2021 Nissan Kicks SV new car reviews

Photography Courtesy Nissan

Didn't care for looks of the 2020 Kicks? Lucky for you, Nissan gave it restyle for 2021. Just in case that’s not enough to sweeten the deal, Nissan Safety Shield 360 active safety suite–featuring things like lane departure warning, automatic emergency braking and blind spot warning–as standard equipment.

Besides those changes, the Kicks still retains its 1.6-liter inline-four rated for 122 horsepower and 114 lb.-ft. of torque.  That power is still sent to the front wheels through an Xtronic CVT transmission.

Keep reading to see what this updated Nissan Kicks is like to live with.

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J.G. Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak
Production/Art Director

It would be okay to write the Nissan Kicks off as an unremarkable small SUV. I mean, it is a fairly unremarkable small SUV, so it’s not really even a stretch. But look deeper and you realize that the only thing the Kicks does wrong is existing in a world of overequipped, overpriced machinery being sold on too-long loans and living most of their lives hopelessly upside down.

So while the Kicks may not bring much excitement to the party in these days of ultra-loaded cars and SUVs, its value proposition is its value, which, when you take a minute to really look at it, is pretty stellar.

It’s easy to say the Kicks—built on a common platform with the Versa but feeling orders of magnitude more substantial than that car—is just another small SUV, but what’s easy to overlook is how much small SUV it is for the money. Our test Kicks was a fully loaded SV that stickered out a few dollars over $25,000. And a quick look at local dealer stock—which is also surprisingly plentiful, given the scarcity among some models on dealer lots currently—also shows some local incentives here in the Southeast driving the price down even further. Other regions seem to have similar programs in place as well.

For that sub-$25,000 price, you get a lot of utility, maybe a little sport, and definitely a vehicle. And despite the value, the Kicks is not a decontented stripper, either. A touch-screen DIC with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto sits front and center on the dash, with easy-to-find analog controls for most of the common functions like climate control and volume and tuning sitting conveniently on the center stack. Operation is easy and unambiguous, and the Kicks is feature-rich enough that you miss very little.

Really the only hint that the Kicks is a budget beater is some of the materials used in the interior. Surfaces seem more industrial than luxurious, but even the textured plastics in the Kicks that might be leather or other soft material in a more high-end vehicle seem sturdy and substantial. What the Kicks may give up in apparent luxury it makes up for in a feeling of durability.

Driving the Kicks is, again, unremarkable, but not in a bad way. The CVT is fairly responsive, so throttle motion very neatly corresponds to engine response in a nice, linear fashion. The Kicks is nicely sized, too, making maneuvering and visibility an easy task. As I mentioned before, what Nissan was able to do with the very humble Versa platform is pretty impressive, and the Kicks presents itself as a far more sophisticated machine than you’d think would be possible from those raw materials.

And when taken into the context of the extremely reasonable price, the Kicks is even more impressive. No, it’s not a high-end luxury SUV, but it is a well-equipped, highly-competent, useful machine at an excellent price given today’s over-inflated market.

Sometimes there’s a lot to like, even if there isn’t a lot to get excited about.

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06HHR (Forum Supporter)
06HHR (Forum Supporter) Dork
8/20/21 2:35 p.m.

With a conventional automatic or 5/6 speed manual I could see picking one up for a nice runabout.   Fairly light with adequate power.  With the CVT, no way ...

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