It’s (Likely Still) a Good Deal | 2021 Nissan Kicks

When it arrived as a 2018 model, the Nissan Kicks made a mark as an affordable, fuel-efficient subcompact crossover (or hatchback). With features like an available surround-view camera system and a generous list of standard driver assistance technologies, this adorable rig gives you a lot for your money. For the next year or so, Nissan kept adding more goodies to the Kicks while keeping its price tag affordable. For 2021, the Kicks gets upgraded again, this time to improve the quality of life on the road. Is it still a good deal? Let’s find out.

2021 Nissan Kicks: What Changed?

Nissan gave the Kicks a major nip and tuck for 2021. You get thin headlight clusters and a massive new grille up front, for a more aggressive face. In the rear, upper trims have LED combination taillights connected by a red strip, and the black plastic bumper has been replaced by a body-colored one. Other than the new 17-inch alloy wheel design on the SV and SR, the Kicks’ side profile remains the same. The rear drum brakes have been replaced by disc ones, and rear parking sensors are standard on all variants.

Inside, an 8.0-inch touchscreen replaces the 7.0-inch unit on the SV and SR grades while Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard across the board. Adaptive cruise control is now available as is a heated steering wheel. The SR is now available with two-tone gray and black leatherette upholstery. A new center console with an integrated armrest, a small storage area, and reconfigurable cup holders have also been added.

2021 Nissan Kicks: Interior and Tech

For a subcompact crossover veering on the smaller end of the spectrum, the Nissan Kicks is roomy. Four passengers fit comfortably while five will be fine in a pinch. There’s plenty of room for your stuff, too. With the rear seats up and the cargo cover removed, you get a lot of usable space for a 24-inch check-in bag or two. Folding the 60/40 split rear seatbacks expands capacity significantly, making the Kicks a viable IKEA hauler. We do wish the load floor was flat so you don’t have to put bulky items in at an angle.

Material quality is acceptable for an entry-level subcompact crossover. You find soft, squishy surfaces on touchpoints but there’s also plenty of hard plastic on the dash and upper part of the door cards. During most driving situations, the Kicks is pretty quiet. You get some wind buffeting at highway speeds, while road noise is well controlled.

Tech updates strengthen the Kicks’ value proposition. The available 8.0-inch touchscreen on the SV and SR models responds quickly and has a logical layout. You get physical shortcut buttons, too, which keep things easy to use. Choosing the SR Premium package adds the eight-speaker Bose Personal audio system, one of the best listening experiences in the mainstream segment. This unit gives you an immersive surround sound function and can also simulate headphones by concentrating the music output to the two speakers mounted on the driver’s head restraint.

2021 Nissan Kicks: Driving Impressions

The Kicks remains a solid daily driver because of its size and maneuverability. You can easily squeeze through tight spaces thanks to its tight turning circle. Steering is light and easy but it’s vague at low speeds and lacks feedback. Ride comfort is compliant and the suspension does a good job soaking up road imperfections. However, you feel harder impacts a little more due to the tuning being on the stiff side. Throw the Kicks into a corner and you’ll feel like you’re in a tall hatchback. Although body roll is kept in check, keep in mind that this is a commuter car, not a hot hatch. The 205-width all-season tires grip fine but will get overwhelmed by the suspension if you start pushing the car hard.

At 2,744 pounds in the SR trim, the Kicks is light by modern car standards. The 122-hp 1.6-liter four-cylinder and CVT combo move the car acceptably. It’s not quick but there’s enough power there to get around slower traffic, especially if you plan them well. In the city, the Kicks’ lightness helps it move around with ease, allowing you to dart through tight spaces safely. The CVT does all the heavy lifting, eking every bit of power out of the little engine. From a standstill, the Kicks is quite leisurely, hinting at its commuter car nature. Just don’t wind the engine out because it can get quite loud at higher rpms.

Nissan’s driver assistance features operate subtly. They don’t blare at you incessantly if there’s something in your blind spot or when you get close to lane lines. All you get are subtle beeps or steering wheel vibrations. Adaptive cruise control, which is standard on the SV and SR grades, works effectively but the distancing is on the conservative side. Even in the closest setting, there’s still enough space between you and the vehicle ahead for someone else to cut in between. We do wish the Kicks got ProPilot Assist; that system is one of the best semi-autonomous driving assistance technologies and it could easily turn this car into a stronger daily driver.

Still a Good Deal?

Nissan’s smallest crossover remains one of the strongest value plays in the subcompact class. The generous features list and practicality makes the Kicks a compelling choice thanks to all the quality-of-life improvements. The lack of AWD and speed may turn consumers away but if you’re looking for efficient, practical, and inexpensive transport done right, this is one of the stronger options. Starting at $19,500 before then $1,095 destination fee for the base S grade, the refreshed 2021 Kicks is only $430 more than the outgoing 2020 model. So yeah, it’s still a good deal.

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