New Nissan Kicks brings style to compact SUV segment

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It's a new model for 2018, but it's not the first time Nissan has offered a smaller SUV.

Pint-size crossover SUVs are selling like crazy and it's hard not to notice the trend.

Nissan has a brand-new one with a funny name: Kicks. It's a new model for 2018, but it's not the first time Nissan has offered something this size.

The company was actually ahead of the trend with the Juke, starting in 2011. But its looks were controversial, to say the least. It had strong sales at first, but interest waned just as the subcompact crossover segment was expanding. The Juke's frog-like looks put a lot of people off and now it's been discontinued.

Now, the Kicks arrives with distinctive looks. But they're not too distinctive; just enough style to stand out. And of course, there's practicality. The rear seat is decent size for two adults and the cargo hold is ample. You can get a base model for about $18,000 and EPA estimated fuel economy is very good at 33 mpg combined.

There's also some cool technology available like Bose speakers mounted right into the headrests. You can control their sound focus on the dashboard touch screen.

You definitely sit up high in the Kicks, which is one trait a lot of buyers say they like about crossover SUVs. But while you're sitting up high, you're surrounded by a lot of hard plastic on the console, dashboard, door panels and various bins. Small items stowed in the bins and map pockets can slide around and make noise.

And when you put your foot down in the Kicks, you probably won't get many kicks out of the 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine. It only ekes out 125 horsepower, and while it's okay right off the line, getting up to freeway speeds is a bit of a strain.

That's the tradeoff for the good fuel economy. If you want all-wheel drive, you'll have to look elsewhere. The Kicks doesn't offer it. Then again, most people who buy vehicles like this probably don't need all wheel drive. On the plus side, the Kicks comes standard with forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking, even on the base trim level.

So it's not perfect, but it will likely sell well, as it's hitting the market at the right time.
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