2018 Nissan Kicks has a new name, but fails to break new ground

Nissan is determined to ride the crossover popularity wave like the world’s most determined surfer. The Japanese automaker already has two small crossovers in the form of the Rogue and Rogue Sport, but now it’s adding a third, even smaller model as the de facto replacement for the polarizing Juke.

The 2018 Nissan Kicks will likely be more practical than the model it replaces, but also less distinctive. It’s a far more conventional design shaped by Nissan design studios in San Diego and Rio de Janeiro, and based on a concept car from the 2014 Sao Paulo Motor Show. It’s already on sale in Brazil, but the U.S.-spec 2018 Kicks was just unveiled at the 2017 Los Angeles Auto Show, and goes on sale here next year.

The Kicks is the first new Nissan nameplate launched in eight years but, aside from the cute name (Can it only be driven on Route 66?) the latest Nissan doesn’t exactly break much new ground. The styling is fairly generic, although the bulging fenders and blacked-out roof do help a bit. And while the Kicks does offer the tall driving position drivers crave, it’s missing one key ingredient of a true crossover.

Nissan won’t offer all-wheel drive on the Kicks. The automaker says the Kicks was designed primarily for youthful urbanites, so presumably it thought people who spend most of their time driving on city streets could make do with front-wheel drive. Nissan isn’t alone in this: The rival Toyota C-HR doesn’t is also available only with front-wheel drive.

The upside of abandoning all-wheel drive is improved fuel economy. Nissan expects the Kicks to achieve 33 mpg combined. The sole powertrain option is a 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine, which produces 125 horsepower and 115 pound-feet of torque, and is mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT).

The infotainment system includes a 7.0-inch touchscreen and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. The SR Premium Package model also gets a Bose Personal Plus audio system that has just eight speakers but is designed to replicate the sound quality of more elaborate systems. Nissan’s Around View Monitor 360-degree camera system is available as well.

The 2018 Nissan Kicks goes on sale in the United States in June 2018. Pricing will be announced ahead of the launch.

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