Whenever there is a wacko nutjob on the loose they always seem to be associated with a white van.
Look at our current news cycle with the MAGNA Bomber, back when DC was plagued by the Beltway Sniper, what were they on the lookout for, you guessed it, a White Van. Though in that case, the vehicle was a blue full-size sedan, still everyone was saying “be on the lookout for a white van.” If there is any talk of a child abductor or a terrifying clown with candy and thoughts of evil doings, the image includes the iconic white van.
Never is it a beat-up pickup or a ragged hatchback, not even a rattletrap SUV? Well maybe once in a California freeway chase with a Bronco, and it was white. The White Van is the vehicle that society assigns to any man who engages in an act against the people. We will not go into the fact that it is never a female, it is always a male and a white van.
As the owner of a white van, two now in the past 26-years, this is not the image that we as white van drivers are after. Who drives white vans? Normal everyday working people, plumber, carpenters, telco or cable folks, delivery drivers, who are the drivers of white vans.
At one time the van was the symbol of freedom, out on the open road, off to catch the waves, out to the wilderness with bikes, or off camping. Now, this vehicle casts an evil shadow on the thousands of people who own and drive one every day.
Yes, there are plenty of us who are not mass-murders, loco extremists, or someone with terrorist thoughts. Smile at the guy in the white van as you pass each other on the road, he is no doubt the one that is making our world a better place.
This is the opinion of William West Hopper – Images by William West Hopper
The once boxy Chrysler minivan (the company who originated this automotive segment three-plus decades ago,) is now producing a sleek passenger van that will change minds.
The 2018 Pacifica Hybrid in Limited Trim sure surprised us as we took out it on a recent thousand-plus-mile trip. What we found was an amazing road tripper. An excellent highway cruiser that is not intimidated by the semi-trucks, and had plenty of power to climb the twisty hills of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, and to pass with ease.
“That is one HOT Mini Van,” said no one ever. While minivans may not be what people aspire to drive, they do offer convenience and capacity. The Pacifica is a keeper.
Hybrid | PHEV Power
This vehicle can be used like the gasoline-powered vehicle many are used to, with the hybrid power stepping in to extend fuel economy. What surprised us was the PHEV (Plug-In Hybrid Vehicle) technology. Plug the Pacifica in, be it at a Type Two Electric Vehicle Charger for a 2.5-hour recharge or into your home’s 110v grounded outlet for a longer charge time, about 14 hours. And drive 30-plus miles on all electric, which should cover most routine errand runs, or a one-way trip to work.
The extra step of plugging in is not hard, it just takes some forethought, to find an available Electric Vehicle Charger when you park. And of course to remember to plug the car into that charger, or the outlet at home.
The Chrysler Pacifica is designed with a focus on passenger comfort. From the heated and cooled front seats to the various interior lighting options. And what made me happy was the number of power outlets, some connected to the UVO system and others not, for the devices and electrical items brought into the van that need power.
Room for seven in three rows of seats, does it get any better? Why yes it does, as there is still cargo space even with all three rows of seats in use. Yes, let’s say it again, cargo space and not just a little bit, plenty of it. So you can take that road trip with the family and stuff that comes along, A feat which is hard to do in the smaller 3-row passenger vehicles at the same price that on the market today.
Many vehicles come with 3 rows of seats, but few provide much if any room in the 2nd row, and the 3rd row. Or other creature comforts for those passengers. HVAC controls as well as plenty of USB plugins for those passengers. In the Limited Trim model, we had there was a two-screen rear seat entertainment option for the second-row passengers with separate HMDI and USB plugs, as well as wireless headphones, or a headphone jack and individual remote controls. Which means not everyone has to watch the same video or play the same game.
Legroom and Cargo Space
Legroom is plentiful with seat adjustability for the first and second-row seats. In the hybrid, the 2nd-row seats can be removed and lifted out and stored out of the vehicle. (The Pacifica Hybrid does not have 2nd-row Stow and Go, as the batteries are carried where the seats would fold into.) Don’t take that as a negative, there is plenty of storage throughout the van, including a large drawer in the base of the front center console for the 2nd-row passengers, lots of crannies for storage, and best of all behind the 3rd row seats which are stow and go, there is space to carry cargo.
