Just for Kicks:
Nissan’s Smallest Crossover

Updated June 10, 2020, to reflect equipment details.

Nissan’s smallest crossover is big on value.



The world of tiny crossovers continues to grow, with the Nissan Kicks one of the newest models. This subcompact utility vehicle is small on the outside, but it offers surprisingly decent space inside.

Introduced in 2018, the current model benefits from driver assistance features that were added to the base model this year. Oddly, the roof rails are no longer standard.


2020 Nissan Kicks Review


Nissan offers the 2020 Kicks in S ($18,870), SV ($20,500), and SR ($21,120) trims. Add $1,095 for the destination charge.

The Kicks is a front-wheel-drive-only crossover sporty utility vehicle with room for five.

Exterior

We’ve seen several manufacturers enter the subcompact realm in recent years. Nissan was one of the first when it introduced the tiny Juke (2011-2017). The Kicks is nothing like its predecessor as it is larger and has a much less polarizing style. In fact, the Kicks borrows styling elements from Nissan’s larger crossover models, including the Rogue Sport, Rogue, and Pathfinder.

Like the other Nissan models, the Kicks features a horse-collar grille it calls V-motion. It’s a look that’s at once sporty and elegant – the wraparound headlights and lower grille opening are distinctive touches of note.

From the sides, the Kicks reminds me of another vehicle – none other than the premium Volvo XC40. Both models feature a beltline that suddenly kicks up near the rear. The available contrasting roof is another shared design characteristic with the Volvo.

From the rear, tear-dropped-shaped taillamps accent the back. Contrasting colors and diffuser-like trim are two other features of significance.

The list of standard features is brief and includes halogen headlights, automatic lights, power outside mirrors, and 16-inch steel wheels with covers. Choose the SV edition and the Kicks gains body-color outside door handles, body-color heated outside mirrors, and silver roof rails.

Move up to the SR trim and the Kicks is outfitted with LED headlights, fog lights, dark chrome and black trim embellishments, 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, and a rear roof spoiler.



Interior

Inside, the Kicks’ cabin is surprisingly roomy and bright. It seems bit roomier than the slightly larger Rogue Sport, although we can’t say that it is. The upright roof pillars allow for plenty of headroom. The rear split-folding bench seat sits high, though it is a bit flat. Two can fit comfortably; three can slot in although at a major compromise to hip space.

No budget model offers high-end trim and the Kicks is certainly no exception. But its designers worked within their budget constraints to deliver an eye-pleasing interior with sculpted layers, brushed surfaces, and brightwork trim.

The cabin is clean, orderly, and offers lots of storage space, including open areas for cell phones and knick-knacks. We found the front seats were fairly comfortable.

Nissan equips the Kicks with full power accessories. Other standard features include cloth seats, air conditioning, push-button ignition, a tilt-and-telescopic steering column, manual front seats, sun visors with vanity mirrors and extensions, overhead map lights, four cup holders, four bottle holders, and four cargo tie-down hooks.

Among the upgrades offered include heated front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter, automatic climate control, sport cloth seats with orange accents and stitching, and a cargo cover.




Safety

All three Kicks trims come with automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, rear automatic braking, lane departure warning, rear cross-traffic alert, and a rear sonar system. Nissan also includes a rear-seat reminder on all but the base trim. This feature serves as a reminder to parents to check the rear seats before moving away from the vehicle.

Choose the SR trim and Nissan adds an around-view monitor and a security system (an immobilizer system is standard). One feature that’s currently absent is adaptive cruise control — perhaps this is an offering for a future update?

Technology

Nissan equips the 2020 Kicks with a 7-inch touch-screen display, one USB port, Siri Eyes Free, Bluetooth connectivity, and a six-speaker audio system. That’s standard fare in the segment, although some manufacturers squeeze in a four-speaker package.

