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Competitive Compact Crossovers: 2018 Nissan KICKS vs. Toyota CH-R vs. Hyundai Kona vs. Mazda CX-3

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2018 Nissan KICKS Toyota CH-R Hyundai Kona Mazda CX-3

While they may look similar on the outside, each of these four compact crossovers offer a variety of benefits

In April, Ford announced it would begin to phase out production of its sedans and coupes in North America. The move came as no surprise to industry analysts who have seen an increase in SUV and crossover sales, while sedan sales have rapidly declined. To account for this, most automakers offer a variety of crossovers and SUVs ranging in size and capability.

Toyota, Hyundai, Nissan, and Mazda all produce very similar compact crossovers that come with a variety of features, making it difficult to choose your ideal vehicle. Whether you’re looking for supreme efficiency, an extra sense of security, or a luxurious interior, each of these vehicles has something to offer in each category. Check out the differences between the Hyundai Kona, Toyota CH-R, Mazda CX-3, and Nissan KICKS below.

[wptab name= “Performance”]

2018 Mazda CX-3 performance


When it comes to performance, the CH-R, Kona, and CX-3 are all equipped with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, capable of producing a range of 144 to 147 horsepower and 132 to 146 lb-ft of torque. The CX-3 has the most dominant powertrain while the KICKS, with its 1.6-liter four-cylinder, can generate just 125 horsepower and 115 lb-ft of torque.

  • Toyota CH-R: 2.0-liter four-cylinder with Valvematic, CVT with intelligence and Shift Mode (CVTi-S); 144 hp and 139 lb-ft of torque
  • Hyundai Kona: 2.0-liter four-cylinder, six-speed automatic with SHIFTRONIC®; 147 hp and 132 lb-ft of torque
  • Mazda CX-3: 2.0-liter four-cylinder, six-speed automatic; 146 hp and 146 lb-ft of torque
  • Nissan KICKS: 1.6-liter four-cylinder, Xtronic transmission; 125 hp and 115 lb-ft of torque



[wptab name= “Fuel Economy”]

2018 Nissan Kicks

Fuel Economy

Because the Nissan KICKS has the smaller engine of the four crossovers, it has the ability to produce the best fuel economy, coming in at 31 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway. The CX-3 comes in a close second with up to 29 mpg in the city and 34 mpg on the highway while the CH-R and Kona can produce similar figures.

  • Toyota CH-R: 27/31/29 MPG City/Highway/Combined
  • Hyundai Kona: 27/33/30 MPG City/Highway/Combined
  • Mazda CX-3: 29/34/31 MPG City/Highway/Combined
  • Nissan KICKS: 31/36 MPG City/Highway



[wptab name= “Interior Features”]

2018 Toyota CH-R interior features

Interior Features

The old adage “you get what you pay for” is definitely true for these four compact crossovers. On the base CH-R, leather-trimmed items and dual zone automatic climate control are standard. It’s not until you get to the higher trims of the Kona and CX-3 when leather trimming is introduced on steering wheels and shift knobs. The KICKS is the most basic of the four vehicles, with cloth seating and manually adjustable seating arrangements.

  • Toyota CH-R: Dual zone automatic climate control system with pollen filter and individual temperature settings for driver and front passenger; Auto-dimming rearview mirror with integrated backup camera display; Leather-trimmed tilt/telescopic steering wheel; Leather-trimmed shift lever with satin-plated shift knob; Sport fabric-trimmed front bucket seats; Six-way adjustable front passenger seat with sport bolsters; Cargo area cover
  • Hyundai Kona: Cloth seating surfaces, Dual level cargo floor, Manual air conditioning, Rear window defroster with timer, Tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel
  • Mazda CX-3: Air conditioning with pollen filter, Cloth door trim with black arm rests, Black center console knee pads, Cloth-trimmed sport seats
  • Nissan KICKS: Five-passenger seating, Six-way driver’s seat, Four-way front passenger seat, Flat-folding 60/40 split fold-down rear seat, Cloth seat trim



[wptab name= “Exterior Features”]

2018 Hyundai Kona exterior features

Exterior Features

For its higher price point, the Toyota CH-R offers more exterior features than its competitors. Both the CX-3 and CH-R offer variable intermittent windshield wipers and auto-off headlights. The Kona features solar glass while the CH-R includes an acoustic noise-reducing front windshield. The most basic of exterior features are on the Nissan KICKS; LED headlights, fog lights, heated outside mirrors, and a rear roof spoiler are only included on the highest SR trim.