Storage compartments are all over, even a place by both front seats to stow a wet umbrella, including a little tray molded into the door sill to collect the water dripping off of it.
Doors All Around
From the side sliding doors on both sides and rear hatch, as well as the front doors, you can load people and cargo in and out of the van easily and at a comfortable height. Have your hands full? that is OK, put a foot under the vehicle and that door will open automatically (you do need to have the key in your pocket and know in just the right place.)
An All Seeing Van
From inside you can pop down the little rear seat monitor mirror to see what is happening in the back to the exterior cameras the van has to see the traffic around you.
The Pacifica has the optional 360-Degree surround camera that has a large camera in the base of the grill, one at the top of the windshield, and one under each exterior side mirror, as well as at the rear of the van (the backup camera) these operate individually or as a combined unit to help see all that is around the van. While you can only access the imagery on the screen in a parked or under 5 mph mode, this system combined with an onboard radar is the eyes of the vehicle, assisting the driver.
Adaptive Cruise Control is one of the best options on any highway cruiser. The driver sets the cruise control and enables it to look ahead to recognize if the vehicles are slowing down or pulling into the lane in front of you. It then adjusts your speed appropriately. With Full Speed Forward-Collision Warning Plus the van also pays attention when you may not be, slowing the van down and stopping if need be.
This in addition to ParkSense®, blind spot monitoring, rear cross path detection, and lane departure warning, when turned on, let you know what might be around you and warns you. It lets you know when you are drifting out of your lane, if there is another vehicle in your blind spot, or if you are simply backing up if another vehicle is going to be in your path. Very helpful and an added level of safety one needs in this distracted world.
Parking, No Problem
ParkSense® helps you see what you can not when you are parking, are you getting too close to something, it will let you know with an audible warning as well as a visual on the center screen from the camera view.
You may not like parking, so just hit the button and the Pacifica’s Parallel and Perpendicular Park Assist will take over for you and park the vehicle. You do have to be in it and provide assistance, but the cameras see and measure the distance and make all the decisions and steering moves for you. While this is the one feature we did not take advantage of, it can be a big help in tight spots. You tell the Pacifica you want it to find a parking spot, by pushing a button, then tell it which side to look by putting the turn signal on for that side, and the car finds a spot and asks you make the gear changes, brake and accelerator activations, but it steers itself into a parking spot using the onboard cameras.
The Pacifica is beyond a daily grocery getter, beyond the family van. In a crowded passenger minivan market, there are options. If you want something fuel efficient, one that can run 30 miles on all electric, the Chrysler Pacifica is a great choice.
In either conventional or hybrid form this front-wheel-drive transversely mounted front engine van provides all of the passenger comfort and roadworthiness from a brand well known for luxury.
While the hybrid and PHEV technology is beyond amazing, and the usefulness of the space that the Pacifica offers makes it both a great long-distance runner and a city street cruiser.
That is just part of the story of the Chrysler Pacifica. The rest of the story is you, your family. Visit a dealer and take a test drive. Compare it to other vehicles, including SUV and CUV offerings. If you need a vehicle to haul passengers and their stuff in comfort, with great fuel economy, this is a very strong contender at an under $50K price point.
Words and Photos by William West Hopper.
FCA and Chrysler were kind enough to provide us the use of the Pacifica for a week. We were asked to review it and share our experiences on social media, we were not compensated for posting, other than the use of the vehicle. We paid for our own fuel, tolls and other travel expenses.
The 2018 New York Auto Show opened with a lot of energy surrounding releases of what Americans want: SUV’s, small and large, as well as vehicles with big performance engines, tried and true sedans, and yes electric powertrains, from plugin to hybrid to hydrogen-powered vehicles.
Body styles took center stage, while powertrains continued to jostle for attention.
Toyota Corolla Hatchback
We also saw the revival of the hatchback, and no question the station wagon is going to be making a comeback. Both now, much sportier and better tailored than ever before.
