2023 Nissan Kicks a perfect blend of price and performance

Dale Johnson: 2023 Nissan Kicks the affordable compact crossover with great fuel efficiencyThe Nissan Kicks is a small, basic, low-priced four-door crossover that’s easy to drive and gets great gas mileage. The Kicks sits on a 2,620 mm (103.1 in.) wheelbase and is a trim 4,309 mm (169.6 in.) long.

Competitors in the low-priced, compact crossover segment include the Hyundai Kona, Hyundai Venue and Kia Soul. Spending more money widens the range of choices to include the Chevrolet TrailBlazer, Kia Seltos, Mazda CX-30 and Toyota C-HR. But the Kicks offers better fuel economy than all of these competitors.

The Kicks isn’t fancy or built for racing, but it’s practical and inexpensive to buy and operate.

The Kicks starts at $21,698 for the entry-level S model. I recently test-drove the mid-level SR model, which starts at $26,098 and includes such goodies as a rear roof-mounted spoiler, LED headlights and LED fog lights, and auto-dimming rearview mirrors. Options on the test model included two-tone pearl paint ($795) and the Premium package ($900) that includes 17-inch black alloy wheels, an eight-speaker Bose sound system, rear tonneau cover and security system, bringing the MSRP to $27,293. There’s also the top-end SR Premium which starts at $26,998

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There’s only one engine, a 1.6-litre four-cylinder that produces 122 horsepower, which is also used in the Versa compact sedan. The Kicks is offered only with front-wheel-drive.

The Kicks is clearly one of the most economical non-hybrid vehicles on the Canadian market. Natural Resources Canada rates the fuel consumption of the Kicks at 7.7 litres per 100 km in the city and 6.6 litres per 100 km on the highway. According to NRC’s 2023 Fuel Consumption Guide, the only non-hybrids to beat both those city and highway numbers are the sleeker Nissan Versa, Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra (with Idle Stop & Go, or ISG), Kia Rio; Toyota Corolla, and Mitsubishi Mirage – depending on model and engine size.

Although the Kicks’ fuel-sipping engine is not fast, it’s more than adequate. The Kicks is ideal for city driving. I found it easy to navigate and squeeze into tight parking spots in the core of Vancouver.

The excellent gas mileage means the Kicks would also be great for an economical road trip. I could see heading out with a full gas tank, a coffee and the premium eight-speaker Bose sound system cranked up.

Although I got a kick out of driving the Kicks in the city, it would be great to drive to California, where I could get my kicks on Historic Route 66. But, like so many models these days, the Kicks just keep getting harder to find; the Nissan Canada website says due to ongoing supply chain disruptions, “you may be encountering low inventory when shopping for a new vehicle.”

The Kicks is very enjoyable to drive. Unlike many vehicles I’ve tested, there’s nothing odd, peculiar, quirky or bizarre with the Kicks. It just seems to make a lot of sense.

The driving position is great. It seems very spacious; the roof is high and there’s no sunroof, so there’s lots of headroom. There’s also plenty of legroom. However, the seats could be more comfortable.

The dashboard is very logically laid out, and unlike many new vehicles, there’s no information overload. There are some controls on the wheel, and they are intuitive.

The interior is nicely accented compared to many competitors in this price range. There is orange stitching on the steering wheel, across the dashboard and on the seats; the grey seats have black inserts, and the mainly black door panels have some gray trim.

Some people might prefer an optional engine to provide quicker acceleration and maybe all-wheel drive. However, plenty of other vehicles are on the market if such things are important to you.

The Kicks wisely focuses on its strengths of ease of handling, simple controls, low price and economical operation – elements that are more important to many people than speed and luxury. The Kicks is a perfect example of how a low-priced, economical compact crossover can also provide the space, style and technology that people want.

Dale Johnson is an award-winning author, broadcaster and journalist who has worked in TV, radio, print and online. While the manufacturer provided Dale with a vehicle to test drive, the content of this review was not reviewed or accepted by the manufacturer.

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