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Engine: 1.6 liter
Torque: 115 lb-ft.
0-60 mph: 9.7 seconds
EPA: 21 mpg city / 36 mpg highway
Energy Impact: 10.0 barrels of oil/yr
CO2 Emissions: 4.5 tons/yr
Over the years Nissan’s utility lineup has steadily grown, to become quite comprehensive. Ranging from the full size and rugged armada to the tiny and quirky juke and just about everything else in between. But they’ve also become more and more mainstream. So now it’s out with that funky junk and in with a whole new Kicks.
We’ve driven all manner of Nissan utilities over the years, from rugged to refined. And truth be told, we were never huge fans of the funky Juke. But, it certainly had presence, and was pretty fun to drive to boot.
So, what do we get with its tamer looking replacement, this 2018 Nissan Kicks?
Clearly it’s styling is more sedate than the Juke’s bug-eyed personna, but it’s still more adventurous looking than most rival subcompact utilities.
At its essence, the Kicks is a jacked up, reskinned Versa Note. But, exaggerated fenders and lower-body cladding add a rugged element; while up sweeping body lines and blacked-out greenhouse set an aggressive and sporty tone.
Powering this tiny runabout, is a naturally aspirated 1.6-liter I4, rated at only 125-horsepower and 115 lb-ft. of torque. Transmission is a CVT. Like the Toyota CH-R and Kia Soul, it’s part of the urban crossover breed that is front-wheel-drive only. Formerly known as a hatchback; though Kicks is a tall one, with a stout 7.0-inches of ground clearance.
Inside, the level of standard features is pretty impressive; 6-speaker stereo, 7.0-inch touchscreen, and three USB ports.
SV trim ratchets it up with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, auto climate control, and a 7.0-inch digital instrument cluster.
Luggage space is among best-in-class at 25.3 cubic-ft.; expanding to 53.1 with the seatbacks folded.
Room for passengers is generous too; and for an entry-level ride, it’s reasonably quiet inside, and seat comfort is quite good. Little things that often fall short in economy-based rides, like the armrests and user interface, are actually highlights here.
Yes, the bulk of interior materials are plastic, but they are nicely-textured and have a good feel.
So, all is good up until this point, but 125-horsepower and CVT didn’t exactly drum up excitement on track day.
And as expected, there’s not much kick to the Kicks off the line. But, once it’s movin’, it’s improvin’. After getting over the hole-shot slump, the engine revs freely and sounds eager. Still, expect a long 9.7-second trip to 60. That’s almost two seconds longer than a turbocharged Juke, but a hair faster than a comparable Ford Ecosport.
As for the CVT, it was a little better than expected; Nissan’s latest Xtronic does have simulated shifts, feeling about as real as it gets.
Things improved dramatically when we added some back-and-forth into the mix. We found nice gentle understeer; paired with quick, well-weighted steering, good grip, and a compliant chassis.
A short 115-feet was our average stopping distance from 60. Pedal travel is on the long side, but stops were straight, true, and fade free.
Even better, Automatic Emergency Braking with Forward Collision Warning comes standard. In our barrier test it performed similar to other recent Nissans. It worked every time at speeds up to 10 miles-per-hour, but stops are very abrupt and jolting.
Kicks Government Fuel Economy Ratings are quite good at 21-City, 36-Highway, and 33-Combined. We averaged a fine 34.7 miles-per-gallon of Regular. There’s a great Energy Impact Score too, considering this is not a hybrid of any kind, using just 10.0-barrels of oil yearly with 4.5-tons of CO2 emissions.
After all of that, we were expecting the Mexican assembled Kicks to cost more than its $18,985 base price. Top trim SR is just 23-hundred dollars more at $21,285. That makes it among the better bargains in this bargain class.