A lot of the models that were released are freshened models, though a couple of close to market concepts went on display. Powertrains from two different mindsets seemed to be everywhere; electric and an increasingly higher horsepower SUV’s and muscle cars.
The hatchback twins from Toyota and Lexus, The Kia K900, Volkswagen’s Pickup Truck Concept, Maserati’s Levante Trofeo, and the Mazda Kai concept were all stars of the show. Add to that a redesigned Toyota RAV4 and Subaru Forester and a very close to reality “Sport” version of the VW Atlas are just a few of what was on display in New York.
Toyota Corolla Hatchback
Hatchbacks, one of the most sensible vehicle designs is making a strong comeback and from Toyota, a brand that celebrated them for many years. Four-doors and a hatch make them easy to get into for both passengers and cargo. Toyota and upscale sibling Lexus brought the small hatchback into the spotlight, with the Toyota Corolla Hatchback and the Lexus UX. While you can see the family resemblance, each is very much a part of its own brand. Toyota has wisely included a 6-speed manual transmission in their offering, and Lexus has a hybrid version with their Direct-Shift continuously variable transmission (CVT.)
Luxury Cars and SUV’s
Driver’s today expect luxury touches no matter the brand, and both Kia and Maserati have stepped forward. Kia with a redesigned K900 that has an understated exterior and updated interior design and Maserati with a fire-breathing full-size SUV with a screaming 590 hp 8-cylinder engine. Not to be left out the luxury high-performance Sedan is still a strong contender, with Audi’s new 444 horsepower RS5 Sportback letting everyone know that the five rings are ready to roll.
The Subaru Forester, Nissan Kicks (shown above) and the Toyota RAV 4, took center stage, and rightfully so, these brands have a very loyal consumer following. Volkswagen sent the Atlas to the Gym and has returned with a buffer though tad smaller Sport version.
While four-door sedans are being left in the dust by the SUV in today’s market, Nissan has redone the Altima and put it in All-Wheel Drive mode and Kia has put some new energy into the Optima and has brought the K900 into modern style.
The SUV of last few decades seems to be growing into larger 3-row seat size. From the mundane to the ultra luxurious there are plenty of sizes and price points for the trusty family hauler. Be it the Ford EcoSport or a Land Rover Coupe, Lincoln Aviator to the Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen, there are plenty of sizes and price points for this trusty family hauler.
America has always been a country of roughneck cowboys, and what once was thought as a work | Farm vehicle is now the mainstream family car. With four doors and numerous creature comforts the pickup truck is no longer bare-bones with rubber mats, Naugahyde seats, and if you were lucky, an Am Radio. Even Volkswagen brought forth a Pickup Concept, that seems about ready for market. RAM, Ford, Chevy, and GMC, as well as Toyota and Nissan all, were displaying plenty of full-size pickups with more creature comforts than many cars. The mid-sized pickup is making a rebirth with the Ford Ranger, GM with the Colorado, and no doubt more will be coming.
Electric once only thought of as a very specialty vehicle driven by the look-at-me self-possessed eco-conscious consumer. Indeed the EV Fad is now mainstream, almost every band has at least one model that is pure battery-powered electric
As EV’s continue to be major sellers in markets where the tax incentives and other green benefits perks are dwindling. The panache of the electric vehicle is starting to be overshadowed by the technology and daily benefits with Plug-In Hybrids and hydrogen-fueled vehicles starting to become more commonplace. Nissan with the Leaf, the Tesla line up and most recently the Chevrolet Bolt is more mainstream and competing in the upmarket as well as the daily driver arena.
While there are several charging systems out there, and none are universal, Charge Point seems to be a big partner to these new vehicles, as well as pushing heavy in the home charger market.
There is no question that the New York International Auto Show is a collection of the latest and greatest automobiles, but it is also a place where technology meets the consumer. Nissan took center stage with its Pro-Pilot and Toyota has had XX for a while now.
