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Crossover buying guide

The terms "crossover" and "SUV" are often used interchangeably to refer to higher-riding vehicles with hatchback-style cargo areas and available four-wheel or all-wheel drive. In many ways, "crossover" is used as an adjective to describe a type of SUV. However, by traditional definitions, an SUV uses body-on-frame construction like a pickup, and a crossover features unibody construction like a car. As a result, a crossover sacrifices towing and hauling capability for greater interior space and less weight, which in turn benefits fuel economy and agility. Here are our top crossover choices.

Category: Subcompact | Compact | Midsize Two-Row | Midsize Three-Row | Luxury Compact | Luxury Midsize

The terms "crossover" and "SUV" are often used interchangeably to refer to higher-riding vehicles with hatchback-style cargo areas and available four-wheel or all-wheel drive. In many ways, "crossover" is used as an adjective to describe a type of SUV. However, by traditional definitions, an SUV uses body-on-frame construction like a pickup, and a crossover features unibody construction like a car. As a result, a crossover sacrifices towing and hauling capability for greater interior space and less weight, which in turn benefits fuel economy and agility. Here are our top crossover choices.

Category: Subcompact | Compact | Midsize Two-Row | Midsize Three-Row | Luxury Compact | Luxury Midsize

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2018 Nissan Kicks First Drive

Edmunds special correspondent Elana Scherr takes the 2018 Nissan Kicks on a first drive around San Diego. How does the Kicks fare in the highly competitive subcompact crossover SUV segment? Watch to find out.

