2021 Nissan Kicks First Look Review: Basic Transport Keeps Improving

First Look / Comments

From Point A to Point B, now with more style.

It's hard to expect a brand-new vehicle to offer tons of high-tech luxury and safety features for less than $20,000. But the 2021 Nissan Kicks enjoys proving people wrong, especially following a recent facelift for the new model year. The fresh new styling was shown in Japan earlier this year but is finally ready to make its debut here in the United States. Along with the new exterior design, the Kicks receives an updated interior and plenty of technology upgrades.

Anyone shopping for an affordable used car may want to pause for a moment to consider the 2021 Kicks. It offers the latest technology and safety features that consumers crave, plus the added assurance of a new vehicle warranty. The Kicks has always been a value-packed subcompact crossover, but for 2021, it looks better than ever.

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A More Grownup Exterior

While not an ugly vehicle before, the facelifted Kicks is a massive improvement in design. It's more mature, making it a better option for drivers outside their teenage years. A larger Double V-motion grille looks more intimidating, and the reshaped LED headlights are sleeker and more premium. At the back, a bar now connects the rear taillights, though it does not light up.

Nissan has also changed up the wheel options, with various well-designed 17-inch wheel options available on the upper trim levels. The color palette has changed slightly, with newcomers Electric Blue Metallic, Scarlet Ember Tintcoat, and Boulder Gray Pearl. Buyers can also get the Kicks in a few two-tone combinations, including Super Black/Scarlet Ember Tintcoat, Super Black/Electric Blue Metallic, and Super Black/Boulder Gray Pearl.

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Improved Interior Design

It's not a dramatic change, but Nissan updated the cabin with new seat and door trim designs on the upper SV and SR trims. The SR comes with a particularly cool combination of grey leather with black inserts combined with orange stitching. Those seats can be heated on the SR trim, as can the steering wheel. Nissan also upped the screen size to eight inches on the SV and SR, but the smaller seven-inch unit includes Apple Car Play and Android Auto as standard. There are two USB ports, a standard and a USB-C up front, and up to two USB ports in the rear.

Aside from those changes, the cabin remains mostly the same. It still features a seven-inch Nissan Safety Shield 360 as-standard, plus an available Intelligent Around View Monitor. New for 2021, the SV and SR trim levels gain intelligent cruise control with an electronic parking brake.

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Powertrain Not In A Hurry

No changes have occurred under the hood, where the Kicks still calls upon a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine rather than the three-cylinder hybrid drivetrains used in other markets. Power goes out to an Xtronic CVT to front-wheel-drive only, yielding excellent fuel economy figures of 31/36/33 mpg city/highway/combined. With only 122 horsepower and 114 lb-ft on tap, don't expect the Kicks to win many drag races even with its svelte curb weight. On the SV and SR, Nissan ditched the rear drum brakes for discs, so the Kicks should stop with more urgency.

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Pricing & Competition

The 2021 Kicks competes against other subcompact crossovers such as the Honda HR-V, Hyundai Venue, Mazda CX-3, and Subaru Crosstrek. Pricing is not available for the 2021 model just yet. However, even if it receives a small increase over last year's model, the Kicks should still undercut all of its rivals' prices while offering more standard and available features. Anyone shopping in this segment will want the Kicks on their list.

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