2021 Nissan Kicks

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Robert Duffer Robert Duffer Senior Editor
January 6, 2021

Buying tip

The 2021 Nissan Kicks’ mid-grade SV trim hits the sweet spot of good features and better value.

features & specs

31 city / 36 hwy
31 city / 36 hwy
31 city / 36 hwy

The 2021 Nissan Kicks is a small crossover for a small budget but it comes packed with features and value.

What kind of vehicle is the 2021 Nissan Kicks? What does it compare to?

The 2021 Nissan Kicks small crossover is the entry-level SUV in Nissan’s lineup. It competes with subcompact crossovers such as the 2021 Kia Seltos, 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer, 2021 Mazda CX-30, and 2020 Hyundai Venue.

Is the 2021 Nissan Kicks a good car/SUV?

Review continues below

Launched as a replacement to the Nissan Juke for 2018, the Kicks embodies more common design elements than the funky Juke. It comes with good standard safety and convenience features that make it a value, but its small engine and lagging transmission underscore its utilitarian purpose. It earns a TCC Rating of 5.2 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

What's new for the 2021 Nissan Kicks?

Refreshed for 2021 to keep up with the booming small crossover segment, the 2021 Kicks gets a bigger, bolder grille that expands into new available LED headlight designs. Fake air intakes squeeze the lower portion of the grille, which looks more like a shrug emoji than the V-shaped grille Nissan stamps across its lineup. 

A new center armrest console on SV and SR trims gives front riders some relief but narrow seats with short bottoms might make taller drivers feel like they’re going over an edge. In back, rear passengers cram into stiff seats with limited leg room and a middle seat that fits elbows better than a fifth human. Cargo volume maxes out to 32.3 cubic feet with the 60/40-split rear seats folded flat, which is on the smaller side for the class. 

The Kicks comes well equipped with a 7.0-inch touchscreen with smartphone compatibility, three USB ports, and standard safety features such as automatic emergency braking. Options range from heated synthetic leather front seats to a larger touchscreen and surround-view camera system.  

The Kicks gets its kicks from the same 122-horsepower 1.6-liter inline-4 that’s punchy off the line but lacks appropriate power at any other time due to the laggard responses of its continuously variable automatic transmission. Rear disc brakes replace antiquated drum brakes on all but the base S model. 

Made for efficiency, the powertrain gets an EPA-rated 31 mpg city, 36 highway, 33 combined.

How much does the 2021 Nissan Kicks cost?

The base S model costs $20,595, including $1,095 destination fee, while the top SR model costs about $23,000. 

Where is the 2021 Nissan Kicks made?

In Mexico.


2021 Nissan Kicks


The 2021 Nissan Kicks dons a fresh face and an improved interior.

Is the 2021 Nissan Kicks a good-looking car?

The successor to the quirky Nissan Juke is cute in a conforming kind of way. Refreshed for 2021, the Nissan Kicks gets bolder bookends front and rear, and a more functional interior dressed in contrasting elements. It’s a 6. 

The 2021 Nissan Kicks lacks the off-road pretensions—and the all-wheel-drive option—of some small crossovers, opting for more tasteful black cladding over the round wheel arches and along the door rockers. Nissan’s V-shaped grille comes double breasted on the Kicks, and flanked by vertical intakes that don't take in anything it fills the face with puffery. Yet it’s cute, like a little fella in an oversized suit. New LED taillights channel the Juke. The base S trim rolls on 16-inch steel wheels, while 17-inch alloy wheels standard on SV and SR trims. 

Inside, dark themes get offset by silver door panels, available three-tone seats, and circular side vents.

Review continues below


2021 Nissan Kicks


The 2021 Nissan Kicks prioritizes efficiency over power.

The Kicks provides a kick from a stop thanks to 1.6-liter inline-4 that makes 122 horsepower and 114 pound-feet of torque, but that limited output limits passing power at highway speeds, where wind noise is pronounced. The continuously variable automatic transmission strains to keep up with accelerator inputs, and the CVT combined with the underpowered engine sacrifice a point in our performance rating. It’s a 4. 

Is the Nissan Kicks 4WD?

No, it’s front-wheel drive only even though most competitors offer an all-wheel-drive variant. 

How fast is the Nissan Kicks?

