/100km on the highway. We did a good amount of city commuting, and observed a thrifty 7.6L/100km that’s right in line with the ratings. On the highway, we were able to surpass the estimate for a properly frugal 6.4L/100km. The 50L fuel tank is huge for the segment, and the Kicks requires nothing more than 87-octane to operate optimally.
The Kicks starts at $18,298 for the base S, which still includes a rear-view camera, keyless entry, Intelligent Emergency Braking, and the seven-inch touchscreen with Siri Eyes Free. The $21,298 SV model is what most buyers are opting for, and adds 17” alloy wheels, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, heated seats, and the seven-inch Advanced Drive-Assist Display in the instrument cluster. This is the real value proposition here, and if you really need to have it all, the $23,398 SR tested here adds remote engine start, 360-degree camera, Bose sound system with the neat headrest speakers, and Prima-Tex faux-leather seats.
There are quite a few situations in which the Kicks is the perfect vehicle. It’s a great first car for college or university students who could benefit from a full warranty and easy ownership experience. It’s also a great car for those who are newcomers to the country with minimal credit, and want something new and fairly inexpensive. Lastly, for urban dwellers that don’t necessarily need a car, but want one for weekend escapes and other conveniences, this just might be the ticket. With its extremely low cost of entry, amicable road manners and quirky styling inside and out, the 2020 Nissan Kicks is simply one of Canada’s best values right now.