Whether it is the low price, or just being oversaturation with tiny crossovers, we had modest expectations going in. But we came away quite impressed with the 2018 Nissan Kicks. More impressed than we’ve been with any other entry-level Nissan in quite some time. It’s quiet, feature-packed, efficient, and good-looking. And, along with the slightly larger Rogue Sport, it appears Nissan is finally back in the business of making great small cars. Only now they just happen to be crossovers.
In Podcast 190, John Davis and the gang are recaping the recent Paris Motor Show. Then they talk about the new Acura RDX and Subaru Ascent. Lastly, they help a viewer shopping for minivans.
Comparison Test: Subcompact SUVs
Goss' Garage: Connectivity Services
Auto World: Alternative Fuels Corridor
Quick Spin: 2019 Genesis G70
Quick Spin: 2019 Honda Pilot
Quick Spin: 2019 RAM 1500 eTorque
Road Test: 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC 350e
2018 Ford Ecosport
2018 Hyundai Kona
2018 Nissan Rogue Sport
2018 Subaru Crosstrek
As car sales dropped, SUVs sales have zoomed. Whether they be traditional truck-style body-on-frame, or car-based unitized crossovers, utes are the family ride of today. And, increasingly they come in wide variety of sizes from most brands. Indeed, auto makers see big potential… in the smallest SUVs their line-ups. So, we joined our colleagues at cars.com, to put the latest cute-utes to the test.
Automakers love pint-size SUVs as they promise bigger profits than comparable subcompact cars. So we headed into the suburbs of Chicago and teamed up with our friends at cars.com to find out which of these mini-utes offers the most for the money. Our sub-compact contenders are…
… the Ford Ecosport with its playful persona…
…the bold and sporty Hyundai Kona…
…the practical and capable Nissan Rogue Sport…
…and rugged runabout Subaru Crosstrek.
All four crossovers are 2018 models with stickers under our $26,000 cap, including destination. There’s one 3-cylinder turbo… the rest are 4 bangers. Each has an automatic transmission. Half are front wheel drive… while the rest are all-wheel driven. The group’s Combined Fuel Economy ratings ranged from 27-to-29.
For all the details on scoring head on over cars.com; but this is how this rivalry played out.
Coming in at 4th… the Ford Ecosport. The blue oval’s cutest ute is new to the U.S… after roaming other parts of the world for years where its stiff ride is better appreciated. Ours had a front-wheel drive 123-horsepower 1.0-liter Ecoboost I-3 matched with a 6-speed automatic. It’s the shortest of the group, but cargo room is in line with others, and it scored points for its SYNC 3 multimedia system. The $25,590 price tag placed it near our upper limit.
Garick Zikan: The Ecosport is the only 3-cylinder in this group so naturally it has the least horsepower, but it is a turbo so it probably has more spirit than you might think when you drive around town. The transmission also does a good job of handling the shifting duties.
KELSEY MAYS: The nail in the coffin comes with safety features, where the Ecosport doesn’t even offer accident avoidance safety features like automatic emergency braking or lane departure warning. Those are at least offered on the rest of them in this group.”
Third place goes to the all-new Hyundai Kona. A 2.0-liter I-4 generates 147-horsepower, and the judges liked the smooth 6-speed automatic. It’s equipped with some advanced safety features, like blind spot and rear cross traffic alert, but it had the least amount of cargo room. The Kona easily beat rivals pricewise though, even with all-wheel drive, for $23,705.
GARRICK: The Kona seemed to have the sportiest nature in terms of styling. Now we’ve driven both engines that are offered and while this was not the most powerful it had good throttle response and handled well.”
FRED MEIER: The handling of the Kona was pretty good…Hyundai’s managed to get substantial room for four into the car and some clever interior storage.
Runner up is the Nissan Rogue Sport. A 2.0-liter I-4 with 141 horsepower works with a CVT sending power to the front wheels. Passenger and cargo volume are mid-pack. But, it did add automatic emergency braking to the mix, for the highest price of the group… $25,910.
