You don't have to forego style if you're on a shoestring budget for a new car. Subcompact SUVs are an affordable entry point to vehicle ownership, and the $21k price of a 2024 Nissan Kicks puts it on par with the base Sentra sedan but with a trendier SUV vibe to it. The problem with the Kicks is that it's now old, having first launched in the USA six years ago, and is in line for a complete redesign soon. It's now slid down the ranks in its class in the face of fierce competition from excellent rivals such as the brand-new Kia Seltos and the more expensive but far more powerful Mazda CX-30 and Volkswagen Taos. Its performance does little to inspire, with just 122 horsepower on tap from a naturally aspirated 1.6-liter engine and a buzzy CVT automatic. Excellent gas mileage and low running costs are pluses, though, so maybe there's still something to like here, especially since its high-value price undercuts some of its rivals by thousands of dollars. You get a commendably up-to-date infotainment system and decent safety kit for your money. Is there still some kick left in it, or should you wait for the new one?
Although a complete redesign was expected by now, the 2024 Kicks range continues unchanged except for the addition of a three-year trial subscription to NissanConnect Services on the SV and SR trims. This is a telematics service that works with the MyNissan smartphone app to give the owner access to vehicle functions and status. It also includes Wi-Fi hotspot functionality. Other than that, the base price of a new Nissan Kicks crossover creeps up by $200, but that's it for the new year's changes.
The MSRP of the Kicks S base trim is $20,790 this year, followed by the SV at $22,650 and the SR at $23,350. These prices don't include the cost of any extras or packages, or the $1,365 destination fee.
The Kicks is now getting on in life, and there is little to recommend it over its rivals, especially at the SR's price, which makes it almost as expensive as the new base Hyundai Kona and more expensive than the Chevy Trax and Kia Soul. Since the S comes with the most important driver assists, such as automatic braking, lane-departure warning, and pedestrian detection, while also boasting a proper infotainment system, we'd pick it as the value leader and take advantage of its low price. The Kicks simply doesn't make sense anymore at the higher trims' prices.
The low price of the Kicks is evident in many harder interior plastics, but there is a modern infotainment interface and a reasonably cheerful design, despite the car's age.
There's nothing smart or expensive about the materials used inside the Kicks, but that's to be expected at the price. Hard plastics abound, but it's solidly constructed and still looks fairly modern, even after over a decade on the market. The pod-like round outer air vents are trendy, and a modern infotainment system nestles under the dashboard's hooded center vents. Interior space is reasonable, but it comes at the expense of uncomfortable seating. Thanks to its crossover-like ground clearance, the Kicks is painless to get into and easy to see out of, thanks to big windows, but the thick pillars do intrude somewhat. Unheated, manually adjustable seats, cloth upholstery, and regular air-conditioning are par for the course at the bottom of the lineup, but at least you get push-button start and an adjustable steering wheel. Upper trims are better equipped.
In the face of more modern competition, the Kicks' cabin space isn't as impressive as it once was, with rear-seat legroom now at the back of the class. Roomy rivals such as the Taos and larger new Seltos and Kona have moved expectations on in this class, and even the rather tight CX-30 now offers more rear legroom than the Nissan. It's not easy to find an ideal driving position, especially for taller drivers, and the rear bench is hard and too upright, a cheap trick to boost legroom but not comfort. The driving position is problematic for many body sizes, especially taller ones, and the accelerator pedal is too close to the transmission tunnel.
Trunk space is a strong suit. Behind the second row, the available 25.3 cu-ft is right up there with the Seltos (26.6 cu-ft) and Taos (27.9 cu-ft) and well ahead of the CX-30 (20.2 cu-ft). Fold the 60/40-split rear seats down, and the Nissan offers a maximum trunk volume of 53.1 cu-ft, competitive with its mentioned rivals' 45.2-65.9 cu-ft. The backrests tumble forward and rest at a steep angle, with a big step in the floor, whereas the rear seats of the Seltos, for example, fold almost completely flat and flush with the floor. A false floor that robs space but creates a more level load floor is a $200 option. There's no center pass-through to load longer items with the rear seats in place. There are four tie-down hooks in the luggage area, and all trims have access to an extra-cost luggage cover for $396.
