2022 Nissan Kicks SR
1.6-liter twincam four (122 hp @ 6,300 rpm, 114 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm)
Continuously-variable transmission, front-wheel drive
31 city / 36 highway / 33 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)
7.7 city / 6.6 highway / 7.2 combined. (NRCan Rating, L/100km)
Base Price: $23,415 US / $27,558 CAN
As Tested: $25,930 US / $30,123 CAN
Prices include $1175 destination charge in the United States and $2060 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can’t be directly compared.
Lawyers are the fun police, aren’t they? Always getting in the way of you doing something interesting and/or stupid, right? Every week when I get a new vehicle to test, it’s prefaced by a few pages of legalese to be electronically signed, with a number of restrictions and prohibitions on what you can and cannot do with the vehicle.
Upon scheduling the delivery of this 2022 Nissan Kicks, I spoke with a Nissan representative, thinking I might be able to weasel my way past one of those lawyerly lines keeping my teenage daughter, turning 16 the day the Kicks arrived, from driving the smallest Nissan. No dice, I’m afraid, so I had to put myself (figuratively, of course) into her shoes, imagining what the Kicks might be like for a new driver.
The dad within me takes a quick look at the spec sheet and likes what he sees – the driving enthusiast, not so much. The 122 horsepower four-cylinder driving the front wheels seems sufficient – though when hauling four people that can add a good bit to the curb weight of a bit under 2,800 pounds, the acceleration is best described as deliberate. The traditional Nissan CVT transmission is rather unobtrusive in this application – in other cars, the engine noise gets thrashy as the CVT winds up and down the ratio spread, but here it’s more than tolerable.
Handling is similarly unremarkable – this is no sporty little hot-hatch, and that’s fine. The short wheelbase does lead to a slightly choppy ride if the interstate is cursed with lots of expansion joints, but the Kicks is no worse than any other car or small crossover in this price range. A teen headed to and from school and extracurriculars won’t complain – the drive to and from college with a hatch full of dirty laundry should be fine, too.
Passenger comfort is where the Kicks shines. The front and rear leg and headroom are stellar, and the front seats are as comfy as the rest of Nissan’s lineup. With the rear seats folded, there’s room for 53.0 cubic feet of dirty laundry, for trips to IKEA to outfit the first apartment, or to sneak in that new puppy that you don’t want the landlord to know about.
Infotainment controls work well – the optional eight-inch touchscreen responds quickly to inputs, with knobs for volume and tuning. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard across the board. HVAC controls are right below the screen, and similarly work well – nothing is confusing or likely to distract the new driver. Audio quality is good – though road noise does come through the cabin at times.
The Kicks does have an interesting optional Bose Personal Plus sound system – it places speakers in the driver’s headrest to help direct the sound at the person most using the car. Reminds me of the headrest speaker setup in my thirty-plus-year-old Miata – in both cases, placing speakers right by the ears does make a difference in overcoming road noise.
Look, I’m not going to tell you that the Nissan Kicks is the greatest car in the world. It’s kinda slow, not super roomy, and is definitely built to a price. But for the right buyer – especially one shopping at the entry price of right around $20k – it makes a lot of sense.
[Exterior images: © 2022 Chris Tonn, interior images courtesy Nissan]
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