BRIAN WONG: The Rogue Sport was the most well-rounded of our competitors it was the most like a traditional SUV. However, it had one glaring weakness and that was its multimedia system. It’s kind of absurd these days to pay almost 26,000 for a car that doesn’t even have a touch screen.
Garick Zikan: The Roque Sport had the most refined interior and it really was roomy inside. The engine had plenty of power and it was very comfortable on all the roads we drove on.
That leaves the Subaru Crosstrek at numero uno… which is where it landed during our last subcompact SUV challenge. The 2.0-liter flat-4 has the most horsepower… 152… working with a CVT. Our group’s largest contender, the latest Crosstrek offers generous people and cargo room plus a long list of safety features, with standard all-wheel drive, for slightly less than our cap at $25,905.
KELSEY MAYS: A good mix of ride and handling, excellent visibility, roomy seats and a very high quality interior in terms of craftsmanship and materials”
Garick Zikan: The Crosstrek is the most rugged of the group. It’s very solid and has that go anywhere capability. The engine is strong off the line, steering is light and quick, and it has good grip in the curves.
The subcompact utility market is already fiercely competitive with more options to come. And, while each of this foursome offers practical versatility, the Subaru Crosstrek does it with the design, safety, and standard all-weather, all-road creed that keeps it at the head of this pack.
Engine: 2.0 liter
Torque: 413 lb-ft.
0-60 mph: 5.9 seconds
1/4 mile: 14.5 seconds @ 92 mph
EPA: 28.8 mpg
Energy Impact: 8.8 barrels of oil/yr
CO2 Emissions: 3.9 tons/yr
Time now for two emerging trends to join forces. We’re talking about compact luxury SUVs, and plug-in hybrid powertrains. They’ve come together in the Mercedes-Benz GLC 350e. So let’s find out if these two great tastes, taste great together; or if it’s just the plug-in flavor of the month.
Mercedes-Benz has been slowly adding the PHEV treatment to vehicles throughout their lineup; the latest of which is this 2018 GLC 350e, their C-class based crossover. It all starts with the base GLC’s 2.0-liter I4 turbo, to which is added an 85kW electric motor. Both, filter their combined output of 320-horsepower and 413 lb-ft. of torque through a 7G-TRONIC 7-speed automatic transmission to all four wheels.
Other notable additions are a radar-based regen braking system; and a “haptic” accelerator pedal, which kind of fights against you, to make sure you get the best fuel economy.
With a healthy 8.7kWh battery pack to store energy, we anticipated a fair amount of EV driving. But EV range is only listed as “less than ten”, and that’s about what we experienced. Fully depleted, battery charging takes only 2½-hours with level-2 240-volts. So, in daily operation it’s more like a traditional hybrid; but with a healthy boost of torque and enough battery power to get you from one end of town to the other without tailpipe emissions.
And like most recent plug-ins, drive modes allow you to select when and how much you want battery power to be involved. Now, you may not be able to drive it very far as a full EV, but it sure feels like one off the line.
At our test track, the 350e shot out of the hole briskly, with a diesel-like bottom end of glorious torque hitting 60 in 5.9-seconds.
The gas engine revs quickly, and the 7G-TRONIC transmission that replaces the GLC 300’s 9-speed auto, keeps right up. Timely shifts kept the engine in its sweet spot.
The ¼-mile took 14.5-seconds at 92 miles-per-hour. Thanks to a couple hundred pounds of extra weight mounted down low, and standard 4MATIC traction, grip through the cones was quite impressive. Weight transfer is subtle and refined; while steering is quick and light. It’s one solid and sophisticated-feeling utility.
Our average stopping distance from 60 was a good 127-feet. Regen brakes have a very natural feel; nice pedal pressure as well.
Plus, there is no compromise when it comes to expected Mercedes-Benz luxury. A 7-inch display screen with COMAND controller is standard, to which you can add navigation that will automatically decide when to most efficiently use battery power along your programmed route. And you’re not locked into one PHEV-spec model either, as the full suite of luxury and technology option packages are available. But like many plug-ins, the cargo area is compromised, due to the added batteries. But there’s still a decent amount of well-finished space.
