2020 Nissan Kicks

2020 Nissan Kicks Review: It Does The Job

by Michael Butler

We're living in the era of the nondescript small SUV, which is a great thing if you're a young parent or retiree looking for a practical and cost-effective way to get around; but for those who actually like cars, this is like living in purgatory. Considering that there are so many available options on the market, it takes something special to turn heads away from cemented favorites such as the Honda HR-V and Mazda CX-3. Nissan's Kicks, the replacement for the quirky Juke, has some big shoes to fill, but falls somewhat short; a low asking price and excellent safety features won't be enough to convince the car-buying market, in our humble opinion. An asthmatic engine and dull personality overshadows its strong value proposition. Better luck next time, Nissan.

Read in this review:

2020 Nissan Kicks Changes: What’s the difference vs 2019 Kicks?

The Kicks, which replaced the Nissan Juke in 2018 and has some rather odd-looking shoes to fill, does so at a significantly lower asking price. The Kicks slots in at the bottom of the six-strong SUV offering from Nissan USA, and for 2020, it gets Nissan's Safety Shield 360 tech package, which includes driver assistance features such as automatic forward emergency braking with pedestrian detection, rear auto braking, lane departure warning, and high beam assist.

Pros and Cons

  • It's pretty cheap
  • There's a decent amount of space in the back
  • Responsive touchscreen display
  • Standard driver assistance features
  • The interior reflects the price
  • Underpowered engine doesn't inspire confidence
  • It feels unrefined at highway speeds

Kicks Exterior

Nissan once again churns out a small crossover SUV that will have boomers spouting the word "funky." We'll be honest and say that it doesn't do much for us: the Toyota C-HR does the edgy, futuristic look better, and offerings from Hyundai and Mazda look more handsome and refined. Nissan does offer a large number of exterior paint colors that give the Kicks some added street cred. The base model is fitted with a set of 16-inch steelies while SV and SR trims get 17-inch alloy wheels. Halogen headlights light the way on S and SV models, while SR cars get LED headlights and foglights. All vehicles include auto on/off headlights. SV and SR models distinguish themselves from the base model by adding styling upgrades such as body-colored wing mirrors and silver roof rails. The sporty SR also gets a dark chrome front grille accent, high-gloss black-colored heated outside mirrors with integrated turn signals, as well as a roof spoiler at the back.

2020 Nissan Kicks Front Angle View Nissan
2020 Nissan Kicks Front View Driving Nissan
2020 Nissan Kicks Rear Angle View Nissan
See All 2020 Nissan Kicks Exterior Photos

Dimensions

The diminutive Kicks might look like a toy on the road, but it's actually larger than the Nissan Juke it replaces. Overall length comes in at 169.1 inches, which is over six inches longer than the Juke, but the Honda HR-V is slightly longer at 170.4 inches. Overall width comes in at 69.3 inches and the Kicks has a height of 62.4 inches. Track width is 59.8/60.4 inches front to rear, and the Kicks rolls on a 103.1-inch wheelbase, significantly longer than the 99.6 inches of the Nissan Juke. So, while the Kicks is bigger than the car it replaces, it still manages to keep the weight down; the base model weighs 2,639 pounds, climbing slightly to 2,654 for the SV, and 2,672 for the SR.

Exterior Colors

One of the easiest ways to convince the car-buying public that your small SUV is down with the young ones is to splash it in an array of wild and out-there colors, and Nissan has done precisely that - although you'll have to fork up some extra cash for the really in-your-face options. Base models are available in Fresh Powder (white), Brilliant Silver Metallic, Gun Metallic and Super Black. Nothing much to write home about. SV and SR models share the same color options which include solid shades such as Aspen White TriCoat, Cayenne Red Metallic, and Deep Blue Pearl. If that's not edgy enough for you, Nissan offers a two-tone Aspen White TriCoat/Super Black or two-tone Gun Metallic/Monarch Orange Metallic, plus the even wilder two-tone Monarch Orange/Super Black or Deep Blue Pearl/Fresh Powder. We really dig the two-tone Monarch Orange/Super Black combo.

