The 2021 Nissan Kicks is exclusively powered by a naturally aspirated 1.6-liter four-cylinder that is mated to a continuously variable transmission powering the front wheels. The power plant in the Nissan Kicks develops just 122 horsepower and 114 lb-ft of torque, so it's not exactly the most spritely vehicle out there and isn't in the habit of pursuing 0-60 times. This is the same drivetrain that the 2020 Nissan Kicks utilized, but that's not all bad, since it has been proven to be a very economical system. The CVT is also quite smooth and the addition of disc brakes on all but the base trim should make the Kicks a better stopper. Of course, with such low power output, you won't be going very fast when the time comes to slow down. It's not great for overtaking on highways, and it can feel very lethargic at times, but for crawling the city streets or cruising at a constant speed on the freeway, it's decent enough.
The engine and transmission setup on the Nissan Kicks for this model year is a 1.6-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder mated to a CVT. A total of 122 hp and 114 lb-ft of torque drive the front wheels exclusively with no all-wheel-drive option. This powertrain combination doesn't inspire much excitement, but it motivates the Kicks without sounding like it's straining too much. The engine loves sipping fuel at low rpm, but sounds uneager to get going in a hurry. Passing power on the highway is a bit lacking, but with some planning, the Kicks proves adequate. A sport mode keeps the transmission in a lower ratio, facilitating easier passing maneuvers, but don't expect exciting performance.
Whereas older Nissan CVT units tend to drone and keep the engine at one rpm position, the transmission in the Kicks pretends to change ratios like a traditional automatic. During normal driving, the Kicks can almost fool drivers into thinking there are cogs in the transmission rather than a pulley system. Under full throttle acceleration, keen drivers will spot the CVT feeling, but since this is a rare situation for Kicks owners, we'll give the transmission a pass for simulating the feel of a conventional automatic.
|Nissan Kicks Trims||S||SV||SR|
|Nissan Kicks Engines||1.6L Inline-4 Gas||1.6L Inline-4 Gas||1.6L Inline-4 Gas|
|Nissan Kicks Horsepower||122 hp @ 6300 rpm||122 hp @ 6300 rpm||122 hp @ 6300 rpm|
|Nissan Kicks Transmissions||Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)||Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)||Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)|
|Nissan Kicks Drivetrains||FWD||FWD||FWD|
Since the 2021 Kicks is only a facelifted model, it drives nearly identically to the outgoing model. Owners of the pre-facelift Kicks may note the improved stopping power courtesy of the new rear disc brakes on SV and SR models and some other minor adjustments, though. The Kicks still rides on Nissan's V-Platform, which is also shared with the Versa sedan. This means it misses out on the excellent independent rear suspension found on the larger Sentra with its CMF-C/D platform. The simpler twist beam setup results in bumpier ride comfort and less agile handling, but at the price point, the Kicks is adequate. We never felt like the suspension jarred us on rough roads, which is impressive for an inexpensive vehicle.
With no all-wheel-drive option, the Kicks likely won't shine in snow driving but its light curb weight should keep it from struggling on snow-packed roads. That light curb weight keeps the Kicks feeling spry, though it's tough to enjoy the car's surprisingly nimble handling with the overly assisted steering. The wheel turns with minimal effort, making parking maneuvers straightforward while stripping away the driving enjoyment. Nissan hides a sport mode with an unmarked button on the shifter, but all it does is drop the transmission ratios to provide better engine responsiveness. At its price point, the Kicks delivers a comfortable and satisfying driving experience without any surprises.
According to Nissan, the new Nissan Kicks will return figures of 31/36/33 mpg on the EPA's city/highway/combined cycles. We averaged 31.2 mpg in a few days of driving, mostly around town. Thanks to a 10.8-gallon gas tank, you can expect an average mixed driving range of around 340-350 miles per tank. The Honda HR-V offers similar economy figures, with the EPA quoting figures of 28/34/30 mpg on the same cycles.