Nissan’s Newest Kicks Is Somehow Worse Than the Juke
Some Nissan engineer must have looked at the Juke and uttered a smug ‘hold my beer.’
For a few months, the Juke was rumored to be on its way out. Though Nissan has yet to confirm this in any official capacity, it has announced what seems to be the likely successor for the compact crossover, calling it the "sixth" member of its lineup (while not listing the Juke in the other five). The automaker has begun to show off its more tame offering into the market as an "adventure-ready" entry into its portfolio of other crossover utility vehicles and SUVs, but after some mulling over, it seems like there's not much to make this crossover the least bit adventurous, even toppling the Juke from its reigning spot as king of the Nissan oddities.
I'll just get it out of the way ahead of time, I've never been the biggest fan of the Nissan Juke. Its styling resembles that of a bulbous frog, its rear seats seem to be made for very small people (which I am not), and the hatch appears to be large enough to transport an Ikea end-table home in just over three separate trips. But, despite my reservations, I have to admit that Nissan did a few things right when it made the Juke.
Being a crossover, Nissan surprisingly kept the manual transmission alive and kicking. You could still row through all six gears while bringing the kids to school because they missed the bus on the day of the science fair. Thanks to an optional tiny turbo under the hood, the Juke's 1.6-liter four-cylinder pumped out a surprisingly respectable and instantaneous 188 horsepower, making your trip to the grocery store an exhilarating experience. All four wheels received power from the gearbox so that you could pretend you were Ken Block while ripping sick all-wheel-drive donuts in you're development's cul-de-sac. Nissan even crammed a 600 hp VQ38DETT in a select few and called them the Juke-R. But, sadly, many Jukes were outfitted with a plethora of lackluster packages that made the car feel, well, beige.
Now, that very same beige seems to be the standard package that comes with absolutely every single Kicks. A 1.6-liter motor still sits in the engine bay of the kicks, but sadly loses much of its power due to the lack of turbocharger included with the car. An underwhelming 125 hp will be available at the press of the right foot, delivered through a soul-crushing CVT-only transmission. Nissan also removed the option for an all-wheel-drive model, delivering power only to the front wheels.
The Kicks' two slight advantages over the Juke come in the form of fuel economy and price. The CUV will reach an EPA-estimated 33 miles per gallon, a whole 4 mpg more than the Juke. Consumers can also expect MSRP to drop $2,000 on the base model, making the Kicks available for just $19,000. An interesting side-note, Nissan will also bring back some two-tone color combinations for the Kicks, something which gives us fond memories of the '90s when times were simpler, and cars had a bit more soul.
So with no fun factor of a manual gearbox, an all-but-lifeless engine, no all-wheel-drive to make sure the kids go to school on a snow day, and no frog-like design that made the Juke at least interesting to look at, who is Nissan marketing the Kicks to? Apparently, people who love tech, according to the automaker's press release.
We'll admit that its interior is pretty snazzy. Premium-looking stitching reaches across the dashboard, accenting its curvatures and giving a false-sense of sportiness to a flat-bottom steering wheel, similar to one found in a Volkswagen GTI. A generous 7-inch display is the main point of the technology-focused portion of the car. Its display will not only play a symphony of music that the driver chooses through a Bose sound system but will also display a full 360-degree birds-eye view (remember the Juke cam?) of the Kicks thanks to four cameras affixed to the vehicle. Nissan further boasts that it has three ways for techies to access social media, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, or NissanConnect—because that's necessary to do while driving.
Compared to the Juke, the Kicks' driving experience has been simplified and the car's interior has been modernized, stuffing it full of weird quirks and features that are appealing to someone who likes that kind of stuff. A more spacious platform has been given to the occupants of the car, sacrificing uniqueness and power in the process, which to many isn't a price worth paying. The Kicks seems to be a compromise for everything, but isn't that what a crossover is supposed to be?
More importantly, I think I just became a fan of the Juke.