It usually isn’t the “norm” that a brand-new vehicle introduced in 2018 undergoes a major re-do in just its fourth year of sales. However, in the case of the popular subcompact Nissan Kicks, that’s exactly what’s happened. It may not be a complete new generation, but Kicks for 2021 features an aggressive new exterior, enhanced interior and more high tech standard features than its predecessor years.
Establishing a reputation for class-leading features and excellent value, the 2021 Kicks is a great entry point to Nissan’s lineup of six crossovers and SUVs for the current year. After driving a multitude of high-dollar specialty cars the last four months, it’s really great to get back in a car that features affordability instead of pricey opulence.
Nissan Kicks is a great value that competes in one of the most popular classes of vehicle today, namely small crossovers and SUVs. Kicks is a compact crossover/SUV style hatchback that debuted as an alternative to the Versa Sedan and the Jukes it replaced.
Still high on features and low on price, Kicks for 2021 is built on the Versa platform and continues as one of the manufacturer’s most value based offerings.
Available in three trims, Kicks pricing starts at the entry S ($19,500) mid-level SV ($21,300) and our tester top line SR ($21,940). All are motivated by a 122-horse, 114-torque 1.6-liter 4-cylinder coupled to an Xtronic CVT automatic that drives the front wheels.
An AWD Kicks is not available, although I feel Kicks is in line for a turbo in the years to come.
Although the powertrain stays the same, the biggest 2021 Kicks positive is the bevy of new upgrades and enhanced standard features. New changes include standard Apple and Android compatibility; 7.0-inch touch screen with new 8.0-inch color touch screen on SV and SR grades; three standard USB ports with new available USB Type-C for SV and SR trims; new exterior styling with bold new grille and available LED headlights; updated interior with new center console and new seating and trim materials; new 7.0-inch driver information display in the meter cluster; and an array of bold new colors, including new two-tone combinations.
Nissan has always been a forward thinking company, and the Kicks answers the needs of today younger generations that may be just starting out in today’s challenging workplace.
That’s why the Kicks prices stay low while the tech and safety this generation demands is now firmly in place.
Clearly, there are few crossovers on the road today that offer this much for such a low price. Also new for 2021 on SV and SR trims are intelligent cruise control and an electronic parking brake with auto hold. Kicks SR also includes an integrated dynamic-control module with active engine brake, intelligent trace control and intelligent ride control that results in a higher level of driving enjoyment. Notable is visibility, which is excellent thanks to a higher front seat position.
Fuel economy has always been a Kicks positive, with best-in-class ratings of 31 mpg city and 36 mpg highway. On the safety side, standard on each and every Kicks is Nissan Safety Shield 360, which includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, radar-based blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert, high beam assist and class-exclusive rear automatic braking. (Yes, all this even on the under $20K entry S trim.)
The improved exterior design includes a new “Double V-motion” grille that gives Kicks a sporty look. New headlights offer a modern look while out back there’s an innovative bumper and LED combination light that stretches from side to side. The 2021 Kicks interior also has a new-fangled stylish and premium feel, highlighted by the SV and SR grades special seat and door trim design. There’s also a D-shaped steering wheel, comfortable non-power 6-way driver’s seat, 4-way adjustable front passenger seat and 60/40-split fold-down rear seat.
Options on our SR tester include a recommended $1,200 Premium Package that includes an 8-speaker Bose Audio system (including one in the driver’s headrest), Prima-Tex appointed stitched seats, heated front seats and steering wheel, Nissan security system, rear cargo cover, NissanConnect Service and available Wi-Fi hotspot with over-the-air updating for head unit firmware. SiriusXM Satellite comes standard on SV and SR versions but is unavailable on the entry S. NissanConnect offers a suite of convenience and security features your dealer will gladly explain when you visit. Among other on-board technology standard on our tester is Nissan’s Intelligent Around View Monitor that provides a 360-degree bird’s-eye view of the Kicks’ exterior surroundings.
On the road, Kicks SR is a capable performer and arrives with Firestone FT140 all-season tires. The suspension is a strut front and twist beam torsion rear setup resulting in secure driving characteristics. Overall, the little Kicks is a decent handler and comfy freeway cruiser and even though Kicks offers just 122-horsepower, it feels peppier on the low end thanks to its lightweight build properties. Granted, it’s no speedster by any means, but initial acceleration is acceptable considering Kicks horsepower and torque limits. Expect zero to 60-MPH in about 9.8 seconds.
The entry Kicks S trim comes with 16-inch steel wheels mounted with 205/60R16 all-season tires while Kicks SV and SR grades are equipped with 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels and aforementioned Firestone rubber. All Kicks offer a standard traction control system, vehicle dynamic control, hill start assist, anti-lock brakes and electric power steering. Kicks SV and SR grades add four wheel disc brakes doe 2021 instead of rear drums still utilized on the S model.
Important numbers include a wheelbase of 103.1-inches, 2,744 lb. curb weight, 10.8-gallon fuel tank, and 25.3 to 32.3 cu. ft. of cargo space.
Nissan Kicks offers everything expected in a small crossover and is a solid choice if you don’t need a 4x4 vehicle. If you do live in a harsh climate and demand a 4x4, check out the Nissan Rogue Sport, which starts at just $23,960.
In summary, there are few peers out there that deliver dollar-for-dollar what the Nissan Kick offers. Even the S trim at less than $20K is a buy, sans some infotainment equipment and minor interior differences.
I really liked the new Kicks, and I’m a “baby-boomer gen” consumer. Regardless of age, give it a serious look if shopping this segment.
Likes: New looks, standard feature upgrades, lots for the money.
Dislikes: Needs more horses, some engine noise, 4x4 unavailable.
—Greg Zyla is a syndicated auto columnist.