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Nissan Kicks is a Millennial's adventure buddy

It's advertised as an affordable car for active young people, and for once, it actually is

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“I am an active urban Millennial,” I thought as I hoisted my mountain bike atop the 2021 Nissan Kicks. I’m the person from the commercials! I’ll bet I’ll have a nice day riding my bike to a craft brewery where I’ll have an IPA, post a picture of the beer with the bike in the background to Instagram, and then maybe I will stream a ’90s movie on Netflix when I get back to my (rented) home. With the bikes secured to the Thule rack on top of the Kicks, I wheeled off to a city park to have a very nice Millennial afternoon like the TV says I will enjoy.

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I know I’ll like the car because I’ve sat through dozens, if not hundreds, of presentations from various manufacturers wherein an excited and cheery product expert explains to a barely awake audience of car writers that their new $35,000 vehicle was designed to appeal to the young and upward Millennial buyer. I’m usually the only Millennial in the room and when this line is cast out I look left and right to see if anyone looks as incredulous as I do. Most don’t look up from their branded notepads and pens that were given to them five minutes ago.

Because the idea that someone really intends to design a car that they want me and my similarly aged friends to buy seems almost laughable. Besides being infamous for killing this industry and that one, Millennials are above all, most famous on the Internet for never having any money. And while I would love to be the exception to that trend, I am not. Sure there are plenty of $35k+ cars that Millennials like, but liking doesn’t mean we’re magically able to afford it.

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And that brings me to my test car, the humble Nissan Kicks. I was not in the briefing room when this car was debuted to automotive media for the first time so I can’t verify whether or not someone excitedly told a room of people that the Kicks was designed to appeal to active upwards urban Millennials. But I can guess that they did, and for once, they’re not wrong.

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Most important to an actual Millennial consumer, the Kicks is cheap(ish). Sure it starts at a heady $9,000 above a Chevy Spark but in the car ecosystem, it’s still on the right side of affordability. But unlike the Spark which honestly plays the part of an economy car, the Kicks is dressed up with the pretense that it is an “active” person’s car. It may not have four wheel drive, but it has black plastic fender “flares,” a raised ride height, and a tall roofline. And all those things inform the public that I am NOT a guy driving the cheapest car I could find, I am an active person who needed a small CUV to fit my Millennial lifestyle.

My phone pairs with it effortlessly, the headrest speakers can send Joe Rogan or Blink 182 into my ears as I wish, and it can genuinely fit four people in moderate comfort — a trick that the Spark can only manage for two.

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2021 Nissan Kicks
2021 Nissan Kicks Photo by Clayton Seams

Mechanically, the Kicks is very little to write home about. It has an engine that makes a noise and some noticeable increases in forward momentum, and a transmission that slots easily into P, R, and D. It gets surprisingly poor fuel economy considering the size and power it makes as I averaged about 8.0 L/100 km during my week with it. The two bikes acting as a parachute on top likely didn’t help. But nevertheless, I don’t think the trendy Millennials from the RBC ads will buy it for those reasons.

Perhaps the car companies are in on it. They know they can’t sell a young person an old person’s car but they can sure do the opposite. Regardless, the Kicks adequately serves its purpose as a car crafted to appear to Millennials.