Alexa? With the prevalence of Amazon’s Alexa in homes, the Alexa voice assistant was very well apparent being touted along with Apple Car Play and Android Auto. Now the same voice-activated artificial intelligence service comes to your vehicle. Google’s AI product Google Home and Apple’s Siri were remarkably absent from in-car virtual assistants. Just when Android Auto and Apple CarPlay seem to be becoming more prevalent is when that witty woman’s voice is now becoming apart of your driving experience. And what a great way to just talk to your car. Anyone remember the short-lived TV show of the 1960’s My Mother The Car? Of course, you don’t, the future was displayed in a Model A.
Built-in Hotspots are becoming commonplace as the vehicles become more interconnected with their driver’s. Software that recognizes drivers by their phones upon entry is the next step in making vehicles more shareable.
What is in the future.
In the near term, hydrogen power and station wagons along with the continued expansion of models that powered by batteries will continue.
In the midterm look forward to seeing those odd 3-wheeled trike vehicles. A cross between a motorcycle and a 2-seater car. Several manufacturers and not motorcycle companies were displaying them. Malcolm Bricklin, founder of Subaru of America, the Canadian made Bricklin sports car and importer of Yugo cars, shared with me his electric version is about 2-years out to come to market.
West Coast Customs Kia Stinger
Upscale Luxury vehicles. Manufacturers are learning that the ultra-luxury high-performance supercars and SUV’s mean one thing, a stronger bottom line. Each of them is starting to add such profitable models to their line up.
What is happening with Mercedes-Benz USA these days? This question was raised after Mercedes-Benz, like Cadillac, was noticeably absent from the Washington Auto Show floor this year.
MBUSA continues to grow and bring new and updated models to market, continuing to meet sales goals even in a softening market. Now housed out of a new U.S.-headquarters, the company continues to be on the leading edge of technology.
Tobias Moers New York International Auto Show 2019 GWagen // Photo Credit: William West Hopper
Auto Shows and Tightened Budgets
With consumers increasingly buying by a click on the screen of a smartphone, tablet, or computer, the lure of the annual auto show is no longer enough to return for the big dollar investments that automakers put out. More focus is being placed on social media and direct consumer experience events and interactive marketing with wide-ranging appeal and contact. Have you noticed when you respond to an automotive marketing outreach, a dealer almost immediately contacts you? Getting consumers interested in products and putting them in touch with dealers as soon as possible has become the business model of choice.
Daimler and Mercedes-Benz have rethought the auto show model, along with other manufacturers who are also starting to step away from even the big shows like Detroit. At this year’s New York International Auto Show, Mercedes-Benz had a toned-down presence in comparison to years past. With plenty of vehicles on display, the pomp and circumstance were noticeably reduced. In speaking to MBUSA’s public relations department, the Washington, D.C. market continues to be a very important one for the brand, and the region’s buying power is an important one. It is expected they will return to the auto show, just not in the format we have seen in the past.
Dietmar Exler _ President and CEO of MBUSA and NAFTA __ Photo Credit_ William West Hopper
Models and both EV and ICE Powertrains
The German Government is investing in the electrification of all transport modes through incentives in R&D, procurement and charging infrastructure. Thus, German automakers have made electrification of vehicles a specific focus, be it hybrid, battery electric, or any combination of them along with the internal combustion engine (ICE). No matter the powertrain or the model, you will find equal amounts of attention paid to the technology that goes into them from the Smart EQ to the Vision Mercedes-Maybach Ultimate Luxury – an over the top SUV concept.
Do not think for a moment that Mercedes-Benz will retreat from high-performance vehicles. These days high horsepower internal combustion powered vehicles bring with them high profit. Thus, AMG and Maybach vehicles will still be a major market focus. This year alone we have already seen a new version of the G-Wagen for 2019, both a G-550 and a G-63AMG, as well as a lineup of E and C Class vehicles including the AMG E53 and C43 and 63. The AMG GT 63 S and others continue to show the commitment to daily driving vehicles as well as ones you will want to drive just for the enjoyment of the road.
MBUSA Atlanta Headquarters __ Photo courtesy of MBUSA Media
New American headquarters for MBUSA
MBUSA recently relocated from New Jersey to the suburban Atlanta, Georgia. Many speculated this was done to reduce costs and take advantage of tax incentives. While this was no doubt a factor, being closer to the American factory in Alabama, and recently opened Sprinter van production facility in South Carolina also had much to do with the decision. Another factor is their focus on research and development here in the USA – not only in California but now in Georgia with a soon-to-open Lab1886 location.