  • Brilliant Silver Metallic
  • Gun Metallic
  • Super Black
  • Fresh Powder
  • Cayenne Red Metallic
  • Deep Blue Pearl Metallic
  • Aspen White TriCoat Pearl
  • Aspen White/Super Black
  • Gun Metallic/Monarch Orange
  • Cayenne Red/Super Black
  • Deep Blue Pearl/Fresh Powder
  • Monarch Orange/Super Black

Kicks Performance

Get behind the wheel of the 2020 Nissan Kicks, and you'll soon realize that this subcompact crossover is built to tackle the urban jungle and not much more. Its small capacity naturally-aspirated engine doesn't like being rushed. Independent testing reveals a zero to sixty sprint time of around ten seconds, which sounds slow when compared to the competition, but feels adequate around town. It's when you get onto the highway that things start to get a bit worrisome; the Kicks feels unrefined at highway speeds and requires a good amount of planning when attempting to overtake. Stick to city roads and the Kicks conceals its lack of power well enough.

2020 Nissan Kicks Front Angle View 1 Nissan
2020 Nissan Kicks Rear Angle View 1 Nissan
2020 Nissan Kicks Wheel Nissan

Engine and Transmission

All 2020 Nissan Kicks SUVs are powered by the same 1.6-liter double overhead cam 16-valve four-cylinder engine that sends its power to the front wheels via an Xtronic continuously variable transmission. This setup manages to squeeze out 122 hp and 114 lb-ft of torque, which doesn't sound like much, because it isn't, and makes us miss the turbocharged four-pot units found in the now discontinued Juke. The small 1.6-liter engine does a fine job of carting driver and passengers around town but when fully loaded, it struggles to merge onto the highway and feels unrefined when pushed to its limit. The CVT transmission is nothing to write home about, and its natural tendency to keep revs in the optimal power range contributes to the unrefined driving experience when pushing on. We understand that Nissan had to go with the smaller powertrain to keep costs low, but it compromises the overall experience of driving the 2020 Kicks.

  • Engine
    1.6-liter Inline-4 Gas
  • Transmission
    Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
  • Drivetrain
    FWD

Handling and Driving Impressions

There are no real surprises here: the 2020 Nissan Kicks has been set up to deliver a comfortable but not overly plush ride that strikes a good balance between comfort and dynamics. Its light weight most definitely helps it in the corners; its more fun to chuck around than some of its larger rivals, but don't get us wrong, it's no corner carver. Low speed driving is a pleasure, as the Kicks simply gobbles up road imperfections. Steering is typically light to make navigating the concrete jungle easier, and the Kicks responds eagerly to steering inputs, but there's very little feedback from the front tires. Top-spec SR models include an integrated dynamics control module, which includes active ride control and engine braking, and makes the overall experience more refined; however, it's still not up there with the Honda HR-V.

Kicks Gas Mileage

So it might not be a rocket ship on steroids, but its lightweight design and small-capacity four-cylinder engine help the Kicks to deliver some pretty impressive gas mileage numbers. The EPA rates the 2020 Nissan Kicks at 31/36/33 mpg city/highway/combined. The 2020 Honda HR-V in FWD CVT guise will return 28/34/30 mpg, while the larger Nissan Rogue in FWD guise with a 2.5-liter four-pot will see 26/33/29 mpg. We think that the Kicks could've sacrificed a few mpg for some added power, though. With a small 10.8-gallon fuel tank, you won't be doing much long-distance cruising; expect a maximum fuel range of about 356 miles.

  • Fuel Tank Capacity
    10.8 Gallons
  • Fuel Economy
    City/Hwy: 31/36 mpg
* 2020 Nissan Kicks S FWD

Kicks Interior

Step inside the 2020 Nissan Kicks and you'll immediately realize why it costs so little; there's a very basic dash layout that contains all the essential infotainment and air conditioning knobs and buttons. The simple layout actually looks quite good, but it is not as refined as the Juke it replaces, nor competitors such as the Honda HR-V. The entire Kicks range gets standard push-button start and remote keyless entry, a 12-volt DC power outlet, and sun visors with vanity mirrors, as well as front driver and passenger seatback pockets. A six-way manual driver's seat and four-way manual front passenger's seat are standard. SV and SR models include automatic climate control, rear door alert, remote engine start and a cargo cover in the rear. In the case of the Nissan Kicks, the saying "you get what you pay for" is definitely true, and, while it might not be the worst interior we've ever tested, it's not up to the level of most of its competitors.

