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2021 Nissan Kicks: 7 Things We Like (and 3 Not So Much)

2021 Nissan Kicks 2021 Nissan Kicks | Cars.com photo by Aaron Bragman

It’s now been three model years since the Nissan Kicks’ kickoff, and the affable SUV still stacks up favorably versus subcompact competitors. For 2021, the Kicks returns refreshed with subtle styling tweaks inside and out, as well as tech and safety upgrades, while keeping its price attractive to would-be hatchback buyers looking to ride high with the SUV-buying masses.

Related: 2021 Nissan Kicks Review: Same Value, More Friendly

For a comprehensive critique of the Kicks, be sure to check out our full review by Cars.com’s Aaron Bragman via the related link above. But for a rapid-fire rundown of our likes and dislikes, keep reading.

Here are seven things we get a kick out of (and three we’d kick to the curb) about the 2021 Nissan Kicks:

Things We Like

1. Aesthetic Updates

2021 Nissan Kicks grille 2021 Nissan Kicks | Cars.com photo by Aaron Bragman

Even if you’re familiar with the outgoing version of the Kicks, you’ll have to squint, cock your head to the side and mutter, “Hmmm … ,” to detect the subtle exterior changes. A new grille and bumper, headlights, foglights, front-end trim, revised taillights and available two-tone floating roof give the Kicks just the right amount of a visual zhoosh to keep it in good stylistic standing versus chief rivals like the Ford EcoSport and Hyundai Venue.

2. A Shade More Special

Amid relatively samey-samey SUVs, a little customization goes a long way in expressing what a beautiful and unique snowflake you are. (We know this because Tyler knows this.) Through the new Kicks Color Studio, buyers will be able to differentiate their vehicle with as many as a dozen mix-and-match colored components such as wheel caps and inserts, mirrors and interior vents.

3. Best-in-Gas

The Kicks may not exactly live up to its name when it comes to acceleration, but it kicks competitors’ cans when it comes to gas mileage. The Nissan boasts an EPA-estimated fuel economy of 31/36/33 mpg city/highway/combined, besting its subcompact counterparts.

4. Freeway Friendly …

2021 Nissan Kicks 2021 Nissan Kicks | Cars.com photo by Aaron Bragman

The Kicks, absorbs pummeling from rough roads so that riders can go the distance without depleting their stamina — and not just on local streets at low speeds. It also handles the highway “rather well, with a surprising amount of steady high-speed calmness for such a small vehicle,” Bragman notes in his review.

5. … But Suited to the City

As a runabout for tight urban environs, the Kicks is living its best life, checking all the right boxes for the modern city dweller:

  • Maneuverable in a tight parking sitch, congested streets, narrow alleys and harrowing subterranean parking garages
  • Geared for lower-speed stop-and-go traffic
  • Confidence-boosting outward visibility and a high seating position to help you anticipate your next quick cut in front of a cab
  • Good sound insulation to block out the ambient (read: unrelenting) sounds of the city

6. Spacious Enough for Its Size

2021 Nissan Kicks front seats 2021 Nissan Kicks | Cars.com photo by Aaron Bragman

Rear occupants won’t involuntarily be giving those in front a mutually uncomfortable shiatsu massage due to their knees slamming  into the seatbacks. Meanwhile, cargo space is generous enough to accommodate a surprising amount of luggage, groceries or Ikea components, particularly with the second row folded forward (though, it must be noted, not flat).

7. Value Proposition

Among its trio of trim levels, Kicks pricing ranges from $20,650 to $23,090, including a $1,150 destination charge. That is, all things considered, a modest increase of between $430 and $620 over the 2020 version, and does little to compromise its value proposition versus rivals like the Honda HR-V, Hyundai Kona and Venue, Kia Soul and Toyota C-HR. For the additional dough, all buyers gain standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, while upper trim levels get an upgraded 8-inch touchscreen, three USB ports including USB-C ports and rear disc brakes. That’s in addition to the standard Nissan Safety Shield 360 suite of advanced safety features, which includes automatic forward emergency braking with pedestrian detection, rear automatic emergency braking, blind spot warning with rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning and high-beam assist.

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Things We Don’t

1. Acceleration Not Accel-ent

2021 Nissan Kicks steering wheel and touchscreen 2021 Nissan Kicks | Cars.com photo by Aaron Bragman

Bragman describes the Kicks  as “seemingly being powered by a band of lethargic gerbils.” The Kicks runs a twerpy 122-horsepower, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine mated to a continuously variable automatic transmission. (Did we mention that best-in-class fuel economy?)

2. Bores Through the Turns

On the (rationalized) bright side, Bragman also notes that additional power would be wasted on the Kicks, “as the steering and handling aren’t tuned for entertainment purposes, either.” The Kicks feels floaty, and leans too much in corners and on on-ramps, while steering is “highly boosted and not blessed with a quick ratio.”

3. Two Too Few

If the Kicks ever intends to compete directly with the likes of the all-wheel-drive-offering EcoSport, Kona and HR-V, it’s gonna need a couple more drive wheels. Its front-drive-only configuration disqualifies it as a proper SUV, according to Cars.com’s in-house definition.

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