Transcript

ELANA SCHERR: I'm knew. This car is new. I'm Alana Scherr, and I'm brand new on the Edmunds test team. And this is the 2018 Nissan Kicks, which is brand new in the lineup for Nissan's SUVs. Is it possible to get all of today's most popular technology and safety features in a car under $25,000? Nissan says the 2018 Kicks does it all for under $22,000. We're here to find out how this little guy stands up to his big brothers. As soon as you get into the Kicks, the materials sort of stand out, which is surprising, because you would think they would just sort of blend in. You're not expecting a car that's less than $20,000 to have anything nice inside. But they're pretty good. They aren't luxury materials. I mean, they're still rubbery and plasticky, but it's not just like a bare desert of design nothingness in here. This car has all kinds of fun details on it. It's got contrast stitching, a gloss piano black here. There's some brushed aluminum. There's some chrome. This particular one, which is the upgraded model, this is the top of the line. So this is about $22,000 whereas entry would be high $17,000. This one has a sort of leather covering on the seats, as well as the stitching. But I've seen the cloth seats in the base model, and they're really nice. They're also very interesting. They have multiple different materials. There are a lot of things on the Kicks that would be just not worth talking about on a more expensive car. Like yeah, of course that has climate control. But it does. It has heated seats, and has autostart. And you can set it off with the key to warm up if you live in a cold climate. The Kicks doesn't have a full digital dash. It has a sort of half customizable dash. And when you have it set up in default, it shows you a tach and a speedometer, which is pretty normal. And you can change what it shows you in the middle. But it gives you a bunch of other options to show you if you're not interested in seeing the tach, which, honestly, you really don't need because it's a CVT and you can't do anything about the RPM anyway. There's really only a few options, but they're all useful. And I'm sure you're going to be able to find one that works for you. Nissan made a big deal about safety being available standard in the entry level, and even in the higher trim levels. The Kicks offers emergency brake assist. So if it thinks you're going to hit something, it applies the brakes for you. I didn't test that on this drive, but I'm assuming it works. It also has warning lights that come on right here if it thinks you're going to change lanes and move into somebody, and that's very helpful. For a backup camera, it's here in the seven inch touch screen. And they also have a 360 surround, which I've never seen on one of these entry level cars. And it's very useful if you're parking, especially if you're living in a city and you're worried about curbing the wheels or something like that. You can see everything. When it actually comes to the options that are in the car, it's also a nice surprise. There's a lot going on and it's easy to get to. You can option up to have car play or Android. So you already know how that stuff works. I don't need to show it to you. It's fine, it works the same on every car that has it. The main menu for when you're not connected to your phone is pretty basic because there's really not a whole lot going on. One of the selling points for the Kicks is the stereo system. Nissan thinks that by offering a premium sound system in an affordable car, they're really going to have something that the competition doesn't. This car comes with a Bose eight speaker system. And it also includes two speakers that are in the headrest, which is kind of slick. They call it Bose PersonalSpace. I kind of wish you could get it to apply at parties when there's somebody close talking you, and you're just like, let's just dial up the PersonalSpace here. And then if it's somebody you want to talk to, you can be like, oh, come a little closer, my friend. But anyway, this actually only applies to sound. So if it's all the way over here, then just the driver is really hearing the music. There's not really much coming out of the other speakers. And it's almost like wearing headphones, which you're not allowed to do while you're driving. So I think that that's what they're going for. And then obviously if you've got friends in the car, then you move it over here and it applies to the entire car and everybody can hear your sweet jams. So as soon as you get into this car, you're pleasantly surprised. You're like, hey, there's stuff to look at and it's nice. And that stuff continues in the backseat. Backseat passengers tend to get kind of cheated out of all the good stuff that the front seat passengers have. And the Kicks has, they say, class leading leg and head room up front. They're not doing too bad in the back, either. Granted, I'm short and this seat is set for me. But even on the other side where the seat is further back for a taller person, there's a lot of room. I mean, that's a ton of leg room, and that's a lot of headroom. There's also great visibility for the passengers in the back. So you could be back here for a road trip and not be sad and lonely and missing all of the good stuff. The door panels are pretty minimal back here. There's no chrome on the holes or anything like that, but, you know, what do you want? The whole point of having a hatchback or a CUV is so that you can carry things. Not only can this car seat five, but the Nissan Kicks can also carry more cargo than almost any car in its class. I think only the Honda HRV can carry more, and they're both in the 50 cubic feet range. That's with the seat down. Nissan says you can fit a bike back here. The Kicks is on the Versa platform. And when I first heard that, I was like, ugh, no. Because I really don't like the Versa. It's sort of funny because Nissan makes one of my favorite cars, which is the GTR, and then also one of my least favorite, which is the Versa. Versa is just rental car misery. But this car doesn't feel like the Versa to me. It feels a lot more nimble. And they did make some changes to the CVT. The CVT is just one of those things that everybody hates. You don't even need to really know what it means or what it does, and you hear those initials, and you're like, ugh. CVT, that's the worst. And they're sort of known for just having this endless loudness as you step on the gas pedal, but they don't get any faster. It doesn't actually have gears, and it feels like a rubber band, and it sounds like a vacuum cleaner, and it's super disappointing. What this car has, it still has a CVT, but they've sort of programmed in a kind of fake shifting so that if you really get on it, it'll kind of bump the RPM a little bit in a way that it wouldn't normally that kind of just fakes you into thinking that something's happening. But it does work. It's much more satisfying. The Kicks has a 1.6 liter four-cylinder engine, which you can keep floored for quite a long time without getting a ticket. Let's just say it's not a high horsepower option. What Nissan thinks is that if you want more power, you'll just step up to the Rogue. So if you live somewhere snowy and you're interested in an all-wheel drive car, again, Nissan thinks you'll just step up to the Rogue, which does have all-wheel drive. Turning radius is amazing on this car. And that's one of the things they brag about. When Nissan was talking about the Kicks, they specifically said, we don't see this as a farm truck. But as far as the handling, steering, ride quality, and ability to make a pass, it can do all of those things as you would need them to do. And for city driving, it's more than acceptable. It's actually quite good. The handling in the Kicks is kicky. I mean, it's a front-wheel drive car, and it turns in nicely. I don't plan to enter an SCCA Autocross with it. But if you did, you could probably make it through without knocking over all the cones. Steering isn't race car stiff or responsive, but it isn't sloppy. It isn't dead. There isn't a whole lot of empty space in the wheel before the car does what you've asked it to do. The ride in the Kicks is a little bit bumpy. Not to the point where you feel it as a danger. I mean, it's not moving you around the road, but you're definitely feeling the bumps that are in the road. And also, you're hearing them. There's a bit of wind noise, especially at higher freeway speeds. The car is built for a particular purpose, and I really think that they achieved that purpose. A lot of people have talked about this car in relation to the Juke because the Nissan Juke is going away, at least in the states, and this car is coming in. And a lot of people have talked about it as a replacement for the Juke. Even Nissan's own press site sort of has them connected. Although talking to Nissan reps, they say like, no, they're really different things. This car is almost $10,000 less than the Juke. The Juke was available with a turbo engine. So I think that what they're hoping that this car does is appeal to a lot of people who like the Juke, but couldn't afford it, and a wider range. And then maybe people who like the Juke will like the Rogue instead. I never thought in my entire life that I would have anything good to say about the CVT transmission. But there is a place where the CVT is better than a normal geared transmission, and that is in miserable stop and go traffic like we're stuck in right now. It doesn't drop any gears. It doesn't pull back, so it doesn't engine brake the car and slow you down and then jolt you forward. So there's that. I would personally rather have a geared transmission. If you walk up to the Kicks in the parking lot, your first thought is not, whoa, cheap guy. And when I first got into the Kicks to drive it and I looked at the interior, my first thought was not, wow, this is chintzy. It really looks nice. Nissan deserves a lot of credit for fitting a lot of things into a car at a very small price. It's got technology. It's got safety. And it has all these style elements to it that make it look a lot more expensive than it is. It also compares very well to its competitors, all of which are more expensive. Some just by a few thousand dollars, some by up to $10,000. It gets better fuel mileage, and it has more cargo space than most of the other cars in the class. So if you're interested in a small, city going SUV, take a look at the Kicks. To see our full first drive on the 2018 Nissan Kicks, go to edmunds.com.

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crossover buying info

  • What Is a Crossover?
  • Car-based vs. Truck-based
  • Market Segment
  • Price
  • Performance and Fuel Economy
  • Safety
  • Features
  • Interior
  • Cargo Space
  • 2WD/4WD/AWD
  • Cost to Own

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