In-cabin storage is good, but the big, traditional gear shifter that sits right in the middle of the center console and eats up space is a pointer to the car's age. Still, there's a usefully sized receptacle ahead of the shifter and cupholders behind it in an uncovered bin that can also take larger items with the center divider removed if you don't need them for beverages. A lidded center-console storage box behind it that is rather shallow, if configurable, is fitted to the SV and SR, but is a $320 option on the S. In total, there are four bottle holders, but only the front doors get pockets, and they're shallow. The second row gets no cupholders at all and only one passenger seatback pocket. Smokers have to pay $37 for an ashtray, while a trash bin can be ordered for $47.
|Nissan Kicks||Mazda CX-30||Kia Seltos|
|40.4 in. front|
38.5 in. rear
|38.1 in. front|
38.3 in. rear
|40 in. front |
38.4 in. rear
|43.7 in. front|
33.4 in. rear
|41.7 in. front|
36.3 in. rear
|41.4 in. front |
38 in. rear
|25.3-53.1 ft³||20.2-45.2 ft³||26.6-62.8 ft³|
There isn't a list of interior colors to choose from to jazz up the cabin of your Kicks. In all three trims, a Charcoal interior is your lot, and the S and SV get cloth upholstery and nothing else, take it or leave it. A sportier cloth is used in the SR with orange accents and stitching, and this is also the only trim that gets access to optional Prima-Tex two-tone leatherette upholstery, also with orange accents and stitching, but only as part of the $1,390 SR Premium package. At least the SR gets a leather-trimmed steering wheel as standard.
The S is built to a price, and this much is evident in the plain cloth upholstery, manually adjustable seats, and manual air-conditioning. However, keyless entry and start, cruise control, and a manually tilting/telescoping steering column are standard. Higher trims gain features such as upgraded interior trim, remote start, a seven-inch digital driver-information display, and automatic climate control. Options such as a heated steering wheel and front seats, in addition to leatherette upholstery, are offered.
The base infotainment system has a seven-inch touchscreen and comes with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, Siri Eyes Free, Bluetooth audio streaming, three USB ports, an auxiliary input jack, and a six-speaker audio system. The SV and SR gain a seven-inch driver-info display, a larger eight-inch touchscreen, a three-year trial subscription to NissanConnect Services, Wi-Fi capability, SiriusXM, and an additional USB port. Only the SR has access to an eight-speaker Bose audio system via the SR Premium package.
|Heated front seats|
|Automatic climate control|
|Touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto|
|6-speaker sound system|
|8-speaker Bose sound system|
With a 122-hp 1.6-liter four-pot, performance is weak, with slow acceleration and lethargic highway performance, though about-town response is decent and fuel consumption low.
The only engine in the Nissan Kicks is a naturally aspirated 1.6-liter four-cylinder with 122 hp and 114 lb-ft of torque, so performance is a weak point. The automatic transmission is a CVT, and front-wheel drive is the only drivetrain configuration offered. Unlike many of its rivals, all-wheel drive or more powerful turbocharged engine options aren't available at all. The result is that the Nissan Kicks' 0-60 sprint takes almost ten seconds to complete. Top speed is limited to 110 mph. Keep in mind that with FWD, no dual-range gearing, and a seven-inch ground clearance, off-road driving is not on the cards; this is a crossover, not an SUV. Trailering is out of the question as well because the Kicks has no rated towing capacity, and no factory tow hitch is available.