  • Toyota CH-R: C-HR unique cluster LED Daytime Running Lights (DRL), Acoustic noise-reducing front windshield, Color-keyed power outside mirrors with turn signal indicators, Color-keyed rear spoiler with center high-mount stop light and unique cantilevered design, Projector-beam halogen headlights with auto on/off feature, Washer-linked variable intermittent windshield wipers and washer-linked intermittent rear wiper, Rear window wiper and defogger, Color-keyed roof-mounted shark-fin antenna
  • Hyundai Kona: Projector headlights, LED Daytime Running Lights, Roof-mounted Center High-Mount Stop Light (CHMSL), Automatic headlights, Body-color exterior mirrors, Driver’s blind spot mirror, Body-color exterior door handles, Solar glass
  • Mazda CX-3: Clear-lens halogen headlights, Daytime Running Lights (DRL), Power-adjustable side mirrors, Roof-mounted shark fin antenna, Auto-off headlights, Rear roofline spoiler, Variable-intermittent windshield wipers, Intermittent rear wiper/washer, 16-inch aluminum-alloy wheels
  • Nissan KICKS: Multi-reflector halogen headlights, Intelligent auto headlights, Power outside mirrors, Roof rails



[wptab name= “Technology”]

2018 Nissan Kicks


As with many vehicles of today, technology features like SiriusXM® Radio and high-quality speakers are reserved for higher trims. However, the CH-R does offer HD Radio™ and Aha Radio™ on its base XLE trim. Worthy of noting is the inclusion of Apple CarPlay™ and Android Auto™ on the base SE trim of the Kona as well as the ability to add the Bose® Personal® Plus audio system with eight speakers including Bose® UltraNearfield™ driver headrest speakers on the Nissan KICKS.

  • Toyota CH-R: 7-inch touchscreen display, Aha Radio™, Six speakers, USB port with iPod® connectivity, HD Radio™, Auxiliary audio jack
  • Hyundai Kona: 7-inch color touchscreen display audio system, Android Auto™ and Apple CarPlay™, USB and auxiliary input jacks, Rear View monitor with parking guidance
  • Mazda CX-3: Push button start, 12-volt power outlet, 7-inch full-color touchscreen display, Bluetooth® hands-free phone and audio capability, Automatic Level Control and six speakers, MAZDA CONNECT™ Infotainment System, Auxiliary-audio input jack, USB audio input
  • Nissan KICKS: 7-inch touch-screen display audio, Siri® Eyes Free, Two USB charging ports, Bluetooth® Hands-free Phone System, Rearview Monitor, Push button ignition, Integrated key with remote keyless entry, 12V DC power outlet, Six speakers, Streaming audio via Bluetooth®, Radio Data System, Auxiliary input jack



[wptab name= “Safety”]

2018 Toyota CH-R safety


Standard on all four of these vehicles is a tire pressure monitoring system. From there, the safety systems vary between including traction control, brake support, and forward collision warning. The base trim CH-R XLE, equipped with Toyota Safety Sense™ P, has the most diverse safety features, but they come at the cost of a higher MSRP.

  • Toyota CH-R: Toyota Safety Sense™ P: Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Automatic High Beams, and Full Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control; Star Safety System™: Vehicle Stability Control, Traction Control, Anti-lock Brake System, Electronic Brake-force Distribution, Brake Assist, and Smart Stop Technology®; Tire Pressure Monitoring System, Hill Start Assist Control
  • Hyundai Kona: Electronic Stability Control with Traction Control and Brake Assist, Vehicle Stability Management, Tire Pressure Monitoring System
  • Mazda CX-3: Smart City Brake Support, Rearview camera, Tire Pressure Monitoring System
  • Nissan KICKS: Vehicle Dynamic Control with Traction Control System, Automatic Emergency Braking and Forward Collision Warning, Tire Pressure Monitoring System, Nissan Vehicle Immobilizer System



[wptab name= “Price”]

2018 Mazda CX-3 price


Outright, the Nissan KICKS is the most affordable vehicle of the group, coming in with the lowest MSRP of $17,990 for the base S trim. Its highest trim, SR, still features a lower MSRP ($20,290) than the base trim CH-R ($22,500). However, depending on what you’re looking for in a vehicle — standard technology or specific interior features — it may be worth it to shell out that extra cash. 

Toyota CH-R Mazda CX-3 Nissan KICKS Hyundai Kona
XLE $22,500 Sport $20,110 S $17,990 SE $19,500
XLE Premium $24,350 Touring $22,195 SV $19,690 SEL $21,150
Grand Touring $25,165 SR $20,290 Limited $24,700
Ultimate $27,400