Not many eco indicators outside, as thankfully Mercedes chose classy over flashy. There is, of course, an extra access panel for the charge port. But like other Benz plug-ins, it’s located on the rear bumper. So, no cutting into a body panel, but it is also easily susceptible to rear end damage.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings are 25-Combined on Premium fuel, just one mpg better than a base GLC300; though the MPGe rating comes in at 56-Combined. We averaged 28.8 miles-per-gallon. Which is a better than average Energy Impact Score; 8.8-barrels of annual oil consumption, with yearly CO2 emissions of 3.9-tons.
With a starting price of $50,985, we’re sure that well-heeled environmentalists will think that the GLC 350e’s close to $8,000 premium over a base GLC 300 4MATIC is appropriate, but we’re not there yet. We fully understand the benefits of plugging in, but our practical altruism only goes so far. We need a lot more return on our investments than single digit EV range. But, we also realize that vehicles like this 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC 350e are stepping stones in the automotive stream, as we slowly cross from petroleum-based power to battery-based propulsion. Some stones may be placed a little better than others, but all will be useful in getting us to the other side.
You’ve probably heard a lot about connected cars. Now many new cars can communicate over phone networks providing extra safety and convenience for their drivers. Including, alerting first-responders after a crash.
Now these subscription communication services have different names, often specific to the individual car brand. But, what if you car doesn’t have such a factory system? Well, it turns out; you can have that level of safety on most any car 1996 or newer by adding an aftermarket onboard communication system.
Now this is one example of these add-on communication units. This one comes in two parts: a module that plugs into your car’s ODB-II port and a hands-free Bluetooth speaker unit with microphone that clips on the sun visor. It connects to an app on your smart phone.
Installing one of these units is pretty straightforward. Once you download the app and create an account, locate your car’s OBD-II port. That’s often under the driver’s side of the dash, but the app will help you locate it. Then, just plug in the module. Next, you clip the hands-free Bluetooth speaker to a sun-visor and you’re ready to connect.
Now, why do you need a system like this? Well, the biggest reason is to let someone know if you’ve been in an accident or have a health emergency. If it does detect a crash, it can automatically notify emergency services and send help your way even if you cannot make the call. If you break down, it can send roadside assistance to you even if you’re not sure where you are.
In addition to that, these connected services can provide peace of mind to parents of new drivers by letting them know where their car is and even if the car is being driven safely. It can even assist the police if your car is stolen or help you find it in a crowded parking lot.
Now, there is a car care assigned to it as well. Since it is plugged into your car’s OBD-II port, it can monitor your car’s basic systems and, this is a big one for families today, it can also provide you car with a Wifi hotspot.
That’s a lot of features for such a small and simple to use device. Now chances are you may never need to call for help in and emergency. But if you do, an add-on connected system can be ready to come to your rescue.
Now if you have a question or a comment, drop me a line; right here at Motorweek.
Reinforcing its commitment to offering a diverse array of eco-friendly vehicles, Hyundai has introduced the Nexo, a Hydrogen-fueled Fuel Cell SUV set to go on sale in California late this year. The Nexo stores hydrogen in three separate tanks located at the rear of the vehicle, and can be refueled in as little as five minutes. Nexo has a maximum estimated driving range of 380 miles, along with a full array of driver assistance systems, and will be the only mass-produced Fuel Cell SUV on sale in the U.S. market. Hyundai Motor Group plans to introduce 38 new eco-friendly models by 2025.
Road Test: 2018 BMW X2
Goss' Garage: Rust Is Not Your Friend
Two Wheelin': Sturgis Rally
Motor News: Rearview Cameras | Luxury EVs | Chevy App
Long Term Update: 2018 Mazda6 | VW Golf Sportwagen
Road Test: Callaway Tahoe RST and PPV
Engine: 2.0 liter
Torque: 258 lb-ft.