2020 Nissan Kicks Steering Wheel Controls Nissan
2020 Nissan Kicks Central Console Nissan
2020 Nissan Kicks Infotainment System Nissan
See All 2020 Nissan Kicks Interior Photos

Seating and Interior Space

It takes careful planning and clever design to get subcompact crossover SUVs to provide both good seating space, as well as enough trunk space. The Nissan Kicks is surprisingly spacious, and only falls short when it comes to rear legroom. In the front, you can expect to find 40.7 inches of headroom, dropping to 38.5 in the rear. That's enough room to fit six-foot adults. Legroom comes in at an impressive 43.7 inches in the front but drops down to a tight 33.2 inches in the rear. The front seats are comfortable but could do with a bit more leg bolstering. Getting in and out of the Kicks is a pleasure, thanks to a step-in height of 15.4/15.9 inches front/back. Shoulder room is measured at 53/53.2 inches front to back. The Kicks will fit five average-sized adults, but only for short trips.

  • Seating capacity
    5-seater

Interior Colors and Materials

There's no carbon-fiber or Ashwood on offer here; instead, Nissan offers the Kicks with three different upholstery materials as well as a scattering of leather and chrome. Base models and mid-range SV cars get simple Charcoal cloth-trim seats that feel durable and should last a good while. SR models get sport cloth seat trim with orange accents and stitching as well as a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift-knob, which adds a bit of much-needed quality to the interior of the Kicks. All cars get painted shifter trim with chrome accents, and SV and SR get exclusive rights to chrome interior door handles and a chrome parking brake button. SR models are also available with the optional Prima-Tex seat upholstery with orange accents and stitching. The overall quality is subpar for this class, but again, it makes sense when you look at the asking price.

Kicks Trunk and Cargo Space

Nissan has pulled through in terms of the trunk and overall cargo space by offering ample space behind the rear seats, which should be enough for small families. This does mean that passengers in the back get less legroom, but children will still be comfortable. With the rear seats in the upright position, the Nissan Kicks offers a decent 25.3 cubic feet of space that should be enough to fit a mud-covered labrador or two; and, with the 60/40 second-row split-folding rear seats in the downward position, that space opens up a total of 32.3 cubes. The rear seats don't fold completely flat, which is slightly annoying. All Nissan Kicks cars come with two cup holders, four bottle holders, four cargo tie-down hooks, as well as a small glovebox and a few small recesses in front of and behind the shift knob for all your small-item storage needs.

2020 Nissan Kicks Rear Passenger Seats Nissan
2020 Nissan Kicks Trunk Space Nissan
2020 Nissan Kicks Front Angle View 2 Nissan

Kicks Infotainment and Features

Features

The Nissan Kicks impresses with its standard features list, especially on the SV and SR trims. Standard on all vehicles in the range is cruise control, remote keyless entry, high-beam assist, auto on/off headlights, power side mirrors, as well as a rearview monitor. Standard driver assistance features such as automatic forward braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert and rear automatic braking are all standard; a seriously impressive feature count that makes a lot of more expensive SUVs look bad. The mid-range SV and top-spec SR also get intelligent driver awareness assistance and roof rails, while the SR is privy to select kit such as LED headlights, fog lights, a surround-view camera system, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. The SR is also the only model available with a dynamics-control module for added control over the driving and handling experience. The Nissan Kicks offers great value for money based on its driver assistance features alone.

Infotainment

Just because it's affordable doesn't mean it can't be as connected as the rest of the pack - the 2020 Kicks includes a smooth-operating seven-inch touchscreen infotainment display that works well and is responsive to inputs. All trim levels get Siri Eyes-Free, Bluetooth streaming, three USB ports as well as an aux input jack and steering-wheel-mounted audio controls. Unfortunately, the base model misses out on critical features such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration; for that, you'll have to stretch for an SV or SR. The base model also gets a standard six-speaker sound system. Both the mid-range SV and top of the line SR get a seven-inch display with NissanConnect and SiriusXM Radio with a three-month subscription. These models also get a handy seven-inch driver display that can be customized to show important figures such as rpm and fuel economy history. The standard sound system on the SR can be upgraded to an eight-speaker Bose sound system with Bose trademark UltraNearfiled driver headrest speakers.