MBUSA is now housed in a steel and glass 200,000 square-foot building, located on a 12-acre campus. Housing more than 1,000 employees and is designed to be sustainable and energy-efficient. MBUSA has implemented initiatives as part of their commitment to sustainability, bike racks, twenty EV Charging stations as well as dedicated MARTA shuttle to help reduce traffic impact in an area that is already heavily congested.
Daimler will open the fourth Lab1886 in Atlanta this summer joining three existing locations in Beijing, Berlin, and Stuttgart. MBUSA feels that with Atlanta’s excellent colleges and universities offering highly skilled and motivated graduates, and that more and more innovative technology and digital companies make their home in Atlanta, it is a perfect match for Mercedes-Benz’s own incubator.
Mercedes-Benz is actively adapting to an ever-changing transportation market. Be it selling C-Classes, AMG’s, Sprinter and Metris vans, or with the growth Daimler’s Car2Go car-sharing platform that offers Smart and Mercedes-Benz vehicles on demand. Providing users with a car only and exactly when they need one. Expect to see Mercedes-Benz continue to work beyond traditional transportation.
Words & Images by William West Hopper
Past MBCA|GWS President,
MBCA Eastern Regional Director,
MBCA National Director and National Treasurer
For more Mercedes-Benz insight and images, follow William West Hopper on Twitter (@wwhopper) and Instagram (DCCarGuy)!
Calloway Cars gave us a chance to try out their latest Aero edition of the C7 Chevrolet Corvette Areowagen, which opened our eyes to this all-American automotive customizer.
It is interesting to hear the history as well as the intense involvement that Calloway has with this vehicle and other General Motors products like the Tahoe, Suburban, Escalade, and Yukon, not to mention the Camaro and Sierra/Silverado pickups. While the firm was founded on a simple modification for BMW race cars.
Callaway started customizing vehicles the way many do, with passion and need for faster cars. Reeves Callaway, who with a passion and talent for auto racing, being voted the best of the new crop of SCCA drivers in the early 1970’s, turned the garage of his Connecticut home into a shop constructing a turbocharger system for his own racecar. A Car and Driver article propelled him to be sought after by professional and amateur racers alike, from which a business was created that has grown and continues today.
Callaway’s products have since become a General Motors factory installed options, as well as a whole line of customized cars that are sold, and warranted by GM as original equipment. Being one of the only automotive aftermarket suppliers that provide products that can be ordered directly on the sales floor of a dealership that qualifies for both a factory and a Callaway warranty.
The Callaway Corvette
Take a factory C7 (or many of the models prior to that) and make it faster, and more aerodynamic and you have the Aero C7, with the supercharger, intercooler engine management systems as well as other upgrades including intake and exhaust.
Our drive experience was tame, being on suburban roads. The Vette purred like a kitten and growled when asked. While the car could be mistaken for a standard off the dealer lot model. Driving it you knew the power and performance were but the touch of an accelerator pedal away.
Inside only some simple badging distinguished it as a Callaway product. Outside the rear hatch had been converted into almost a wagon or Sportback.
The A5 Coupe that Audi of America provided for us to attend the Hero Fund America Road Rally in update New York was an easy and fun car to drive, and one we would not mind as part of our daily fleet. Well balanced with tight comfortable handling was one reason. Easy on the budget and on the eyes, this car is just fun in every way possible. Seriously! I can see why so many young professionals become Audi customers.
Audi, which has long been the luxury brand for the people’s car brand Volkswagen. Though when you look at the history of Audi, it is often as much a contender in high-speed road rallies with their competent all-wheel drive and fuel-efficient engines, tight handling chassis, as it is as a luxury car.
Light and nimble in handling was what I first experienced behind the wheel, it was not long before I realized I was going way over the speed limit, the A5 is effortlessly FAST!