Move up to the middle SV trim and that’s where satellite radio, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone compatibility are included. You’ll want the smartphone compatibility as both are platforms are a better substitute for Nissan’s navigation system. It’s also where we suggest you begin your search when exploring this model.

Opt for the SR trim and Nissan makes available a $1,000 premium package. This one includes a few creature comforts as well as an 8-speaker Bose audio system with front headrest speakers. We’re Bose fans as we appreciate the sound clarity and balance offered.



Performance

If you’re looking for a modicum of performance from the Nissan Kicks, you need to lower your expectations at once. This is strictly a Point A to Point B model and that means it is designed to take you where you are going as any vehicle should.

The Kicks offers a leisurely drive, including modest step-off acceleration and non-hurried passing power. Its 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine produces 122 horsepower and 114 pound-feet of torque and works with a continuously variable transmission to send power to the front wheels.

We found the ride reasonably comfortable for its small footprint. Steering is light to the touch and the handling does little to inspire, but the Kicks doesn’t wander either.

If the Kicks lived up to its name, a turbocharged option would be wonderful. The Juke had that and a manual transmission, and it was a hoot to drive on twisty roads. Alas, we’re not expecting this option with the Kicks which is, of course, too bad.

A few parting thoughts are warranted as well. First, the Kicks’ fuel economy is generally better than what competitors deliver, topping 30 mpg combined city and highway driving. Second, this model is not rated for towing. If you have towing capabilites in mind, then begin your search with the compact Nissan Rogue crossover.

Competitive Set

The Toyota C-HR, Hyundai Venue, and Kia Soul are three Kicks competitors that are also front-wheel-drive-only. You must move up to the Rogue Sport to find all-wheel drive in a small Nissan crossover.

Other competitors in the segment include the Ford EcoSport, Fiat 500X, Jeep Renegade, Chevrolet Trax, Honda HR-V, and the Mazda CX-3.


Our Recommendation


We think the top-trim SR edition with the Premium Package is the best choice among the three trims. The base trim is too budget, while the middle one doesn’t offer this package. The SV does, however, include stylish 17-inch wheels.

The $2,250 price spread between the entry-level and top trim models is laudable – it isn’t uncommon for manufacturers to add lots of additional equipment and charge handsomely for it.



2020 Nissan Kicks Specifications


Nissan 2020 Kicks
Segment Small SUV
Price Range $18,870 – $21,120
Destination Charge $1,095
Standard Engine 1.6-liter, I4
Horsepower 122 hp @ 6,300 rpm
Torque (lb.-ft.) 114 lb.-ft. @ 4,000 rpm
Transmission CVT
Seating 5
Curb Weight (pounds) 2,639 to 2,672
Wheelbase (inches) 103.1
Length (inches) 169.1
Width (inches) 69.3
Height (inches) 62.4
Headroom (f,r…inches) 40.7, 38.5
Legroom (f,r…inches) 43.7, 33.2
Shoulder room (f,r…inches) 53.0, 53.2
Hip room (f,r…inches) 50.9, 49.1
Storage (cubic feet) 25.3, 53.1
Gross vehicle weight (pounds) 3,583
Towing (pounds) NR
Payload (pounds) NR
Fuel regular
Fuel Tank (gallons) 10.8
EPA Fuel MPG (city/highway/combined) 31/36/33
Manufacturing Plant Kyushu, Japan

Data compiled by Tom Keegan. Specifications supplied by the manufacturer.


See AlsoQuilted Seats and a Nissan Sentra

Photos copyright Auto Trends Magazine. All rights reserved.

Author: Matthew Keegan
Matt Keegan has maintained his love for cars ever since his father taught him kicking tires can be one way to uncover a problem with a vehicle’s suspension system. He since moved on to learn a few things about coefficient of drag, G-forces, toe-heel shifting, and how to work the crazy infotainment system in some random weekly driver. Matt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association and is a contributor to various print and online media sources.

1 thought on “Just for Kicks:
Nissan’s Smallest Crossover

Leave a Reply