- Low price
- Spacious cargo area
- Good 7.0-inch touchscreen
- Standard active safety features
- Funky looks
- Cheap interior
- Cramped backseat
- Ergonomic quirks
- Anemic engine
features & specs
The 2020 Nissan Kicks is a quirky and cute crossover that’s inexpensive, but some of the details just feel cheap.
Style on a budget is possible. Nordstrom Rack proves as much. So does the 2020 Nissan Kicks.
The 2020 Kicks is a compact crossover that costs less than $20,000 in base versions. It’s front-wheel drive only and not particularly fast, but it’s inexpensive—cheap in some ways—and fuel-efficient with a big touchscreen. It gets a 5.2 TCC Rating, which is slightly above average, largely based on those latter two qualities. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
This year, all Kicks crossovers get automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitors, and lane-departure warnings as standard equipment. The Kicks is offered in S, SV, and SR trim levels from less than $20,000 to more than $22,000.
Its best look is outside the car, where it hits all the trendy notes like a Katy Perry album. Floating roof? Check. Chunky wheel arches? Check. Big grille? Yep.
Inside, it’s a bit of a letdown with a plain interior with cheap plastics, hard surfaces, and even worse carpeting. It’s hot and it’s cold. See: Katy Perry.
The powertrain is comparatively better, for what that’s worth. The only engine is a 1.6-liter inline-4 that makes 122 horsepower teamed to a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). The duo returns 32 mpg combined, according to the EPA, and the Kicks is relatively bright around town. At highway speeds, the Kicks runs out of legs and making a pass takes time. A lot of time.
The Kicks’ cabin is good for two, but not many more. The back seat is suitable for small adults and children, but only two. There’s good cargo space behind the second row, even more when the seats are folded, which is better for young couples, first-time buyers, or empty-nesters.
The IIHS gave it mostly top “Good” scores on its crash-test battery, and called the Kicks a Top Safety Pick when equipped with headlights in the top trim. Federal testers weren’t as kind. The Kicks gets automatic emergency braking in all versions, which finds its way into our good graces.
Base Kicks aren’t bad, but we’d opt for a Kicks SV for $21,595. It gets the same 7.0-inch touchscreen as the rest of the lineup but adds Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility (which doesn’t appear on base versions), automatic climate control, and 17-inch wheels.
2020 Nissan Kicks
A unique exterior is somewhat let down by a plain interior in the 2020 Kicks.
What’s on the outside of the 2020 Kicks is more impressive than the inside. The Kicks follows sneakers, which may or may not be a coincidence.
We’ve given the Kicks a point above average for its outside, but take it back for the inside. It’s a 5 for style.
The Kicks has a sharp outward style, with an upright grille that aims high and mostly succeeds. The flared front wheel arches frame black cladding that aims for a more rugged look, despite the front-wheel-drive only drivetrain. The rear is defined by a short window and an on-trend “floating roof” and taillights that jut out from the rear hatch.
The tall-riding hatchback looks bucks up from the outside, but disappoints on the inside. No trim looks dressy, and the plain dashboard doesn’t try anything new to bookend the big 7.0-inch touchscreen. Inexpensive cars don’t have to look that cheap inside and some Kicks competitors, such as the Kia Soul, do better.
2020 Nissan Kicks
With a small engine and budget setup, the 2020 Kicks isn’t fleet-footed.
Fuel efficiency and a low price is the 2020 Kicks’ mission, not outright performance.
The most important number for the 1.6-liter inline-4 and CVT is 32 mpg combined, not its 122 hp. That won’t win favor on our performance scale, however. The Kicks is a 4 for performance and we ring the bell for leisurely acceleration.
The Kicks is front-wheel drive only, despite its crossover stance.
The small engine is helped somewhat by its lightweight frame, which tips the scales at just over 2,600 pounds. As a result, around-town speeds are adequate and the Kicks is relatively bright. At highway speeds, the Kicks struggles to keep pace with moving traffic and passes require advance planning.
Most Kicks ride on 17-inch wheels that are comfortable around town. The Kicks uses MacPherson front struts and a rear twist-beam that it shares with the Sentra, which makes the ride mostly comfortable but not better than some in its class that use a four-wheel independent suspension.
The Kicks also uses drum brakes on its rear wheels that speaks to its low price, but braking performance is mostly unaffected.