Where to start on the technology on this vehicle? It is more than just the dashboard. While having detailed GPS is considered standard in upmarket vehicles, Audi’s just is so much more vivid and attractive. The incredible detail in the display of the Google Earth-based navigation system immediately grabs your attention. Similar to the difference between early black and white TV and today’s 4-K video from what other onboard automotive GPS systems display. Does it provide more information, probably not, but visually it is more pleasing. And it does not stop there, the dash of the A3 was as well detailed as any high-performance jet plane just more luxurious.
Following in the other high-line German vehicles Audi has a handwriting pad area as well as a “knob” to command the center console screen. While the writing feature is not easy, as my handwriting is terrible – anyone who has signed a screen for a credit card knows how hard it is to make handwriting legible. In this day of voice recognition and artificial intelligence, the spoken words are about as good, I suppose after training the AI within the vehicle you might have more success than I did
Sculpted Exterior Design
Subdued and classic, while Audi has never been known for flourishes, the smooth and clean sculpted lines of this A5 Coupe are elegant and graceful, while not all that eye-catching with added extras. And that is not a bad thing, as the lines are purposeful and elegant defining a very well proportioned body.
Ride and Handling
We took the 2018 Audi A5 Quattro Coupe on a 900-mile drive from Washington DC to Sharon Springs NY and back through back roads, highways as well as city streets, and even unpaved country lanes. Every mile was a delight as the A5 was nimble and fun to drive. The ride, while this is a sports coupe, it was still comfortable, with even on the washboard lanes of the New York Throughway. Road-hugging as the four drive wheels gripped the pavement. The all-wheel drive was nimble with a tight turning radius making the A5 feel smaller than it actually is.
Inside well laid out instruments, comfortable seats with thigh extenders in a spacious cabin for the driver and front passenger as well as trunk. Though not for those who would have to squeeze into the rear seat. While this is a roomy coupe, the rear seating would be tough for anyone larger than a child.
As one would expect in a car at this level it had an exceptional Bang & Olufsen sound system. Even with a CD player hidden in the glovebox, the audio system provided all the modern amenities with satellite radio as well as Bluetooth and USB inputs from a smartphone brought into the vehicle.
The A5 ran a powerful 2.0 liter 252 hp i4engine and 7-speed Quattro all-wheel drive and provided 33 mpg average over the thousand mile trip.
With all the love here the only thing we found annoying was that with the start/stop engine cutoff, that happens at stop lights, the power steering would become stiff until the engine restarted. And with all the other great things this A5 Coupe had to offer, that was something we could overlook.
We loved our week in the Audi A5 Coupe. It was fun to drive, stylish, and comfortable. With plenty of power, we found ourselves zipping along more often than not. Even in the slowest of traffic, the Audi A5 was a delight to be driving. This is a car that would be a first pick for a car to drive every day.
Little cars are back in a big way, be it because people do not want to spend a lot, or they do not need much more than fun transportation. The New Nissan Kicks is now on sale and steps in a field of outdated competitors with a lot of safety, looks, and room for the price.
Nissan is known for Sport Utility Vehicles and Crossovers from the larger than life Armada, family hauler, Pathfinder, classic Cross over’s Rogue, Murano and Rogue Sport. Now a little brother has joined the lineup for 2018, the new Nissan Kicks. It is new, and not a replacement for the recently departed Nissan Juke, which is still available in other world markets.
What is new with the Kicks?
Smart styling and expressive design, with colors that POP out in a quick little four-door hatchback. We love it that automakers are bringing back COLOUR as a major part of the styling of their vehicles. The Kicks has bright, expressive color choices, blacked out pillars and the option of five different two-tone contrasting roof color choices, which brings this small crossover to life. Add Nissan’s Color Studio options which bring about even more excitement to the exterior. Built on the Versa Note platform, with the signature V-Motion Grill, boomerang lights, and floating roof, this may be a little car on the outside, but on the inside, it is very spacious, even in the back seats with front passengers, and has an amazing amount of cargo room.
Standard on all trim levels of Nissan Kicks is Automatic Emergency Braking, which you will not find on other small CUV competitors even as an option. Available as an option Cross Traffic Alert, Blind Spot Alert, and Intelligent All-Around View® Monitor, a 360-degree camera option. All safety items you can afford are worth the investment.