The way Nissan has set up the transmission makes the Kicks feel crisp and perky at low speeds, and it will get out of its own way in traffic if you use a heavy foot on the throttle. Just don't expect any reserve power for passing or climbing on the highway. Hoofing it elicits lots of noise from the powertrain but no real sense of urgency, so the car is better suited to around-town driving. The poor acceleration is disappointing, especially because the handling is good, and both body control and ride comfort are impressive. But that's where any semblance of fun stops, because the anesthetized steering doesn't tell you much about what the front wheels are doing, though it does firm up usefully in Sport mode. The SR's Integrated Dynamic Control module tries to inject a bit of fun by "downshifting" the CVT upon deceleration and braking individual wheels to optimize chassis behavior. Brake feel isn't great, but at least the anchors don't fade easily, and predictably haul the Kicks to a halt, time after time.
There has to be an upshot to the lethargic performance, and that's gas mileage. The Nissan Kicks' mpg figures, as estimated by the EPA, are 31/36/33 mpg for the city/highway/combined cycles. That combined figure handily beats the FWD Taos and Seltos, which both achieve 31 mpg. With a tiny 10.8-gallon fuel capacity, don't expect a range of more than 356 miles on a tank, though.
|1.6L Inline-4 Gas |
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
|31 / 36 / 33 mpg|
Safety is very good, with all Kicks trim getting ten airbags and a suite of driver assists. The two top trims get adaptive cruise control, while the SR boasts a surround-view monitor as well.
The NHTSA's safety review of the Nissan Kicks produced mixed results, with only four stars out of five overall. It fared a little better over at the IIHS, with Good results for all the main test criteria and a few Acceptable results here and there, but nothing worse than that. Standard safety features include an impressive tally of ten airbags, along with the federally mandated backup camera, ABS, stability control, and tire-pressure monitoring.
When it comes to driver assists, all Kicks trims are treated well, with even the base S boasting front-collision alert with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking, rear parking sensors with automatic reverse braking, hill-start assist, automatic halogen headlights with auto high beams, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and lane-departure warning. The S has regular cruise control, but both other trims get adaptive cruise control, in addition to automatic brake hold and driver-alertness monitoring. Only the SR gets a surround-view camera. The Interior Electronics package - available on all trims - costs $575 and includes a frameless auto-dimming rearview mirror.
|Front-collision alert with pedestrian detection|
|Adaptive cruise control with automatic braking|
|Blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert|
NHTSA safety ratings are not available at this time.
JD Power has not yet evaluated the 2024 Nissan Kicks' reliability but gave the 2023 model a very good score of 82 out of 100 for the Quality & Reliability criteria. This result is borne out by the favorable recall stats, with absolutely no recalls so far recorded for any of the 2022-2024 Kicks model years.
It's just as well because the 2024 Nissan Kicks' warranty is nothing special. The limited warranty is valid for three years/36,000 miles, and the powertrain warranty for five years/60,000 miles.
One area where the Kicks fulfills its brief is by looking the part, and most people will agree that, even after six years on the market, the car still looks trendy. Its proportions sit well on its 103.1-inch wheelbase, and it looks both dynamic and sporty. The S is a bit hum-drum with its 16-inch steel wheels, black door handles, and halogen headlights, but the V-Motion grille with its black surround and the blacked-out visor-like A-pillars give it a dynamic visage, though the S only has access to four exterior colors. The SV and SR look smarter on their 17-inch alloys, with the former getting color-coded mirrors and silver roof rails, while the latter boasts gloss-black mirrors and roof rails, in addition to silver lower body-side garnish and LED headlights and foglights. The SV and SR also have access to way more paint colors than the S, in addition to two-color liveries that paint the roof black.
The Kicks is a great starter car for the young driver, with excellent fuel economy and lots of safety features and driver assists, even on the base S trim. It should provide any parent peace of mind if their college-student child leaves home in a Kicks. For the rest of us, the lack of power, the less-than-ideal seat comfort, and the poor performance are likely to grate and relegate the Kicks to the lower rungs in this class. Even at its high-value price, there aren't enough draw cards, considering a 2.0-liter Kia Soul costs even less. The Kicks is likely to be replaced with a redesigned model very soon, so we would recommend holding off until that arrives, or opting for a rival.
The most popular competitors of 2024 Nissan Kicks: