2021 Nissan Kicks FAQ Review

Ron Sessions, Independent Expert | Sep 14, 2021

Nicely updated for the 2021 model year, the Nissan Kicks is a 4-door hatchback in SUV clothing. It’s the sixth offering in Nissan’s extensive library of SUVs, extending the brand down into subcompact territory. As such, the plucky 2021 Nissan Kicks takes the place of the previous Versa Note hatchback as an entry point to the Nissan brand, offering a new vehicle with a warranty and that new car smell for the same price as many late-model used ones.

Just a few inches more abbreviated than the Rogue Sport, the Kicks checks all of the vital SUV boxes with a slightly raised seating position, surprisingly roomy cargo compartment, muscular wheel arches, and a puffed-up hood. All but one, actually, as the Kicks does not drive all of its four wheels, just the front ones. And that’s the major difference between the Kicks and most of the dozen or more of its small SUV brethren. The Kicks has more of an urban explorer mission attached to it for venturing out on pavement where one won’t get their shoes dirty, in comfort, with plenty of room for friends and whatever else fits in the cargo hold. Baja who?

What’s new for the 2021 Nissan Kicks? - Find the best Nissan deals!

First introduced in 2018, the 2021 Nissan Kicks gets a mild mid-cycle facelift and new exterior colors, as well as updated standard and optional equipment. Changes include:

  • Standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto on all trim levels
  • Standard 7-inch infotainment touchscreen upgrades to an 8-inch unit for SV and SR trims
  • New, faster USB-C port added to existing USB-A ports for SV and SR trims
  • New, 7-inch digital driver display in SV and SR trims
  • Vented rear disc brakes replace drum brakes in SV and SR trims
  • New center console design
  • Bigger, bolder, more SUV-like “double V-motion” grille
  • LED low-beam headlamps on SR trim
  • New colors including Boulder Gray Pearl, Electric Blue Metallic, and Scarlet Ember Tintcoat

2021 Nissan Kicks SPECS - Find the best Nissan deals!

2021 Nissan Kicks Boulder Gray Pearl Front Quarter View

Photo: Ron Sessions

What are the 2021 Nissan Kicks configurations?

The Kicks is a slightly raised, small 4-door hatchback with SUV-like styling. It is based on Versa sedan mechanicals and is available only with front-wheel drive. As with competitors such as the Hyundai VenueKia Soul, and Toyota CH-Rall-wheel drive (AWD) is unavailable.

Nissan offers the Kicks in three trims: S, SV, and SR. All are powered by a naturally aspirated 122-horsepower 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine that’s mated to a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT).

What is the 2021 Nissan Kicks price?

The base prices of the 2021 Kicks run from $19,600 for the base S trim to $22,140 for the range-topping SR. The destination charge adds another $1,175 to the total.

What is the 2021 Nissan Kicks cargo space?

Despite the Kicks’ diminutive size, there’s a generous 25.3 cubic feet of cargo space behind the 60/40 split-folding rear seat. That opens up to 53.1 cubic feet when the back seat is folded down. There is additional concealed space for small valuables such as a camera, tablet, or purse in the spare tire well under the cargo floor, which is carpeted. The cargo floor is low for easy loading and unloading, but because the rear seat doesn’t fold flat with the cargo floor, there’s a step up for stowing longer items. A cargo area tonneau cover is optional with a Premium package available with the top SR trim.

What is the 2021 Nissan Kicks gas mileage?

The Environmental Protection Agency rates the 2021 Nissan Kicks at 33 mpg in combined city/highway driving.

During testing of the 2021 Kicks comprised mostly of around-town driving in Arizona’s punishing 100-plus-degree summer heat, it returned an indicated 29.0 mpg. In this case, the Kicks’ small, 10.8-gallon fuel tank capacity would generate a maximum driving range of 313 miles.

Is the 2021 Nissan Kicks safe?

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the 2021 Nissan Kicks achieves the highest-possible Good ratings in all crashworthiness categories.

In other tests, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the 2021 Kicks 4 out of 5 stars overall, with 4 stars for frontal-impact performance and rollover resistance and 5 stars for side-impact performance.