Kicks is a front-engine, front wheel drive platform with Nissan’s 1.6- Liter DOHC 16-valve 4-cylinder engine with continuously variable valve timing. Producing 128 horsepower @5800 RPM, 115 lb-ft of torque @ 4000 RPM connected to Nissan’s Xtronic transmission®, a continuously variable transmission (CVT) provides Kicks with class-leading fuel mileage with 31 city, 36 highway, and 33 combined.
Independent strut front, multi-link independent rear suspension, both with twin tube shocks and a stabilizer bar provide Kicks a solid ride for a short wheelbase vehicle. All Kicks come with ventilated front disc and rear drum brakes with ABS, Electronic Brake Force Distribution and brake assist.
What Drivers and Passengers Will Appreciate & May Not
No question the Kick’s easily accessible and visible 7” touchscreen to control the audio. Large symbols make It is easy to read. Some of the drop-down menus can be confusing and hard to find again. To prevent finger smudges a screen protector on the glass, as you can apply to a tablet would be a helpful addition. (This should not be hard to find an item in a local electronics store, custom cutting, installing, and fitting it is the hardest part.)
Standard Bluetooth streaming audio with available Apple Car Play and Android Auto is almost a necessity today in any vehicle. Only the front USB port (there are three easily accessible USB ports in the Kicks,) direct wires into that desirable technology.
Bose® Personal Plus Audio System with 360 degrees of immersible sound, available on SR Premium Package. (While it was good, only the driver’s headrest has the built-in speakers. You may want to explore the Rockford Fosgate® Audio System for $595 as an option.) I was not enamored with the Personal Plus’s sound quality, for a Bose system, while it is pretty darn good, I expected it to be a bit better. I did not get to experience the Rockford Fosgate®; the large rear cargo area-mounted sub-woofer is where the optional $195 Cargo Load Floor may interfere with it.
While the standard seating upholstery has a diamond pattern stitched in, the more upscale Perma-Tex™ seats have little decoration. To many, the diamond stitching can be perceived as a higher level of trim.
The expansive back seat and cargo area is a big plus in a small car; I would want to add $200 interior accent lighting, or the $555 interior electronics package, as it is hard to see the interior door handles and lock and window switches at night with a black interior.
While the driver’s seat has a fold-down center armrest, the right front passenger seat does not, nor do we see a spot for an optional one to be attached to the seat back.
Closed compartments are not a Kicks thing, there is a glovebox, but the openings on the doors and trays on the center console are open, while you can get $45 optional rubber mats for those.
No spare tire, while there is a well under the cargo, it is filled with a Styrofoam block that holds the jack and inflator kit. Weight reduction and quality of the modern Firestone Tires are no doubt a consideration in not providing a spare.
The optional $211.29 rear cargo cover and $195 cargo load floor are handy but seem easily damaged or could end up as part of the stash of junk in the garage. Though turning over the cargo load floor it looked useful to hold shopping bags in place, but not if you had the sub-woofer in the back.
The Nissan Kicks is made in Mexico and the basic model, the S starts at $17,990, $19,690 for the SV, $20,290 for the SR (more of a sports package), and $21,290 for the SR with a premium package that includes the Bose® Personal Plus 8-Speaker sound system, Perma-Tex™ appointed seats, heated front seats, and a security system. A $975 destination charge, taxes and tags. Minus any incentives, you may be offered from the dealer or through an organization you belong to such as AAA, Costco, USAA, or a buying service. The SR Premium model I found most desirable with optional rear sonar, and interior ambient lighting came to $23,720. Build a Nissan Kicks for yourself.
Kicks are all about fun; this little four-door is a great get up and go vehicle. While its trendy styling may be more youth-oriented, Fun Grannies and Grandpop will be attracted to this easy to drive, economical, roomy, small crossover. We found it light and easy to drive, with plenty of power and pickup, tight turning radius and great visibility. The Kicks is a very light vehicle at 2672 lbs curb weight, while it handled well on a hot breezeless summer’s day, I would want to try it on the interstate during a Spring wind.