Troubling fact: The average price of a new car in Canada is over fifty thousand dollars right now – $50,798 as of the last available data. Perhaps more troubling, that data point is from December 2021, before the recent bout of runaway fuel prices. Everything is expensive, and it feels more and more that anything cheap is so pathetic that it isn’t worth it at all. Mercifully, our fully loaded 2022 Nissan Kicks SR Premium has a sticker price of almost exactly half of the national average, and it’s worth every penny.
The Nissan Kicks has been a favorite of ours since our first dalliance with it in 2018 for being able to pull off the rare feat of being cheap and cheerful. A lot of other vehicles in and around its price point could feel a bit like you were being penalized for not having a bigger budget, and the Kicks was a refreshing rebuke to that. It was an honest-to-goodness great value, combining a robust set of standard features, a willing chassis, and a proven powertrain in a practical, stylish package.
Now in 2022, despite the sub-compact category having become several orders of magnitude more competitive, the Kicks remains relevant because of those exact same fundamentals. It’s back to basics done right, with everything you need and nothing you don’t. There’s no navigation, no power seats, no all wheel drive, no turbocharging. All of those add complexity and cost, and you can get by just fine without them.
What you do get is a car that succeeds on the merits of being small and simple. Weighing in at a scant 2,624 lbs, the Kicks displays surprisingly good chassis balance and its quick, lightweight steering makes it fun and flickable in a way that few cars are anymore. Not having so much mass to manage means the Kicks rides quite well, displaying a good balance of control and comfort, and Nissan’s choice of relatively small 17-inch wheels means more tire sidewall to further shield the driver from rough pavement.
The Kicks is powered by Nissan’s 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine, which has long since been shown to be a reliable unit, generating 122 horsepower and 115 lb-ft. of torque. Neither of those figures are impressive and its raw performance is similarly pedestrian, but Nissan’s ever evolving Xtronic CVT transmission does a commendable job making it feel more lively than it is. Being an older design, the engine is a little louder and more coarse than some of its competitors, but we personally liked that it isn’t just an anonymous whoosh like some of those same competitors.
Being that the honest little engine and smart transmission have barely any car to move around, the Kicks is excellent on fuel. Nissan claims a combined fuel economy rating of 7.2L/100km and our testing reflected that exactly. It sips from a 41-liter canteen of a gas tank, so its range is shorter than we’d like, but it carries the benefit of trips to the gas station being relatively painless.
We’ve always been a fan of the Kicks’s interior space and that remains the same here. Our SR Premium trim smartly uses contrasting colors and materials to mask its cheapness, with charcoal and light grey leatherette surfaces on the seats and doors, tied together with orange stitching. Controls are easy to read, find, and use. The eight-inch touch screen is responsive and intuitive, and is flanked by a configurable seven-inch display in the gauge cluster. The cabin is quiet, and the Bose sound system is excellent for this class, although for the life of me I could not notice a real benefit to the UltraNearfield headrest speakers.
While the Kicks is small and simple, it’s not lacking in necessities by any means. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard on all trim levels, as are blind spot warning, cross traffic alert, lane departure warning and assisted emergency braking. Our loaded test car added Nissan’s very aptly named Intelligent Cruise Control, as well heated seats and steering wheel – pretty much necessities in our climate.
Fear not the diminutive dimensions and basic buildout – it’s no tin can. The driving position is high for those of us that need that sense of security, and speaking of security, the Kicks received “Good” ratings across the board in IIHS crash testing. Front passenger space is good, headroom is excellent, and rear space is decent; I was just barely able to fit behind my own driver’s seat at 6’1”. Cargo space is good and the rear seats fold down easily, and although we’re a little disappointed the seats don’t fold all the way flat, the extended cargo space is still generous for this class.
The Brazilian designed Kicks has always been a good looking little car, and our recently facelifted tester’s unique monarch butterfly color combo of deep metallic orange paint (fittingly named Monarch Orange) over black wheels, roof, and trim, makes it the sharpest one yet. Even being loaded to the gills with every option, our 2022 Nissan Kicks SR Premium rang in at $26,378. It’s an impressive reminder that even with the rapidly rising prices of, well, everything, you can still get your fix with a Kicks.