It used to be that if you wanted a snow, or rain capable SUV, your choices were very limited to say the least. You’d more than likely be spending well into the thirty, forty or over fifty thousand dollar range depending on what time period you were in. Not only that, you would also have a payment the size of a second mortgage in gas bills every month thanks to SUVs like the Chevy Suburban, Toyota Landcrusier, and any number of for Ex- models — early Explorers, Expeditions, and the Jurassic-level Excursion. Those monstrous SUVs, and even some of their less portly siblings like the Blazer, early Escalade and Navigator, Bronco, Bronco II, 4Runner, all chugged gas like frat guys renting a house on Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras when the Saints won the Super Bowl.
But, thankfully, the world has evolved a bit since the time of prehistoric four-wheel drive. Cars, trucks and everything in between have gotten incredibly more efficient and the ‘one-size fits all’ mantra has long since passed, especially when auto manufacturers realized they could make more money by dishing out more options. Which leads us inexorably to the 2018 Nissa Kicks. Not Kick, Kicks. This diminutive dynamo is part of a newer class of cars called micro-crossovers. Based on Nissan’s very time-tested V-platform, which also underpins the Versa and Versa Note, the Kicks takes what the Juke tried to be, and makes it much more practical, more grownup, and took the practical route instead of the quirky hipster avenue.
The Kicks (it still feels wrong referring to a single car with a pluralized word), is powered by a company 1.6-liter aluminum inline four cylinder that makes a less than stellar 125-horsepower at 5,800 RPM and an even less exciting 115 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 RPM. Those ponies are backed by Nissan’s other corporate drivetrain part, a continuously variable transmission that sends power to the front wheels.
Power isn’t what the Kicks’ main goal is though, so its name may actually be a little misleading, kind of like your grandmother’s idea of ‘going crazy” is having a second cup of black tea at Cracker Barrel. What the Kicks does provide though is a great solution to a real problem. It gives its passengers a lot of space, while not taking up much in and of itself. The doors are larger than you would expect, as is the rear hatch, which makes loading and unloading much easier. There is also plenty of seating room, where more than one six foot human can be in the front back seats at the same time without feeling like they’ve just stepped into a trash compactor by accident. The Kicks also provides 25.3 cubic feet of cargo room, which is best in its class for the record. Once the rear seat is out of the way, there is a total of 53.1 cubic feet to play around with, so feel free to load up that drum set or head to Home Depot and get your renovations supplies back home in no time.
Out on the highway, the Kicks does feel exceptionally buzzy, especially the higher you force the tach to climb. It feels quick off the line, which is thanks to some clever gearing by Nissan to make the seat-of-the-pants feel, feel quicker than it actually is plus the fact that it does only weigh 2,672 pounds after all. 0-60 mph takes 8.3 seconds, while it grips to the tune of 0.75g around the skidpad.
The Kicks won’t blow you away with its performance, but getting back 31/36 city/highway mpg is a little mind blowing, especially when you consider that only two decades ago you would be thrilled with half that mileage from your old SUV. The other number that is shell-shocking is that the Kicks has a base price of $18,865 — again, you’d be paying about double that for just about any SUV back in the day. Sure, some of those dinosaurs offered much more room, but their cost to own and the actual physical amount of space they took up (think parallel parking) dropped their value considerably. We’re happy to see the Nissan Kicks, it is a sign that we are actually progressing out of the Stone Age after all.