2018 Nissan Kicks First Drive: Crossing Over

Fans of quirky styling and fun-to-drive personalities will miss the Nissan Juke. But its departure from the U.S. market paves the way for a new subcompact crossover SUV that has even more to offer. The 2018 Nissan Kicks, while not nearly as polarizing as the Juke, is an endearing offering that could appeal to a much broader audience.

Yes, Nissan’s radical subcompact styling died with the Juke, but the Kicks is far from unattractive. It adopts a few boilerplate corporate cues like the V-Motion grille, Boomerang headlights, and exaggerated floating roofline (first seen on the Murano), but it’s highly customizable. There are five two-tone color options to choose from, and Nissan’s online Color Studio adds another 12 accessories to personalize even further.

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There’s a lot to like about the inside of the new Kicks, too. The NASA-inspired Zero Gravity seats – finished in either cloth or Prima-Tex faux leather, depending on the trim – are super snug and form fitting, and get extra brownie points for seat-mounted armrests on the driver’s side. The “Gliding Wing” dashboard design, meanwhile, is simple but attractive. It incorporates lots of the aforementioned Prima-Tex faux leather, particularly on the steering wheel, shift knob, and passenger-side dash, to tone down many of the hard plastics.

The Kicks wields a surprising amount of space. The rear cargo area ...