0-60 mph: 6.3 seconds
1/4 mile: 14.8 seconds @ 94 mph
EPA: 21 mpg city / 31 mpg highway
We were skeptical when we heard that BMW’s smallest utility yet, the x1, would be based on mini’s front-wheel-drive chassis. But, not only were we pleasantly surprised by the results, it quickly become one of our favorite small utilities. Well, as you might expect, BMW couldn’t stop there, and has now added a more stylish alternative, the x2.
BMW has an established pattern of introducing coupe-like variants to many of their popular sedans and utilities. So, this 2018 BMW X2, a more dynamic-looking version of the X1, was not really a surprise to anyone.
And, it’s actually a welcomed addition, as we’re not breaking any news by saying the X1 is not exactly a stellar styling effort.
X2 wheelbase is unchanged, yet overall it is more than 3-inches shorter than the X1, and also sits 2.8-inches lower; giving it a much brawnier, yet sportier look.
BMW has also played with tradition a bit, by squashing the twin kidney grille, and adding a roundel to the C-pillar.
No changes under the hood though, as power is the same 2.0-liter I4 turbo, rating 228-horsepower and 258 lb-ft. of torque, with an 8-speed automatic sending it to the front wheels, or to all four with available xDrive.
With xDrive, Government Fuel Economy Ratings are 21-City, 31-Highway, and 25- Combined; and our average was a good one at 26.9 miles-per-gallon of Premium.
Well, despite the slightly smaller size, weight remains about the same as the X1. So as expected our 0-60 time was identical, at a quite respectable 6.3-seconds.
Despite spinning up a good amount of torque at launch, any thrill factor is muted by the smoothness of the power delivery, that is well above average for its class. Shifts are fairly aggressive, as the X2 lurches forward with each snappy shift. And there’s a good sense of power throughout the 14.8 seconds that it takes to complete the ¼-mile at 94 miles-per-hour.
We had high expectations before tackling our cone course, and were not disappointed. The X2 feels light on its 19-inch feet; and well-composed, with just a hint of understeer.
No major changes to the hardware that underpins the X2, but there is unique tuning of course; and if you opt for the M Sport suspension, you’ll get a ½-inch lower ride height, stiffer anti-roll bar bearings, and Dynamic Damper Control.
So, ride quality certainly falls on the sportier side of the luxury-ute spectrum, even when rolling in Comfort mode.
Practicality does take a hit, but not nearly as bad as you’d think; there’s still 21.6 cubic-ft. of cargo space in the back. Max capacity, with the 40/20/40 split seatbacks folded is a bit less however, at 50.1 cubic-ft.
As for the passenger space, well up front there’s the typical sporty BMW feel; as well as firm yet comfortable seats, with good bolstering and seat-bottom extensions.
Rear seat passengers don’t fare quite as well; as the X2 comes up short, with not quite adequate enough for adult space, both up top and for the legs.
Also present, are the predictable iDrive controller, clear and precise Black Panel virtual gauges, and paddle shifters.
Available niceties include a panoramic roof, wireless phone charging, Head-up Display, Harmon Kardon premium audio, and an M SportX package that includes aluminum trim and an M-branded steering wheel among other things.
M SportX also adds black trim, M-light alloy wheels, and a larger rear spoiler.
A reasonably-priced Driving Assistance Package includes Frontal Collision Warning with automatic braking, which worked quite well in our barrier test. Bringing us to gentle and gradual complete stops from speeds up to 20 miles-per-hour.
xDrive28i pricing starts at $39,395. If you don’t need all-wheel-drive, you can get away 2-grand cheaper at $37,395 for the sDrive28i.
Nobody gets more use out of their chassis designs than BMW. And while the current X1, BMW’s first front-wheel-drive based Sports Activity Vehicle, was a daring leap for the brand; it’s also one they seem to have landed just right. Just consider this 2018 X2, a much more stylish and entertaining alternative, that will more than likely bring a few new converts into the BMW family.