2020 Nissan Kicks
Comfort & Quality
The 2020 Kicks doesn’t hide that it’s built to a budget.
The 2020 Nissan Kicks doesn’t hide its budget-car roots very well and its low price is reflected in its cramped space and subpar materials, but gains one for its good cargo space. It’s a 4 for comfort.
Driver and front passenger sit higher in the Kicks than small cars of yesteryear, which is probably the point. There are some ergonomic quirks: the armrests sit at different heights and there’s scant small-item storage without a central console. The flat seat bottoms are mostly comfortable, although longer legs will yearn for more support.
Rear-seat riders get decent space, especially head room, but only 33.2 inches of leg room. It’s better than it sounds because the seats are upright, but three across in the Kicks’ narrow rear seat is more than optimistic.
Behind the rear seats there are 25.3 cubic feet of cargo room, which is spacious. Fold the rear seats down and the space grows to 53.1 cubes, which is useful, although the seats don’t lay completely flat.
The interior materials of the Kicks falls flat, however. Top trims get contrasting stitching on the seats, but the hard plastics and cheap carpeting reinforce that the smallest Nissan crossover is built to a budget. Some competitors do better, and we wish Nissan did too.
2020 Nissan Kicks
A mixed safety scorecard for the 2020 Kicks is offset by standard automatic emergency braking.
A mixed crash-test scorecard for the 2020 Kicks and standard automatic emergency braking keep Nissan’s small hatchback from scoring higher than a 6 on our safety scale.
The IIHS called the Kicks SR a Top Safety Pick thanks to good crash-test scores, headlights that rate “Acceptable,” and automatic emergency braking that the IIHS rated as “Superior” at avoiding forward crashes.
Kicks S and SV models get headlights that rate lower and don’t qualify for the award.
Federal testers weren’t as kind and gave the Kicks a four-star overall score, including four stars for front crash protection and rollover protection.
All Kicks get standard automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitors, and lane-departure warnings. A rear-seat reminder is standard on Kicks SV and SR versions that can help remind parents (and pet parents) to check the rear seats before exiting the vehicle.
2020 Nissan Kicks
Cheap cars are a lost art, and the 2020 Kicks mostly nails the basics.
Nissan nails the small-car basics in the 2020 Kicks. We like cheap cars when they’re cheap.
We give it a 6 on our features scale thanks to its 7.0-inch touchscreen on all models. It narrowly misses another point for smartphone software that’s not available on base versions.
For 2020, the Kicks is available in S, SV, and SR trim levels without many options scattered between.
The Kicks S costs $19,965 and includes active safety features (covered above), one USB port, Bluetooth connectivity, cloth upholstery, 16-inch wheels with plastic covers, and a 7.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment. All-wheel drive isn’t available on any Kicks, and base versions don’t have any options from the factory. (Dealer options such as floor mats are available.)
The best value is a Kicks SV that adds 17-inch wheels, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility (that’s mercifully necessary to avoid Nissan’s native infotainment software), automatic climate control, a 7.0-inch digital instrument screen, and remote start. The 2020 Kicks SV costs $21,595, including destination.
The top-shelf Kicks SR adds a leather-wrapped steering wheel, exterior accents, fog lights, and a surround-view camera system. An options package can add synthetic upholstery, premium audio by Bose, and heated seats for $1,000. We’d rather Nissan make heated seats available on Kicks SV models, which offer remote start for cold-weather climates already, as a free-floating option. They haven’t read our letter yet, apparently. The 2020 Kicks SV costs $22,215, including destination, where it comes in range of larger crossovers that offer all-wheel drive.
2020 Nissan Kicks
The 2020 Nissan Kicks makes the most of its small engine and small footprint.
A small, relatively efficient inline-4 and front-wheel drive help the 2020 Nissan Kicks spread out trips to the pumps.
The EPA rates the Kicks at 31 mpg city, 36 highway, 33 combined. That’s a 6 on our scale.
Competitors rate lower, mostly. The Mazda CX-3 rates 31 mpg combined, the Hyundai Venue gets a 32 mpg combined rating, and the Ford Ecosport earns a 28 mpg combined rating with front-wheel drive. The Subaru Crosstrek earns a 29 mpg combined rating with standard all-wheel drive.