2021 Nissan Kicks SR Review
Nissan has updated the Kicks with new styling outside, some improved surfaces inside, and standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Underneath, it remains largely the same as the 2020 model.
On the outside the Kicks gives the appearance of a vehicle that would be used for outdoor activities. The slightly higher ride height and roof rails with cross members let people know that it wants to go exploring with some kayaks or bikes up on top.
Being designed for a younger crowd the Kicks comes in vibrant and eye-catching colors. Our tester was adorned in a two-tone Electric Blue Metallic with Super Black paint scheme.
From the front it’s clear the Kicks is following the current trends by having a very large grill with LED headlights and “fog” lights, which are really just another set of driving lights.
Moving down the side, we see the optional 17” black alloy wheels which tie in very nicely with the Super Black paint features on the roof, mirrors, and trim. The economical shape is obvious from the side, with the rear end almost looking like it was cut short. To provide as much passenger and cargo space as possible, the wheels have been pushed out to the corners.
The rear hatch is reminiscent of the Nissan Versa Hatch of yesteryear. It is as wide as possible, and to do this while meeting lighting regulations, the hatch angles in around the taillights then back out again for a wider opening.
Just like the outside, it’s clear the inside of the Kicks was made for a younger audience. The seats are two tone grey and black with red accent stitching throughout. Adding to the sporty feel is a flat bottom steering wheel. On the steering wheel is a plethora of buttons to control the gauge cluster, audio, cruise control, and hands-free phone features.
Providing information is an 8” infotainment screen. It is clear and easy to use, but still basic in function. On both sides of the screen are large, easy to see, and easy to use buttons and dials for audio control and other settings. Connecting to the screen can be done via two USB ports at the bottom of the center stack or via Bluetooth. There are also two additional charging ports for the rear seat passengers.
Below the screen sits the climate control and accompanying display. Once again, the buttons and dials are large, easy to see, and easy to manipulate.
Rear seat space is somewhat limited, but we were able to fit both rear and forward-facing car seats in the back row with little fuss. On the other hand, traveling with five adults will certainly be a tight fit.
Carrying luggage for five adults will also be a struggle with the limited space in the cargo area. The Kicks is a small vehicle all around and it shows here. The rear seats are 60/40 so that one or both sides can be folded flat for additional cargo room. Two anchor points are also available to secure cargo.
Driving the kicks is similar to driving most city cars. The small size makes quick maneuvers into tight spaces easy. Where larger vehicles must back into a parallel parking stall, or not fit at all, the kicks can sneak in nose first. The steering is tight and direct with good feedback, making it predictable and easy to manage.
Also working to the Kicks advantage in tight spaces is Nissan’s Safety Shield 360. The safety shield includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, high beam assist, lane departure warning, blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert, and rear automatic braking. As if that isn’t enough the Kicks SR also includes the Intelligent Around View Monitor, which is Nissan’s 360-degree camera system.
Around town the 1.6-liter inline-4 just doesn’t have enough oomph to make merging onto busy roads easy. With 122 hp and 114 lb-ft of torque running through a CVT transmission, there isn’t enough low-end torque to jump into moving traffic.
However, cruising on the freeway is a different story. The Kicks much more responsive because the engine is at a higher rpm. While it’s certainly no speed demon, it can hold freeway speeds well. There is very little drifting from surface imperfections and the light winds we experienced didn’t upset it in the least.
For 2021 the Nissan Kicks SR starts at $21,940. Our test model had a few modest packages and options like carpet floor mats, and two-tone paint. The most notable being the Premium Package ++ for $1,200. This package includes the Bose 8 speaker audio system, Prima-Tex seats, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, and NissanConnect with Wi-Fi Hotspot+. The total for all the options was $3,640, when added to the $1,150 destination charge, the MSRP comes to $26,730.
Who is the Kicks for?
While the Kicks has underwhelming acceleration, it has excellent safety features at a very low price point. Nissan’s Safety Shield 360 makes the Kicks an excellent choice for those looking for a vehicle with a suite of modern safety features at a low price point.
It is a simple vehicle. It’s simple to drive, simple in its presentation, and has simple to use features. This means the cost of ownership should be very low. It will likely have good reliability scores without having lots of advanced electronics and features to break.
Due to those features the Kicks is excellent for a teenage driver, urbanite, or college student living on a budget. Other vehicles worth taking a look at in this segment are the Mazda CX-30, Kia Seltos, and Hyundai Kona.
Matthew Barnes is an experienced towing expert. He works as a mechanical engineer and his day job involves testing a variety of vehicles while towing trailers of all types and sizes. Matt shares his knowledge by writing for automotive news outlets in the evenings. When he’s not working he can be found spending time in the great outdoors with his family. He enjoys camping, hiking, canyoneering, and backpacking. Whenever possible he spends time riding in or on any power sports vehicle he can find and claims he can drive anything with a motor, which probably isn’t true.