L.A. Auto Show 2017: Nissan Kicks coming after Kia Soul, Honda CR-V
Having hit a home run with its Rogue and Rogue Sport small SUVs, which are currently the second-best-selling nontruck vehicle in the country after the Toyota RAV4, Nissan has set its sights on the compact crossover market. Look out, Kia!
What is it?
The 2018 Kicks is a flyweight CUV designed for the budget buyer eager to get into the crossover market, a young single or a starting-out couple requiring low MSRP, high MPG and a certain amount of utility. Nissan’s answer, already market tested for the last year in Brazil and Mexico, is a sporty small SUV that offers all those things, with specifications that should compete smartly with the competition.
Why it matters
Nissan saw an opportunity to bring more technology and higher performance to a market of first-time buyers that, said vice president of product planning Michael Bunce, “hasn’t had access to crossovers in the past.” Bunce said Nissan sees the Kicks as a gateway vehicle that will convert that young buyer into a future customer for the company’s larger Rogue, Pathfinder, Murano or Armada. It’s also an opportunity for the Japanese car company, which has traditionally trailed Toyota and Honda in North American sales, to bring a new car to market without a massive capital outlay. Nissan has been building Kicks cars in Mexico for the Mexican market, using an engine already at work in other models, and will bump up production at that facility to serve the U.S. and Canada.
The four-door, five-passenger hatchback is the company’s first new model in eight years, but sports a look that will be familiar to fans of the family. The Kicks carries over Nissan’s “boomerang” headlights, V-Motion grille and the “floating roof” familiar to the Rogue, Pathfinder and Murano SUVs. These are joined on the Kicks by a higher waistline (designed to highlight the CUV’s ground clearance) and arched fenders.
But the vehicle’s most dramatic feature may be its price: Nissan said it will kick off the Kicks “below $19,000,” which Bunce said dealers had told him would constitute “a game changer.”
The entry-level CUV segment isn’t as competitive as the niches above it, but Kicks will have to fight for customers with the popular Kia Soul, Honda CR-V, Chevy Trax and Ford’s just-arriving EcoSport. But Bunce boasted that Kicks knocks out the competition with class-leading cargo space, price point and fuel economy, which has unofficial non-EPA ratings of 36 miles per gallon on the highway and 33 miles per gallon for combined city and highway use.
The Kicks will be driven by the same 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine Nissan uses in its Versa sedans, but with a little more power (125 horsepower and 115 pound feet of torque), mated to its Xtronic automatic transmission. The vehicle will be sold in three trim lines, rising from Kicks S to Kicks SV to Kicks SR. The stripped-bare base model will come standard with safety features like automatic emergency braking and convenience features like a roof rail. The SV and SR models will include substantially more, from Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to remote engine start to blind spot and rear cross traffic warnings. Nissan said the Kicks will be in dealers in June 2018.