Don’t bother. The metric of note is not the 0-60 mph time but the 33 mpg combined EPA rating. Lightweight at just over 2,600 pounds, it springs off the line, but there’s just not enough power to sustain urgency at higher speeds. If you’re cruising along at 60 mph and mash the pedal to pass a semi, the tach will bounce from 2000 to 5000 rpm and a second later the little engine that could—or could not—whines like a grudging eye-rolling teen, do I really have to go faster? Now?! Ugh!

The CVT approximates gear shifts as much as it approximates a teenager tasked with chores. It would much rather go at its own leisurely, eventual, maybe, maybe not, pace. 

It leans into turns, and the flat-bottom steering wheel can’t conceal the numb steering feel. It rides comfortably enough with MacPherson front struts and a torsion beam rear axle, but the Kicks reflects the grade of pavement below it.

Review continues below


2021 Nissan Kicks

Comfort & Quality

The 2021 Nissan Kicks upgrades its budget roots with welcome storage areas.

The base model Nissan Kicks feels every bit the entry-level budget car it is, but SV and SR trims cover those bases with a touch of modernity. Good front leg room sacrifices cramped rear leg room, but stiff seats and average cargo volume limit the appeal of the Kicks. It’s a 4. 

The front seats of the 2021 Nissan Kicks can be narrow for large bodies and the well-padded seat bottoms short for long bodies. There are no power adjustable seat options. 

Front passengers share a new and welcome armrest console to stow wallets and phones. An available wireless charging area opens a convenient recess where stack meets console. Clever cup holders can store a big quart-sized water bottle or can be adjusted to snuggle an 8-ounce coffee. It’s a nice touch.

Rear passengers sit high on stiff seats as upright as a church pew. With just 33.2 inches of rear leg room, 6-foot rear passengers may knock heads and knees into the Kicks. The middle seat fits a fifth passenger, as long as it’s a walking stick. Those 60/40-split rear seats fold down to expand 25.3 cubic feet of cargo volume to 32.3 cubic feet, but the seats don’t create a flat load floor.

Review continues below


2021 Nissan Kicks


Mixed crash-test results offset good standard safety features in the 2021 Nissan Kicks.

How safe is the Nissan Kicks?

The NHTSA dinged the Nissan Kicks for subpar head-on collision results, while the IIHS rated it at “Good” overall in all six of its crash tests. The NHTSA’s four-star overall rating costs the Kicks a point, but standard automatic emergency braking earns that point back to get a 5. 

One of the best attributes on the 2021 Kicks is its suite of standard safety features such as automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-departure warnings, blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alerts, and automatic high beams. Poor scores on the Kicks’ standard headlights caused it to be excluded from a Top Safety Pick award from the IIHS. 

A surround-view camera system is available, as well as adaptive cruise control. 

Outward vision is good front and rear, but the sides can be limited.


2021 Nissan Kicks


Step up to the SV trim to get the best Kicks for your buck.

The 2021 Nissan Kicks comes well equipped with a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility along with three USB ports that earns it a point above average to a 6. 

A digital instrument cluster takes up about two-thirds of the dash real estate: On the right side is an analog speedometer; the left side can be a tachometer with driver assistance systems, audio, trip meters and the like displayed in the center so your hands never need to leave the steering wheel.

Which Nissan Kicks should I buy?

Fortunately, the price spread between the $20,595 base S model and top SR model is only about $2,500, so Nissan doesn’t price the Kicks out of a tight budget. The S model and its drum brakes pale to the more modern touches on the SV that should cost about $1,000 more when Nissan finalizes pricing. It adds 17-inch wheels, the center armrest console, an intuitive 8.0-inch touchscreen with haptic feedback, satellite radio, adaptive cruise control, and other conveniences. 

How much is a fully loaded 2021 Nissan Kicks?

The top SR trim should cost less than $24,000, and adds a surround-view camera system, LED fog lights, and options such as heated front seats and a Bose sound system.

Review continues below


2021 Nissan Kicks

Fuel Economy

The 2021 Nissan Kicks gets very good fuel economy.

Is the 2021 Nissan Kicks good on gas?

It is. The small 1.6-liter inline-4 and efficient if not annoying CVT combine for an impressive EPA-rated 31 mpg city, 36 highway, 33 combined. It’s a 6. 

It tops the competition, where the Seltos, Venue, and Trailblazer max out at 31 mpg combined, and the CX-30 and Ecosport bring up the rear at 28 mpg combined.

Review continues below

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Expert Rating
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Styling 6
Performance 4
Comfort & Quality 4
Safety 5
Features 6
Fuel Economy 6
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