In addition to 10 airbags, the 2021 Nissan Kicks features an array of advanced driving-assistance tech, including standard forward automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, rear automatic braking, lane-departure warningblind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic warning, high-beam assist, and a reversing camera. SV and SR trims replace the standard cruise control with adaptive cruise control. They also add a driver alertness monitor and a rear-seat reminder system. SR models also include a 360-degree surround-view camera system that replaces the standard reversing camera.

What is the 2021 Nissan Kicks towing capacity?

Nissan does not recommend the Kicks for towing. It does not publish a payload rating for it, either. However, based on its 3,660-pound gross vehicle weight rating, I estimate the Kicks can carry about 900 pounds, including the weight of the driver and any passengers.

2021 Nissan Kicks REVIEW - Find the best Nissan deals!

For this review, I tested a 2021 Nissan Kicks SV. It had Boulder Gray Pearl paint, black-painted alloy wheels, illuminated door sills, carpeted floor and cargo mats, an Exterior package (roof crossbars and an exhaust finisher), and an Interior Electronics package (20-color LED ambient lighting, door pocket lights, and a frameless auto-dimming rearview mirror with a universal remote). Including the $1,175 destination charge, the tally came to $24,815.

How is the 2021 Nissan Kicks interior?

2021 Nissan Kicks Interior Dashboard

Photo: Ron Sessions

The Kicks’ cabin is as upbeat and cheerful as the little SUV’s exterior. The layout is modern and playful with a nice montage of shapes, colors, and textures that’s surprising considering the diminutive Nissan’s modest price. It certainly doesn’t give off a frugal vibe in the vein of the previous-generation Versa sedan. Front and center and mounted high in the dash is a bright and colorful infotainment touchscreen measuring 7 inches in base S trim and 8 inches in the mid-level SV and SR. Key touchpoints are padded for comfort, including the armrests and even the sides of the center console. Facing the driver is a D-shaped steering wheel with a flat bottom, reminiscent of upscale European sport sedans.

Is the 2021 Nissan Kicks comfortable?

Courtesy of large front doors and a slightly elevated seating position, the Kicks is a breeze to hop in and out of. The Kicks treats front-seat occupants to some of the roomiest front seats in the small SUV segment. As with other Nissan products, the front buckets are the NASA-inspired Zero Gravity type, using a design that cradles the thighs and lower torso, and one Nissan claims—and I must agree—supports the back and aids comfort, especially on longer slogs behind the wheel. There are no power adjustments, and lumbar isn’t adjustable, just a barber chair-style driver-seat height adjustment lever that you pump up or down to go in the desired direction. Heated front seats are optional in a Premium package on SR only, which also includes a heated steering wheel and faux leather seat coverings to replace the standard cloth ones. This is an entry-level SUV, so ventilated or massaging seats are not in the picture.

Standard manually adjustable air conditioning is, however, which upgrades to set-and-forget automatic temperature control in SV and SR trims.

Storage is decent, thanks to a center console with several small bins for trip detritus and a bigger one under the center armrest. One cool feature of the console’s dual cupholders is the height-adjustable feature that allows you to make them deeper or shallower to fit tall or short beverage containers. There’s more stash space, of course, in the glove box and door bins, plus a small cubby in the lower instrument panel above the driver’s left knee.

The rear seat will handle two adults—three in a pinch—but they’ll be happier if the driver and front passenger surrender an inch or two of their generous front-seat legroom to their aft compadres.

For such a small SUV with a hard-working 4-cylinder engine, the Kicks is not a noise box on the road. An acoustic windshield and thicker front window glass help to knock down ambient traffic noise. Meanwhile, added insulation reduces the road sizzle that would otherwise be emanating from the wheel wells adjacent to the cargo hold.

Does the 2021 Nissan Kicks drive itself?

The short answer is no. Don’t let the hype from some upstart automakers fool you. Mass-produced fully autonomous vehicles with no steering wheel or foot pedals are at least several years away.

The Kicks is an entry-level SUV, so its roster of advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS) is an abbreviated but respectable one. However, SV and SR trims do have standard adaptive cruise control that is capable of maintaining a set speed and a minimum distance from the vehicle the Kicks is following.

