February 26, 2024


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2021 Nissan Kicks First Drive

Nissan first introduced the Kicks to the U.S. market in 2017 for the 2018 model year. The subcompact crossover was intended to be a hip and fun way to get younger buyers into the Nissan brand. With a starting price under $20,000, it did just that. Now, three years later, the 2021 Nissan Kicks has received a fairly substantial refresh, and we were given the privilege of spending a bit of time with the cute-ute before its official release to the public.

The vehicle delivered to us was a 2021 Nissan Kicks in SR trim with all the options. While full pricing for the 2021 model year Kicks hasn’t been released as of yet, a similarly equipped 2020 model would set you back right at about $25,000. What has been announced, however, is that the 2021 Kicks will again have a starting price of less than $20,000. Really, no matter how you option it, Kicks is one heck of a bargain.

Our time with the 2021 Nissan Kicks was relatively short, a mere 36 hours, but we enjoyed every moment of it. The center piece of the refresh is the vehicle’s new front fascia (including a new bumper, grille, and headlamps) and new rear styling (including a bumper, taillamps, back door finisher, and roof-mounted shark fin antenna). We really dig the look of the new Kicks in person and got several longing glances and even a few compliments (we’re certain if we had it longer the compliments would roll in like crazy).

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The SR trim of the 2021 Nissan Kicks comes standard with LED lighting all around, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, Perma-Tex seating surfaces, Nissan’s Intelligent Around View Monitor (360-degree camera system), a Bose eight-speaker audio system, 8-inch color touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and Intelligent Cruise Control (adaptive cruise control), among others. The Kicks also comes standard in all grades with automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, rear automatic braking, lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and rear parking assist. Quite an impressive list for such an inexpensive vehicle.

Moving inside, the 2021 Nissan Kicks is surprisingly roomy and comfortable, even for full-size American adults. The new standard front seat center console armrest may not seem like a big deal, but it adds quite a bit of comfort. We also enjoyed the new 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system and found the eight-speaker Bose stereo system to be among the best Bose systems we’ve sampled.

Also impressive was space in both the rear seat and the cargo area. A standard test of ours is to load up the back seat with an infant carrier and large child safety seat. The 2021 Nissan Kicks had more rear seat room for both child seats than the other vehicles in this class that we’ve recently tested. Typically, we’ve needed to move the driver seat quite a bit forward to fit the rear-facing infant seat. However, in the Kicks, we were able to leave the driver’s seat in a comfortable driving position.

Continuing with what impressed about the 2021 Nissan Kicks was the amount of room in the rear storage area. We easily packed in a cooler, a large banker’s box, and a sparkly unicorn tote full of hand sanitizer and PPE. We got all of this into the vehicle and easily shut the hatch with no interference. What this shows is that we could easily fit enough luggage for a weekend trip (when we’re able to freely travel again, anyway).

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The powertrain of the 2021 Nissan Kicks is unchanged from the previous year with the vehicle sporting a 1.6L I-4 engine and Xtronic CVT transmission. We typically enjoy Nissan’s Xtronic CVT transmission, and the version in the Kicks is no exception. The transmission operated exceptionally with smooth “shifting” during all types of driving conditions. We found the engine’s 122 hp to be suitable for city driving, but when it came to merging or passing on the freeway it was quite underwhelming. While the EPA has yet to assign a fuel economy rating to the 2021 Nissan Rogue, Nissan has said that it is projecting 31 mpg city, 36 highway, and 33 combined. During our nearly 130 miles of combined driving, we were able to log 24.75 mpg. That said, we also spend about 3 hours idling with the air conditioner running, as well, so we feel our numbers are possibly a touch low.

Overall, we’re quite pleased with the 2021 Nissan Kicks. The exterior refresh is exciting, the interior is comfortable, and the feature set is quite impressive. And the fact that all of this can be had for what amounts to a bargain price in 2021 is the proverbial icing on the cake. We can’t wait for an opportunity to spend more time in the refreshed Kicks and are certain it’ll be another winner for Nissan.

2021 Nissan Kicks SR
Base price: $19,500 (S Grade)
Price as tested: $TBD
Engine: 1.6L I-4
Transmission: Xtronic CVT
Horsepower: 122 @ 6,300 rpm
Torque: 114 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm
Towing capacity: N/A
EPA fuel economy rating (projected): 31 city/36 hwy/ 33comb
Actual calculated economy, 129.5-mile trip: 24.75 mpg