Sub-compact SUVs like the Ford EcoSport and Nissan Kicks combine the versatility of the crossover with an easy to live with size.
The very-small SUV segment is not yet as popular as the compact category but that may soon change thanks to the arrival of stimulating vehicles like the 2019 Nissan Kicks and 2019 Ford EcoSport. These are only two options among many waiting to replace your small sedan or hatchback.
The 2019 Nissan Kicks arrived last year as the interim replacement for the Nissan Juke and likely as a stop-gap in the near future that may or may not hold a new Micra and Versa Note. With this in mind, it certainly has its work cut out for it, but it has loads of potential.
The 2019 Ford EcoSport has an even bigger job. With the demise of the Fiesta and the Focus, the EcoSport will need to convince small car buyers in Ford showrooms that it brings together affordability, efficiency with the added advantage of the utility vehicle in one package.
Both also have lots of convincing to do as they have showroom siblings sitting one notch above that offer more of everything for little more money.
Let’s look into these two mini urban warriors and figure out where you should start shopping. Read on.
Which is more enjoyable to drive?
Initial expectations for both vehicles are very similar. To give you an idea, you would expect the EcoSport and Kicks to be noisy, buzzy, lack refinement and power but the reality is in part very different.
The Ford EcoSport is a pleasure to drive. Its chassis tuning and relative weight provide it with a solid surefootedness that is not unlike the Ford Escape. In town, the suspension delivers more than adequate damping to soak up the rough stuff. The following instant, you could be headed to the cottage on your favorite winding road and enjoying yourself. Unfortunately, the powertrain will not play along.
The EcoSport’s 123-horsepower turbocharged EcoBoost 1.0-litre 3-cylinder engine, only available with FWD, is amusing thanks to its low-end torque but no streetlight races will be won. There’s no improvement when AWD is selected as it comes with the 167-horsepower 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine. Here, the numbers may look big on a spec comparison sheet but there’s no improvement performance-wise. The issue with the EcoSport’s less than stellar acceleration and consequently fuel consumption, is its weight. The FWD 3-cylinder model tips the scale at just shy of 1,400 kg!
The Nissan Kicks shares the EcoSport’s highlights. Its chassis is also exceptionally competent and as easily at home in the city as it is being pushed. The cabin remains quiet and there’s the same sense of safety and solidity.
The Kicks will not win any race either. The 125-horsepower 1.6-litre 4-cylinder engine and accompanying CVT transmission are destined to get you from point “A” to point “B”, and nothing more.
The major difference here is that the Ford EcoSport offers up AWD whereas it is not offered with the Nissan. The kicker here is that the Nissan Qashqai with AWD is $800 more that the least expensive EcoSport with AWD…
Bottom line is that both deliver a good drive with a limited amount of performance.
Answer: it’s a tie.
Which is more fuel-efficient?
This section of the comparison should not be so one-sided. In but a few words, the Ford EcoSport is anything but “eco.” With the 3-cylinder and FWD, Ford projects an average of 8.6/8.1/8.4L/100km (city/highway/combined). Upgraded to the 4-cylinder with AWD, the numbers climb to 10.2/8.0/9.0L/100km (city/highway/combined). These are terrible results. My real-world testing returned a 10L/100km average or barely 1L/100km less than what I achieved with a Ford Escape.
By contrast, the Nissan Kicks crushes the Ford with numbers like 7.7/6.6/7.2L/100km (city/highway/combined). And for fun, the AWD Nissan Qashqai returns 9.1/7.6/8.4L/100km (city/highway/combined) …
The 3-cylinder EcoSport consumes 20% more than the Kicks on a good day. On that same day, the AWD EcoSport will down about 8% more fuel than the AWD Qashqai…
Answer: the 2019 Nissan Kicks
Which is more spacious?
There are two things going on with the Ford EcoSport in this portion of the story. The first is accessing the trunk. Long ago, like 20 years ago, I would complain about barn-door style opening rear tailgates on a few SUVs. This was an old problem that was, until now, forgotten as all carmakers moved over to traditional hatches. The EcoSport has brought back the bad door which can be troublesome in tighter parking situations.
Second, the boot itself is very snug. Ford boasts that there’s 592 litres of accessible volume back there but as I said in my review, I can’t see it.
The Nissan Kicks once more sticks it to Ford with a trunk capable of handling 716 litres of gear and it features a regular hatch!
Answer: the 2019 Nissan Kicks
Which has the better value?
Here again, Ford’s wedged itself into a situation where its EcoSport is not competitive.
The base FWD “S” trim starts at $22,099. The first steps in the Kicks retails for a very reasonable $17,998. Even if the Ford includes torque-vectoring and 16-inch alloy wheels, the $4,000 difference is next to impossible to quantify.
It doesn’t get any better further up the trim ladder. The $25,099 FWD EcoSport SE has no tangible advantages over the Kicks SR at $23,098. The Nissan throws in 17-inch alloy wheels and remote start while the Ford offers a power driver’s seat and a sunroof. The $2,000 gap is a mystery.
Answer: the 2019 Nissan Kicks
Which would we recommend?
It’s difficult nowadays to tell consumers to stay away from a specific product as all cars are generally good. Here, it’s not that the 2019 Ford EcoSport is a bad vehicle, it’s that it simply cannot compete with the Nissan Kicks, or any others in the segment including the Mazda CX-3, Honda HR-V, Hyundai Kona, or a Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen.
On top of all this, at the time of writing these lines, Ford is very weak on leasing and financing incentives when compared to Nissan.
We do very much enjoy the Nissan Kicks and everything it brings to the table however we’re firm believers in AWD. For this reason, we’d shop the Qashqai or one of the aforementioned members of the competition.
2019 Nissan Kicks Images Gallery