The Kicks is not equipped with Nissan’s ProPilot Assist as installed in some of the brand’s more expensive models. ProPilot Assist combines hands-on adaptive cruise control with lane-centering assistance for brief periods of semi-autonomous driving on mostly straight limited-access highways with well-defined lane markings.

Does the 2021 Nissan Kicks have AWD?

No again. As mentioned earlier, the Kicks is a simple, inexpensive small crossover SUV based on the Versa sedan. It shares its front-wheel-drive layout, 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine, continuously variable automatic transmission, and chassis componentry with the small 4-door sedan.

Is the 2021 Nissan Kicks fun to drive?

The Kicks not only looks like it’s fun to drive, it is indeed fun to drive. That, of course, is in the context of a small, entry-level crossover SUV based on subcompact sedan mechanicals. The Kicks has just 122 hp under the hood and smallish 205-section all-season tires at the corners, so one isn’t likely to pull holeshots on Corvettes and Teslas at stoplights or stay on the tail of a Porsche in the twisty bits. It just looks that way.

One has to adjust their expectations and think of the Kicks as a cool urban outfitter that’s agile around town, easy to maneuver, and with room for your friends and your stuff. The electrically boosted steering has a nice weight to it, the simple MacPherson-strut front/torsion-beam rear suspension does a decent job over tortured urban tarmac, and the brake pedal operates the recently upgraded 4-wheel discs with reasonable crispness.

The Xtronic continuously variable automatic transmission doesn’t let the engine drone on as in older CVT designs, instead simulating a series of gearchanges at wider throttle openings. And engaging Sport mode helps crispen throttle inputs and keep revs higher when you want that. All in, the Kicks will “kick it” from zero to 60 mph in about 9 seconds, which will at least keep a Toyota Prius or two in your rearview mirror.

That said, another 25-30 hp, like maybe the 149-hp 2.0-liter 4-cylinder from the Sentra sedan, would make the Kicks a lot more fun to drive. But then again, at that point, the Kicks would be crowding the performance of the $5,000 more expensive Nissan Rogue Sport.

IS THE 2021 NISSAN KICKS A GOOD SUV? - Find the best Nissan deals!

2021 Nissan Kicks Boulder Gray Pearl Rear Quarter View

Photo: Ron Sessions

As a group, verified new Nissan Kicks buyers offer mixed ratings on their vehicles in J.D. Power’s three key automotive studies involving owner satisfaction. In the J.D. Power 2020 U.S. Initial Quality Study (IQS), the Nissan brand performs above the industry average, but the Kicks does not rank among the top three models in its segment. Nissan ranks below the industry average in the J.D. Power 2021 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS). And in the J.D. Power 2020 U.S. Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study, the Kicks ranks seventh out of 16 small SUVs.

In the small SUV segment, the Kicks is one of a growing number of urban-focused entries, prioritizing street-wise design over off-road cred. Its lack of AWD doesn’t appear to hurt its appeal. In fact, the Kicks was the second-best-selling model in Nissan’s six-strong SUV lineup in 2020.

What is the 2021 Nissan Kicks competition? - Find the best Nissan deals!

Now that small SUVs have essentially taken the entry-level role with buyers that compact hatchback cars once did, every major automaker has at least one offering that competes with the Nissan Kicks. Among these are relatively recent front-drive-only entries such as the Hyundai Venue and Toyota C-HR. But the list also includes long-running offerings such as the Buick EncoreChevrolet TraxHonda HR-VHyundai KonaJeep Compass and Renegade, and Subaru Crosstrek, as well as the all-new 2022 Volkswagen Taos.

Ron Sessions is a seasoned vehicle evaluator with more than three decades of experience. He has penned hundreds of road tests for automotive and consumer websites, enthusiast magazines, newsletters, technical journals, and newspapers.

The opinions expressed in this review are the author’s own, not J.D. Power’s.

No portion of these reviews may be reproduced, distributed, publicly displayed, or used for a derivative work without J.D. Power’s written permission. © 2022 J.D. Power

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