Nissan was among the first automakers to offer subcompact SUVs when it introduced the first-generation Juke. Others simply followed it when they realized the segment’s potential for high sales volume. With the market evolving due to competition, Nissan changed its strategy as it pivoted towards a model with broader appeal. As a result, the Juke never came back to North American shores for its second generation. Instead, we got the Kicks, an affordable FWD-only model aimed at the mass market. However, this isn’t some soulless appliance. The 2022 Nissan Kicks redefines the meaning of entry-level and gives you a little more than you expected. Let’s take a closer look.
2022 Nissan Kicks: Cheeky and Practical
The Kicks recently got a refresh, adding a larger U-shaped grille, fresh alloy wheel designs, and thin headlight clusters. This gives the car more presence, especially in bright colors like this test car finished in Monarch Orange Metallic with a black roof. Subtle interior tweaks like a new center console improve the quality of life.
Thanks to its upright greenhouse and slightly large exterior footprint by subcompact SUV standards, the Kicks is quite practical. Four adults easily fit while five passengers work for short trips or lunch runs. You get lots of cargo space, too, making the crossover more useful. A low load-in height makes putting your gear in a breeze while folding the rear seats gives you room for bulky items. However, the cargo floor isn’t completely flat since the rear seatbacks are higher up. The new center console gives you extra storage for small items, complementing the bin just below the center stack.
Better material quality enhances the cabin atmosphere, especially when combined with the SR grade’s available two-tone leatherette upholstery and orange contrast stitching. Although hard plastics abound, you get more padding and soft-touch plastics where it counts like in the armrest and other areas you frequently interact with. The Kicks also has good levels of sound insulation, minimizing the amount of exterior noise entering the cabin.
Improved Tech and Safety
Nissan upgraded the Kicks’ infotainment system as part of its refresh, adding a larger 8.0-inch touchscreen on the SV and SR grade as standard. The smaller 7.0-inch unit remains in the base S trim. While not as comprehensive as the newer interfaces in the Rogue, Pathfinder, and Armada, this gives you all the fundamentals including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. Quick responses, a simple menu layout, and intuitive controls make this system easy to use. The highlight of the multimedia system is the optional eight-speaker Bose Personal Plus audio system on the SR trim. Featuring two speakers mounted on the driver’s headrest, it offers excellent cabin immersion and clarity, bringing it up to par with pricier audio systems.
Before the refresh, the Kicks already came with a long list of standard driver assistance features. The only thing missing was adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping. Nissan added the former as part of last year’s facelift for the SV and SR trims. Like in the brand’s larger SUVs, components function subtly and don’t get overly intrusive. They alert you with gentle beeps and steering wheel vibrations instead of blaring out at you. Adaptive cruise control follows traffic seamlessly and does a good job maintaining your set distance. However, I wish the Kicks got ProPilot Assist, Nissan’s semi-autonomous system, one of the best in the industry.
2022 Nissan Kicks: Efficiency Comes First
The Kicks shares its 1.6-liter four-cylinder and CVT automatic with the Versa sedan. Although 122 hp and 114 lb-ft of torque might not sound much, keep in mind that this guy weighs 2,752 pounds in its heaviest form. The transmission does a good job of making use of the available output but it’s a little leisurely, giving the Kicks a more relaxed character versus its chief rival, the Hyundai Venue. While power is adequate, you must plan passing maneuvers because of the powertrain’s laid-back nature.
Thankfully, the Kicks offers excellent efficiency. EPA-rated at 30/36/33 mpg city/highway/combined, it’s a fuel-sipper. I averaged roughly 35 mpg in mixed driving during my week and consistently saw 40 mpg during steady-state highway driving. However, Nissan fitted the little SUV with a tiny 10.5-gallon fuel tank, meaning you’ll be stopping to refuel frequently, especially on long road trips.
Tossable and Easy to Drive
Nissan doubled down on approachability with the Kicks when it comes to the driving experience. This makes the crossover the ideal partner for navigating tight spaces. A tight turning radius helps the Kicks’ already impressive maneuverability. Together with its secure handling and good body control, it’s easy to execute evasive maneuvers. Certain trims also get torque vectoring by braking to keep body motions in check and make sure the car remains stable through turns. However, the steering could be heavier because it’s a little too light even at highway speeds.
Thanks to its size and longer wheelbase, the Kicks manages to avoid feeling tipsy over broken pavement. Although it’s on the firm side, the ride remains compliant and does a great job filtering out harsh impacts and isolating the passenger compartment. Tires with generous sidewalls also help, especially when going over bigger bumps and potholes.
2022 Nissan Kicks: Inexpensive and Impressive
Perhaps the Nissan Kicks’ biggest advantage is its attainability. For $21,285, you get a roomy, efficient, and stylish SUV packed with the latest gadgets and gizmos. Higher trims keep the value proposition going because it gets you access to a heated steering wheel, heated front seats, a surround-view camera, and the awesome Bose audio system. With several dealer-installed accessories, the Premium package, the extra-cost two-tone exterior color, and black 17-inch alloy wheels, this test car barely broke past the $27,000 mark. The only options I’d keep are the Premium package and the cool two-tone exterior, dropping the sticker price to roughly $25,690.
For the money, the Nissan Kicks goes beyond what you expect out of an entry-level subcompact SUV. Other than the lack of AWD this checks a lot of boxes in the daily driver criteria, making it an appealing choice for those living in congested areas. Between its long list of features, agreeable road manners, efficiency, and space, this crossover punches above its weight. If only Nissan could give us the e-Power series hybrid powertrain offered in Japan and Southeast Asia… That would make an already solid offering even better.