By LEN INGRASSIA

Arcadian Auto Editor

Out with the Juke. In with Nissan’s new Kicks.

Introduced last year, the Japanese automaker’s newest SUV is a delightful combination of high-tech and advanced safety features and a strong resemblance to the Nissan family of SUVs, ahem, the very popular Rogue.

Just think smaller, as in still practical.

Sales figures for Nissan’s weird looking Juke were abysmal, which made way for Kicks’ proven look, seven exterior colors and five two-tone combinations. Aimed at buyers looking for an affordable compact crossover, the Kicks’ base model starts at around $20,000 (including destination charges).

Pros:

Above average fuel economy

Mom-shop cargo space

Bose audio

Cons:

Zilch on all-wheel drive

Pokey acceleration

Seats lack proper bolstering

Kicks is available in a trio of well-equipped trims — S, SV ($20,250) and the SR ($20,870), each powered by a 125 horse, four-cylinder continuously variable transmission (CVT) powering its front wheels only.

Around town the Kicks is a nimble player, easy to park with enough juice to keep you in the game. Not so on the highway, however, where the little engine chugs up to speed, and with minimal passing power. Our independent testing of a zero-to-60 sprint recorded a pokey 10.5 seconds, for instance. Swift it’s not, for sure.

Oh, well.

Up against rivals such as the Toyota CH-R, Honda HR-V, Kia Soul, Hyundai Kona and Mazda CX-3, Nissan’s littlest SUV offers more standard equipment ... and a higher fun factor. Don’t think less cash means Kicks lacks. This is a very cool vehicle.

Automatic emergency braking is standard across the lineup. Also available are an around-view monitor, blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert.

Our loaded tester included Bose sound, leather-like seats, premium paint and (snowbird) heated front-seat options, all for $23,725 (including destination charges).

Black exterior fender and body moldings with a tall crossover roofline make for a standout look, along with the familiar Nissan grille, sloping headlights and upscale tail-lamps. Add 17-inch alloys, and our tester had an aggressive look. And while it appears taller, though, its height is similar to that of a typical sedan.

Its interior is more on the plain side but still housed a 7-inch touchscreen, tilt and telescoping steering, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, USB ports, remote engine start and rear passenger underseat heating ducts (again, for our snowbird friends).

Kicks excels with cargo space and segment leading front-seat and overall cabin room. And rear-cargo capacity rivals many larger SUVs, with more than 53 cubic feet with rear seats folded.

Budget-conscious buyers will find Kicks offers extreme value and safety equipment, options costing more on rivals.

Sidebar: We did take issue with an oddly placed right armrest on the driver’s side that made for a lopsided stance with the door-panel armrest. But that’s nitpicking on an otherwise kickin’ ride.

Contact independent automotive columnist Len Ingrassia at lenscarcorner@comcast.net

2019 Nissan Kicks SR

Price: Base around $20,000

Engine: 1.6-liter, inline four-cylinder, 125 horsepower

EPA rated mileage: 31 city, 36 highway, 33 combined

Assembled: Mexico; U.S./Canadian parts content, 15 percent; major source of foreign parts, Mexico, 56 percent; country of origin, engine, Mexico, transmission, China

Crash-test ratings: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave the Kicks four stars out of a possible five in overall safety; five stars for overall driver front and four stars for passenger frontal crash protection; five stars for overall side barrier and pole safety, four stars for rear seat protection and four stars in rollover protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) rated the Kicks its highest rating of “Good” in small overlap front-driver side, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, ease of latch use and head restraints and seat safety; second best “Acceptable” for small overlap front passenger-side and Acceptable to Poor for headlight illumination.

Warranty: 3-year/36,000-mile basic; 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain

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