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Nissan Gets its Kicks With New SUV

New crossover is “gateway” to the maker’s expanding line-up.

by on Nov.29, 2017

Nissan unveiled its new Kicks crossover vehicle targeted at millennials moving up a vehicle.

Nissan hopes buyers will get their Kicks on Route 66 – as well as I-405, the New York Throughway and pretty much everywhere else – in the maker’s newest sport-utility vehicle.

The 2018 Nissan Kicks becomes the latest in an expanding line-up of crossover models the Japanese maker has been rolling out and arrives at what would seem the perfect time, with utes now accounting for nearly half of the overall U.S. new vehicle market.

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Targeting millennials and others who might otherwise opt for an entry-level sedan or hatchback, the Nissan Kicks targets “buyers moving up,” and, said U.S. sales and marketing chief Dan Mohncke, will be “the new gateway to our CUV line-up.”

Nissan was a relatively early player in the crossover segment, shifting focus from traditional, body-on-frame models like the Pathfinder, to car-based offerings such as the midsize Murano and smaller Rogue and Juke models. Less than a year ago it downsized by introducing one of its overseas models, dubbed the Rogue Sport, for the American market.

(Nissan Q2 earnings hurt by inspection debacle. For the story, Click Here.)

But the Nissan Kicks downsizes even more. It measures just 169.1 inches in length, 69.3 inches in width, and 62.4 inches in height. To put that into perspective, it’s 3.3 inches shorter, 3.0 inches narrower, and 0.1 inch lower than the Rogue Sport. Its wheelbase, however, is a hair longer than the Juke’s – and that has led to widespread speculation that the new crossover will replace Juke.

Several sources have confirmed that will happen about the time the Kicks lands in U.S. showrooms, sometime in late winter. Juke has been one of the weak links in the otherwise solid Nissan ute chain. It’s expected to disappear from most markets, with the exception of Japan and Europe, one of the few places it has generated decent sales.

As for Kicks, it bears the familiar Nissan crossover design cues, starting with a pint-sized version of the brand’s familiar V-Motion grille, and the blacked-out pillars and floating roofline seen on models such as the latest-generation Murano. The new ute was developed, in concept form as a collaboration between Nissan’s advanced design studios in San Diego and Brazil.

While starting at just $19,000 – about $2,000 below a base Juke – Nissan isn’t positioning Kicks as a bare-bones offering, rather pitching it as a “class-above” option.

(Nissan shutting down plants in Japan to deal with inspection problems. Click Here for more.)

That includes a reasonably well-equipped interior and a surprisingly long list of features for something in its prices class. That includes such advanced driver assistance features as blind-spot detection, forward collision warning with auto-braking and cross-traffic alert.

The Nissan Kicks will be powered by a 1.6-liter inline-four making 125 horsepower and 115 pound-feet of torque, and yielding a Combined fuel economy rating of 33 mpg, more than competitive in its class. The question is whether customers will focus on mileage or the fact that the Juke replacement has a significant 63 hp lower output than Juke. And while the older model offered both front-drive and optional all-wheel-drive, the Kicks is only available with an FWD layout.

But maybe they’ll follow conventional wisdom about Millennials, who are said to be more focused on technology than a pony count. There’s a 7-inch touchscreen standard in Kicks, with options including a premium Bose audio upgrade and both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

(For more on Nissan’s new five-year plan, Click Here.)

At least Nissan has to hope if the gateway isn’t going to swing the wrong way. But at its price and with its features, Kicks could get potential buyers jumping.

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