Low-cost Kicks loaded with a bevy of standard features …
Remember when entry-level cars were bare bones beaters?
I’m thinking Ford Mavericks, Chevy Vegas, and AMC Gremlins of my youth, or more recently Honda Civics, Toyota Tercels, and Nissan Sentras.
Times change and this week’s cute low-cost two-tone mini crossover is chock full of modern electronics and features that you might not anticipate at this price point. Heck, some cost extra even on higher-end vehicles.
Meet Nissan’s snazzy Kicks SR, that’s the top of three trim levels, but don’t let that worry your cost-conscious brain.
The name alone is fun, and memorable. At least more so than a certain electric EQB I drove recently.
No, the Kicks is not the bargain basement beater of yore.
Standard is a bevy of safety equipment including (hold on now) blind spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning, rear sonar, high-beam assist, rear automatic braking, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian sensing, and an AroundView (360-degree) camera. Even that last item is optional on many vehicles costing much more.
OK, so what are we calling entry-level these days?
How’s $21,585 strike you for the base S model? Need a bit more in the way of features, then move up to the SV model at $23,445, or this top-end SR for $24,145. That’s a deal that should have you doing the happy dance right up to your credit union’s loan officer.
What else will you find on this high-end low-balling Kicks SR?
Heck, there’s intelligent or smart cruise control just like all the fancy cars and trucks now have, plus a very readable 7-inch touchscreen, 4 USB ports, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, remote start, push-button start, rear seat heat ducts, and I know you younger readers will like this, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard. Bingo, hook up the phone, iPad, etc. and crank the tunes or use your own navigation system.
Now you may be saying, that’s all well and good, but I need a fancy sound system and heated seats, minimum. And a heated steering wheel and WiFi hot spot would be primo too, and cloth seats are for poor folk, I need at least a good-looking leather imitation.
Hold on buster, a Premium Package that adds just $1,390 to the price tag includes all of that, starting with a Bose 8-speaker audio system, plus NissanConnect Services via Sirius XM and a security system.
The test car added a snazzy two-tone gray and black paint scheme to increase curb appeal, and that’s only a $650 option and includes a small black spoiler over the rear window.
Watch Mark’s video: 2023 Nissan Kicks SR review by Mark Savage
Less necessary options included a $435 exterior package with crossbars for the standard black roof rails, plus finished exhaust tips. If you intend to pile stuff on the roof this is a smart choice.
Less necessary yet is a $575 interior electronics package with 20-colors of ambient colors that can be dialed in to impress your friends or significant other, plus a door pocket light and frameless rearview mirror with universal remote.
A visual upgrade, the $495 17-inch black alloy wheel option is something most of us would welcome, along with the $225 carpeted floor mats and cargo mat.
No power hatch back there, but there is a wiper, a Wisconin necessity item. And excluding things like a power hatch and AWD helps keep Kicks among the lowest cost vehicles you can buy new. Even with add-ons the tester hit just $27,915, one of the lowest priced test cars I’ve had in the past couple years.
If you want to consider others look first at the Hyundai Venue that also doesn’t offer AWD, but is in the same size and power category as the Kicks and also looks like a crossover.
Moving up a bit in price and power is Toyota’s equally cute C-HR, or less cute Corolla Cross, which does offer AWD. One also could check out the Honda HR-V that I tested a couple months back, or the Hyundai Kona, Kia’s Niro, Soul, or Seltos. Again, some offer AWD. Finally, for more power there’s Mazda’s awesome CX-30.
As for the Kicks, it touts just 122 horsepower from its 1.6-liter I4, but the automatic CVT (continuously variable transmission) is programed to give it a fair amount of oomph from a standstill. So acceleration is good for in-town stoplight getaways. Of course the engine works a little harder than those offering 140+ horses, and you’ll hear it. But it quiets down once you’re cruising.
Road noise is noticeable at highway speeds, but certainly not an issue in city driving.
Handling is light and responsive, not sporty, but sort of fun on winding roads. Plus the suspension is pretty compliant for a short-wheelbase vehicle. There’s some jiggle, but the ride never becomes severe or bothersome.
Gas mileage, and this is a gas-powered car, is quite good too. I got 31.7 mpg in about 60% city and town driving. The EPA rates Kicks at 31 mpg city and 36 highway.
Inside, the fake leather seats are well-shaped and two-tone gray with orange stitching on the dash and steering wheel to add a bit of pizazz. The touchscreen is easily read and used and includes both volume and tuning knobs, a bonus. This driver’s instrument panel has an old-school analog speedometer, but digital info screen to the left of that giving mpg and other important info. Again, all easy to read.
The steering wheel also is heated and is a flat-bottom number allowing for easier in and out as there’s more knee room below the wheel than with a standard wheel. Bravo too that Nissan includes extenders on the sun visors, often needed but rarely found in newer cars.
In back is enough room for two adults provided the front seat folks are not NBA recruits and a third adult could fit for a short pizza run. If a child is about to head off to college the Kicks also offers generous cargo room for stuff and things, measuring 25.3 cubic feet with the rear seat in place of a massive 53.1 cu.ft. when the split rear seat is folded.
Practical, cute, perky and loaded with safety equipment, that’s Kicks. In fact, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives Kicks a good rating in all six of its safety tests. Kicks is a must consider first car, college car, or second city car.
FAST STATS: 2023 Nissan Kicks SR
Hits: Cute low-cost two-tone mini crossover, quick handling, adequate acceleration and good gas mileage. Better than average cargo room and seats four comfortably, heated seats, heated D-shaped steering wheel, push-button start, visor extenders, good info screen and Bose sound system. Great safety features standard, plus a 360-degree camera and standard Android Auto/Apple CarPlay.
Misses: No AWD available, ride can be a bit jiggly, but not severe, and there’s a fair amount of road noise at highway speeds.
Made in: Mexico
Engine: 1.6-liter I4, 122 hp/114 torque
Transmission: XtronicCVT automatic
Weight: 2,685 lbs.
Wheelbase: 103.1 in.
Length: 169.1 in.
Cargo: 25.3-53.1 cu.ft.
MPG: 31.7 (tested)
Base Price: $23,075 (includes delivery)
Premium package (Bose audio w/8 speakers & amp, Prima-Tex seats, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, security system, cargo cover, Nissan Connect services w/WiFi hotspot), $1,390
Exterior pkg. (crossbars, exhaust finisher), $435
Electronics pkg. (door pocket light, frameless mirror w/universal remote, 20-color ambient lighting), $575
2-tone paint (gray/black) w/rear spoiler, $650
17-inch black alloy wheels, $495
Carpeted floor/cargo mats, $225
Test vehicle: $27,915
Sources: Nissan, www.kbb.com
Photos: Mark Savage