The Nissan Kicks hit dealer lots for the first time nearly four years ago, kicking off a new kind of affordable subcompact crossover.
On a not-so-distant test drive of a 2019 Kicks, I found it to be a great value when shopper priorities centre mainly around cargo space, safety equipment, and feature content for the dollar.
The front-wheel-drive-only Kicks competes with the Hyundai Venue that follows a similar blueprint, as well as those that can be had with all-wheel traction like the Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-3, Ford EcoSport, and countless other entries in this competitive segment. Feature content includes a government-mandated rearview camera, blind-spot monitoring, a decent stereo system with headrest speakers for the driver, heated seats, and more.
The Nissan Kicks comes powered by a 1.6L four-cylinder engine with 125 hp. All models use a continuously variable transmission (CVT) and drive the front wheels – all-wheel drive isn’t offered with this model.
What Owners Like
Owners tend to appreciate the Kicks’ responsive drive, deep and accommodating cargo space, optional stereo system, and smooth transmission. Overall, most Kicks owners report fantastic value for the money.
What Owners Dislike
Common gripes include seats that are hard and stiff on cold mornings, higher-than-expected road noise in some situations, and a ride that can be busier and noisier than some shoppers like when driving on rougher roads.
Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT)
The Nissan Kicks runs a type of automatic transmission called a CVT, which functions like a regular automatic while improving efficiency. Some owners have reported problems with this type of transmission across numerous makes and models. Most have not. All new car makes and models have transmission problems reported, most with insignificant frequency against total sales volume.
Always take steps to ensure the transmission in your used vehicle has been cared for in a timely fashion, and in a dealer setting. Obtain all service records as proof. Improper maintenance and care can be attributed to many transmission-related problems.
Wheel Bearing Trouble
Some owners have reported premature wheel bearing wear from their Nissan Kicks. Most have not. If the used Kicks you’re considering has one or more bad wheel bearings, you’ll likely hear a rubbing, whining, groaning, or roaring sound at certain speeds, and particularly, higher ones.
Quiet the cabin of the Kicks you’re test-driving, and be on the lookout for unwanted sounds like this. If you notice any, have the vehicle professionally inspected before you buy for maximum confidence. More reading can be found here.
Safety False Alarms
The Nissan Kicks you’re considering is equipped with safety equipment that analyzes its driving environment, looks for potential hazards, and alerts the driver to their presence. In rare situations, safety systems like these may cause a false alarm. The owner’s manual outlines the complete operation of the safety systems, as well as the situations where false alarms may become more likely. Studying this information before your test drive can help you detect problems with safety equipment, which could save you money.
Ensuring the Kicks you’re considering is free of bumper and windshield damage, and that it’s running the latest software updates applied via regular dealer servicing, can help prevent potential false-alarm problems.
Remember: never attempt to reset or reboot a safety system in a modern vehicle by disconnecting and reconnecting the battery, unless you know what you’re doing. Here’s some more reading.
Check the Consumables
Approach any used Nissan Kicks you’re considering assuming that it’s in need of new tires, new brakes, and a new battery, until you have proof to the contrary.
Checking the condition of every tire, as well as the braking system parts at each corner of the vehicle, can confirm that hundreds of dollars of repair and replacement parts aren’t in your near future. Ensuring the Kicks you’re considering is running a fresh battery can help prevent possible electronic system malfunctions and issues, too. If you’re not sure how to check these components yourself, make an appointment to have the vehicle seen by a professional before you buy.
Climate Control Test
According to numerous owners, the Nissan Kicks may have difficulty maintaining the selected temperature set on its climate control system. On your test drive, adjust the temperature in small increments, with your hand over one of the heater vents. As you slowly increase the temperature setting, pause to feel the temperature of the air coming out of the heat vent. If a small increase in selected temperature leads to a sudden switch between cool and hot air, be on the lookout.
Numerous owners have reported difficulty in achieving a temperature between too cold and too warm on some units. At the time of this writing, there doesn’t seem to be a fix so be on the lookout.
Though some climate control and wheel bearing complaints necessitate an extra-cautious test drive, the majority of Nissan Kicks owners seem to be enjoying a well-featured vehicle that’s largely trouble-free, fuel-efficient, and easy to live with. A careful test drive process focusing on the points above can help you find the best Nissan Kicks possible for your dollar.
IIHS: Top Safety Pick (2018)
NHTSA: 4/5 stars (2019)
A single safety recall.