We’ve had the 2018 Nissan Kicks for a few months now, and it’s proving to be quite adept at commuting in Los Angeles’ gridlocked streets. Thanks to its small footprint, you can easily squeeze through small gaps and alleys, making it a breeze to navigate the city. Now that I’ve gotten to know the small car better, I was surprised to find that it has a Sport mode.
The button is on the gear selector stalk, and it’s conspicuously marked only with a horizontal line instead of “Sport.” It’s as if Nissan purposely hid it to keep anyone from figuring out that such a button exists in the Kicks. Once you push it, the only indication that you activated Sport mode is an “S” right next to the “D” on the gauge cluster display. Otherwise there’s no indication that you’re in another mode.
To satisfy my curiosity, I hit the road to see if Sport mode changes anything. After a few minutes, I noticed that it only alters the powertrain’s behavior; throttle response is more immediate, the engine is happier to rev, and the CVT is also more cooperative. The car also cruises at 3,000 rpm instead of 1,500 rpm, allowing you to make the most of the engine’s meager output. As a result, passing slower traffic on the freeway requires less planning.
Unlike the Mazda CX-3, which undergoes a Jekyll and Hyde personality transformation when toggling between Normal and Sport modes, the Kicks’ change is subtle (think more of a quick power-up). The crossover’s responses are just quick enough without feeling like it just drank a quintuple shot of espresso after lunch.
For daily commuting, Normal mode is plenty and fits the Kicks’ rugged city dweller persona quite well; it happily weaves around to get you through even the nastiest congestion. However, if you absolutely must have a reaction for your every action, go ahead and hit the Sport button to eke the most out of your youthful urban runner.
Read more about our long-term Nissan Kicks SR:
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Author: Stefan Ogbac