Do you remember the first new car you bought? Yeah, way back when the whole idea of owning a new car and not some beater that barely ran was about the coolest idea in the world? There was a time when that first new car was probably a small sedan, but that was back when big sedans were the end goal.
Today, it’s all about crossovers and SUVs so today’s starter car reflects that shift in demand. The all-new 2018 Nissan Kicks is what today’s first-time new car buyers are looking at when larger and more expensive models are still out of reach.
This is a true entry-level vehicle with an affordable price point. The three available trims start with the S at $17,990 followed by the SV at $19,690 and the SR at $20,290. Front-wheel drive is your only option across the lineup, which is likely to dissuade those who live in northern climes.
You’ll hear Nissan say this is an ideal car for city dwellers thanks to its small footprint, and they’re right, but that’s somewhat limiting. This is a great choice for anyone who wants an affordable crossover with the flexibility of a hatchback for cargo. College kids and those just past graduation with a series of moves from one apartment to the next in their futures will be well served by the Kicks.
It’s small in size, but big on safety. Every Kicks, even the base model, comes with standard automatic emergency braking. This is an important safety feature that’s still trickling down into more affordable cars. Nissan is ahead of the curve adding it to the Kicks right now.
The Kicks also does well in crash tests. It’s an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety 2018 Top Safety Pick with the highest rating of Good in all crash tests and Superior for crash avoidance and mitigation technologies. It misses a Top Safety Pick+ rating only for its headlights, which were rated one step down from the top at Acceptable.
The interior is spartan with comfortable seating, but nothing fancy. A longer road trip on an older back could be tiresome, but the younger set this car targets will be just fine. There’s seating for five, but the back seats are tight for more than two adults.
Open the hatchback and there’s 25.3 cubic feet for cargo or flip the rear seats down to expand cargo capacity to 53.1 cubic feet. Hauling stuff home for college break or to the latest new apartment is easy with the Kicks. It’s not cavernous, but it does the job.
Power comes from a 1.6-liter 4-cylinder paired to a continuously variable automatic transmission. This gives you 125 horsepower for zipping around town or cruising the highway. You won’t be winning any races in the Kicks, but it’s more than capable of getting up to speed to merge into highway traffic and delivers extra speed for passing.
On the infotainment front, there’s a standard 6-speaker audio system with a 7-inch color touchscreen display. Yes, even on the base model you get a decent touchscreen, but what you won’t get are Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. You’ll need to step up to the midrange model for those features, which is good reason to spend the extra $1,700.
The SV trim also adds Sirius XM, automatic temperature control, heated outside mirrors, Nissan Intelligent Key with push button start, cargo area cover, blind spot warning, and rear cross traffic alert. You get a lot of additional features for the added cost.
Choose the top SR trim and there’s a leather-wrapped steering wheel, rear spoiler, fog lights, Intelligent Around View Monitor, and the option for the SR Premium Package. This includes a Bose 8-speaker audio system with speakers mounted in the driver’s headrest, heated front seats, and leather seating trims for $1,000.
The 2018 Nissan Kicks is a compelling choice for entry-level buyers. It delivers the crossover experience with flexibility for cargo along with standard safety not often found in a car at this price point. It also has attractive styling and color options that make it a fun choice for that first new car.