Kicks Problems and Reliability

The Kicks was, according to Nissan, inspired by the streets of Brazil, which means it was built to tackle some of the worst roads on the planet. It has also been tried and tested in India, a country that's notoriously hard on cars. So if it can survive there, you should know it will handle American roads just fine. Since its launch in 2018, the Kicks has been recalled once for a malfunctioning rearview monitor. Nissan will back its subcompact SUV with a three-year/36,000-mile basic warranty, along with a five-year/unlimited-miles corrosion warranty, a five-year/60,000-mile drivetrain warranty, and three-year/36,000-mile roadside assistance.

Kicks Safety

Subcompact SUVs like the Kicks have to pay extra close attention to safety standards, as small families prioritize this category when making their final purchasing decision. For the most part, the Kicks pulls through on this promise. The NHTSA gave the 2019 model four out of five stars as an overall rating, although the 2020 model has only been rated in rollover tests thus far (also winning four out of five stars). The IIHS was so impressed with the 2019 model that it awarded it with a Top Safety Pick award, but the 2020 model misses out on that title - granted, it has only been rated for one category by the IIHS at the time of writing, for which it scored top ratings of Good. The Kicks' impressive list of active driver assistance systems should give buyers peace of mind, however.

Key Safety Features

For the price, the 2020 Nissan Kicks offers one of the most comprehensive passenger safety systems on the market. All models are equipped with standard driver assistance features such as cruise control, auto-forward braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, high-beam assist, blind-spot warning as well as rear cross-traffic alert, rear auto braking, a rear sonar system, and hill-start assist. That's quite a mouthful for such a small car. S and SV trims get a simple rearview monitor while SR cars get a complete surround-view system, and both SV and SR models get a driver alertness system for added safety. Basic safety equipment such as ten airbags, ABS, traction control, and front/rear crumple zones are included. The sheer number of safety features on the Kicks has to be one of its biggest selling points.

Verdict: Is the 2020 Nissan Kicks a good SUV?

There's nothing wrong with the 2020 Nissan Kicks - but that's exactly what's wrong with it. It can drive, carry people, and stay in one piece when crashed, but that's pretty much it; in a market flooded with great subcompact SUVs, the Nissan Kicks fails to make a bold enough statement, and Nissan's tactic of low price and good features can only take this car so far. We appreciate the good levels of standard safety features and the responsive infotainment system, but we're not convinced by its looks, performance, and general lack of personality. The 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine under the hood lets down an otherwise great platform, and besides lacking refinement, it reduces driver confidence, especially when trying to overtake on the highway. The interior isn't the best we've seen, and the overall driving experience feels muted and uninspiring, not that we expected it to be a hot hatchback. If all you care about is getting around town in relative safety for as little money as possible, then the Kicks will suit you just fine.

What's the Price of the 2020 Nissan Kicks?

Getting your rear-end in the driver's seat of a decent crossover SUV is easier than you think. The market is flooded with impressive offerings from across the world including on home soil, but with so many cars to choose from, how does the Nissan Kicks position itself to stand out from the crowd? Well, basically, Nissan has just gone with a low price/good features combo. The base model starts off at only $18,870, which excludes tax, registration, and a destination fee of $1,095. For that money, you get many advanced safety features, but, you also get the personality and athletic performance of a retired accountant with asthma. The mid-range SV starts at $20,500 and sees the inclusion of automatic climate control, remote engine start, and more. The top-spec SR will set you back $21,120 and adds an impressive array of standard features such as a surround-view camera and LED headlights. The more refined and capable Honda HR-V starts at $20,820, and the bigger and spicier Nissan Rogue will set you back $25,300 to start off with.

2020 Nissan Kicks Models

The 2020 Nissan Kicks is available in three different trim levels: S, SV, and SR. All trim levels get the same 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine, which sends 122 hp to the front wheels via a CVT auto transmission.

The Kicks S shares a good deal of its safety features with the rest of the range, including automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, and rear cross-traffic alert. The exterior of the base model features halogen headlights and 16-inch steel wheels, while the interior gets cloth-upholstered seats, keyless entry with push-button ignition, and a seven-inch infotainment display with Bluetooth streaming, Siri Eyes Free and a six-speaker sound system.

