Kicks is offered in seven exterior colors, plus five two-tone combinations in three models (S, SV, SR) with all trims providing standard Automatic Emergency Braking. The small CUV provides 7-in/178 mm of ground clearance and 53.1 cubic feet of usable cargo space. It's assembled in Aguascaliente, Mexico. (Kami Buchholz)

Nissan Kicks entry-level CUV makes its U.S. debut

Two years after debuting in Brazil, Nissan’s smallest utility vehicle, the Kicks, arrives in the U.S. market with alterations to the suspension and a quieter interior.

“We have a stiffer torsion beam [axle] in the rear and a larger anti-roll beam in the front independent strut suspension than the Kicks that’s sold in Mexico. These suspension components, along with U.S.-specific spring tunings and damping ratios, help provide good stability and quick response to driver inputs,” said Thomas Mally, Nissan Kicks chief vehicle engineer. 
Automotive Engineering interviewed Mally and other Nissan technical specialists during a recent 2018 MY Kicks media ride and drive program in San Diego, California.

The front-wheel-drive-only Kicks competes in the compact CUV segment, which includes the Kia Soul, Ford EcoSport, Chevrolet Trax, Honda HR-V and Hyundai Kona. Nissan officials predict that this entry-level segment, now dominated by first-generation vehicles, will grow by 156% in the next five years.

“For this emerging and growing small CUV segment, interior quietness is trending upward as a customer expectation,” said Stephen Soley, Kicks vehicle project development manager, adding, “That’s why we set our quietness performance targets at a best-in-class level over the vehicle’s lifecycle.”

To achieve that quiet goal, the U.S.-sold Kicks is fitted with thicker door glass, front and rear door lower seals, an acoustic windshield, rear wheelhouse liners and thicker dash and floor insulators. “The Kicks’ cabin has the lowest decibel level among segment competitors,” Mally said, citing in-house testing results.    

Subcompact platform
Built off Nissan’s V platform along with the Versa subcompact sedan and the Versa Note hatchback, the Kicks’ body-in-white is comprised of mild and high-strength steel (29%). That steel mix contributes to the base S trim model’s 2639-lb (1197-kg) curb weight. “We’re about 10% lighter than the next closest competitor,” Mally said, referencing the Kia Soul. He added that the vehicle’s light weight helps the Kicks achieve a claimed best-in-class city (31 mpg), highway (36 mpg), and combined (33 mpg) fuel economy.

In an application-first for the V platform, the top-of-the line Kicks SR model provides an Integrated Dynamic Control Module that incorporates Active Engine Brake, Active Ride Control, and Active Trace Control. “We’re bringing highly desirable technologies that debuted on our flagship Maxima sedan to an entry-level vehicle with a starting MSRP of $17,990,” said Ken Kcomt, Nissan North America’s Director of Product Planning.    

Kicks is powered by a third-generation 1.6-L 4-cylinder that produces 125 hp at 5800 rpm and 115 lb·ft (156 N·m) of torque at 4000 rpm. The engine mates to Nissan’s Xtronic continuously variable transmission. Continue reading »