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Entry price: $18,290

Price as tested: $23,045

Likes: Looks, standard features, price, Nissan reputation.

Dislikes: Rear drum brakes, no turbo, no AWD, not much horsepower.

This week, we’re behind the wheel of the all-new Nissan Kicks, a compact SUV style hatchback that replaces the Nissan Juke. High on features and low on price, Kicks is built on the Nissan Versa car platform and offers those who like a small wagon/SUV style vehicle the opportunity to park one in their driveway at a low price.

The Kicks is available in three trims, including entry S ($18,290) our tester mid-level SV ($19,690) and top line SR ($20,290). All are motivated by a 1.6-liter inline-4 engine that delivers just 125 horsepower and 115 lb. ft. of torque. The engine mates to a continuously variable XTronic automatic transmission with front-drive underpinnings.

Unlike the Juke it replaces, the new Kicks does not offer an All Wheel Drive version or a more powerful turbocharged engine. Both of these features made the quirky looking yet fun to drive Juke the little SUV that many of the younger set came to own. However, if Kicks is successful look for Nissan to perhaps contemplate a 4x4 model with more power under the hood.

The biggest Kicks positive versus the Juke is overall good looks. Its compact SUV motif is quite pleasing to the eye, especially when delivered as our tester arrived finished in Monarch orange with a super black roof. This two-tone feature made for many interested onlookers who were surprised that the Kicks’ entry price was so affordable.

At less than $19,000, the base Kicks S delivers Nissan safety items like high-tech automatic emergency braking and forward Collision warning, four wheel ABS, hill start assist, seven airbags, large view rear safety camera and all the modern traction and vehicle dynamic controls. Amenities like a 7.0-inch infotainment touch screen connected to a six speaker stereo, Bluetooth, USB and even push button start also come on the entry S. (Well done Nissan). Although not yet government safety rated, expect Kicks to end up with four and five star safety ratings similar to its other small Nissan SUVs and Crossovers.

Our Kicks SV tester, meanwhile, costs a bit more and is the recommended entry point in my opinion. Kicks SV adds rear cross traffic alert, blind spot monitoring, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, Halogen headlamps, 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic climate control with rear vents, Nissan Connect SM with navigation and Sirius XM satellite. 

The SV also adds intelligent key with remote start features, roof rails, tilt and telescopic steering and a CVT transmission shifter with chrome accents.  

Inside, Kicks features a cabin that offers great visibility.

I had to get used to the higher stance of the driver seat that did not offer power settings, but once I did things went well. 

Greg Zyla writes weekly for More Content Now and GateHouse Media. Contact him at greg@gregzyla.com or at 303 Roosevelt St., Sayre, PA 18840.

 

Auto bits

Tips for holiday road travel

If you’re planning to travel for the holidays this year, you’re not alone. Over 107 million people traveled last year for the holidays, according to estimates from the American Automobile Association, and more than 97 million of them did so along the nation’s highways. Cooper Tires offers you these winter driving maintenance tips. 

1. Give your car a quick checkup. This is a great time to ensure all of your vehicle’s fluid levels are up to par — oil, windshield washer fluid, etc. 

2. Be sure your tire tread is in good shape. A tire’s minimum tread depth should be more than 2/32 of an inch deep all around the tire. 

3. Have the right tires for your needs. If you live in an area that routinely experiences extremely cold temperatures and/or heavy snowfall — or plan to travel to one during the holidays — you should add winter tires to your vehicle. 

4. Pack an emergency kit in your car. Your kit should include water, a blanket, a battery-powered phone, some non-perishable food, a first-aid kit and the tools you would need to change a tire.

5. Prepare for the weather. Allow extra time in your holiday plans so that you can drive slower in bad weather or even pull over and spend the night in a hotel if necessary. 

Cooper Tires/Brandpoint

 

Did you know

Older driver safety awareness week is Dec. 3-7, a time to discuss concerns of older drivers.