SV models get a set of 17-inch alloy wheels, a set of roof rails, and more on the outside, while the interior sees the addition of automatic climate control, driver awareness alert, and a rear cargo cover.

SR models get a surround-view camera system, LED headlights, sport cloth seats with cross-stitching, and an optional eight-speaker Bose sound system.

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
S
1.6-liter Inline-4 Gas
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
Front-Wheel Drive
$18,870
SV
1.6-liter Inline-4 Gas
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
Front-Wheel Drive
$20,500
SR
1.6-liter Inline-4 Gas
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
Front-Wheel Drive
$21,120
See All 2020 Nissan Kicks Trims and Specs

Additional Packages

The Nissan Kicks can be kitted out with a few useful optional accessories and packages to make it suit individual needs. The base model can be equipped with a $665 Rockford Fosgate premium audio system, or the $615 Exterior Package that adds a set of roof rails, a rear bumper protector, and other appearance details such as a stainless steel exhaust tip. SV models share the base models list of available accessories but add goodies such as 17-inch black aluminum-alloy wheels for $245. The SR trim can be specified with the $1,000 SR Premium Package, which adds an eight-speaker Bose premium sound system with UltraNearfield driver headrest speakers, heated front seats, Prima-Tex seat trim, and a vehicle security system.

What Nissan Kicks Model Should I Buy?

There's only $2,250 separating the base model from the range-topping SR, but if you're heading in that direction, the base model Honda HR-V starts to look very appealing, so for that reason, we'd suggest going with the base S model and calling it a day. For only $18,870, the base model offers great features such as automatic forward braking with pedestrian detection, lane-keep assist and blind-spot warning. Getting behind the wheel of the Kicks S won't see you missing out on any performance benefits usually reserved for higher trim cars; it shares its underwhelming 1.6-liter engine with the rest of the range and the same goes for its CVT auto transmission. The Kicks is more of a low-cost utensil than an enthusiast car, and as long as you go in with that mindset, then the Kicks S should never disappoint.

2020 Nissan Kicks Comparisons

Nissan Rogue Nissan
Honda HR-V Honda

2020 Nissan Kicks vs Nissan Rogue

The Rogue picks up where the Kicks leaves off. It's a larger car and is classified as a compact crossover SUV. Total length, for instance, comes in at 184.5 inches, compared to the 169.1 inches offered by the Kicks. The 2020 Nissan Rogue isn't the best performing car in its class, not by a long shot, but it is more flexible and offers more power and overall performance from its 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, which produces 170 hp and 175 lb-ft of torque. Gas mileage is relatively good, considering the fact that the Kicks is significantly lighter and uses a smaller engine. The Rogue will return 26/33/29 mpg city/highway/combined in FWD guise and drops to 25/32/27 mpg in AWD spec. On the road, the Rogue is a comfortable thing to guide through traffic and freeways, but suffers from the same lack of road feedback. Inside, the Rogue feels more refined, and its interior design is more in line with its contemporaries. Naturally, the Rogue offers more passenger and trunk space, and it gets the same active safety assistance features as the Kicks. The Rogue only starts at $25,300, significantly more than the Kicks, so decide if the extra space and power is worth the outlay.

See Nissan Rogue Review

2020 Nissan Kicks vs Honda HR-V

The ever-popular Honda HR-V has been at the forefront of the subcompact SUV race for quite some time. Honda has managed to strike the right balance of price and capability, and a strong brand name has helped this small SUV to sell well in the American market. Under the hood of the 2020 HR-V lies a 1.8-liter four-pot gas engine that offers more power than the Kicks at 141 hp and 127 lb-ft of torque, but delivers similarly disappointing performance. Power is sent to the front or all four wheels via a CVT automatic transmission. The EPA rates the HR-V at between 26/31/28 mpg city/highway/combined for the AWD model and 28/34/30 mpg for lower-spec FWD models. From there on out, it doesn't look too good for the Nissan Kicks; the Honda is arguably the better-looking car and offers a lot more interior and cargo space, despite its similar classification as a subcompact SUV. The interior design is more mature and is of a better quality. On the road, the Honda feels tight and responsive thanks to a well set up chassis that it shares with the Fit. Starting at $20,820 for the base model, we'd skip over the Kicks in a heartbeat.

See Honda HR-V Review

Nissan Kicks Popular Comparisons

$18,870 - $21,120
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