Nissan first introduced the Kicks at the 2014 Sao Paulo International Motor Show in Sao Paulo, Brazil, as a concept subcompact crossover SUV. Inspired by the small side streets of Brazil, the Kicks first debuted in Sao Paulo in 2016. After a gradual roll-out throughout Latin America in 2017, the Kicks was introduced to North America to replace the Nissan Juke.
Priced at around $18,500, the Kicks is one of our top picks for being a cheap SUV that isn’t a terrible deal. It’s not only affordability that makes it such a great buy, nonetheless. The Kicks offers auto buyers a versatile SUV with plenty of room for both passengers and cargo, as well as awesome fuel economy ratings of 31 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 36 mpg on the highway. That’s an average of around 33 mpg. This kind of fuel economy is usually found in economy cars, not vehicles classed as SUVs.
Why the Nissan Kicks has such great reviews
If you’re one of the many people wanting to switch from a subcompact sedan to a subcompact SUV, the 2020 Nissan Kicks is a great option. Despite its small dimensions, its cabin is nicely designed and provides plenty of legroom for four adults but is capable of seating five. The cargo area provides 25.3 cubic feet of space with the rear seats up and 53.1 cubic feet of space with them folded down.
With that kind of space, it has quickly risen to the top of the list as being one of the most spacious crossovers. When comparing the Nissan Kicks versus the Hyundai Venue, the Kicks is great for people who have to haul around a bunch of stuff but might not be comfortable enough for everyday family driving.
Its four-cylinder engine is a little bit louder than most and struggles to overtake other vehicles with more power on the highway. However, since the Kicks was designed for city driving, the 125-hp four-cylinder engine provides drivers with sufficient power while being fuel-efficient.
Even though it takes the Nissan Kicks almost 10 seconds to reach 60 miles per hour, those who aren’t shy about revving the engine a bit will find it has plenty of pep in its step — fuel efficiency does come at a cost after all. Let’s look at the Nissan Kicks’ pros and cons.
There is a lot that makes the Nissan Kicks a great buy, especially for those who want an SUV but don’t want to spend more than $20,000 to $25,000 on a vehicle. SUVs have historically been defined by their boxy dimensions and brawny proportions. They have also been known to be expensive.
However, things are changing in that regard; with the Kicks, an SUV can be cute, sporty and economic all the way around. Despite its cute appearance, it’s wider and longer than the Hyundai Venue which is the most recent benchmark for SUVs of this class.
Looking at the front end, the Kicks features the telltale V-motion grille distinctive of Nissan with perfectly positioned fog lamps that function as cornering lamps as well. Looking at the rear end, many reviewers have written this is the best-looking part of the Kicks.
Firstly, the rear windscreen is surprisingly sporty. Secondly, the Kicks’ protruding boomerang-like tail lamps add to its sporty look — from the rear end, the Nissan Kicks looks fast and agile. Thirdly, the overall look of this SUV is stylish in a way meant to connect with Millennials and younger drivers.
Interior and features
The sporty look and feel of the Nissan Kicks continue with a smart-looking interior. Nissan did a great job combining the right sets of colors and materials together, resulting in a very welcoming look and feel.
Nissan used soft-touch materials generously, particularly in the middle of the dashboard, door armrest and center armrest. The cab-forward layout causes the dashboard to extend more making the cabin seem more spacious.
The eight-inch touch screen infotainment system is beautifully designed as well. It comes with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, BT connectivity, and can connect to your smartwatch. It features some nifty tech goodies, too, such as an engine start/stop button, rain-sensing wipers, and a first-in-class around view monitor.
The Nissan Kicks offers 8.26 inches (210 millimeters) of ground clearance, affording it loads of suspension travel and works remarkably well on minor offroad terrain. The ride quality of the Kicks is phenomenal and feels notably limber driving through city streets.
The suspension is smooth and quiet, absorbing fluctuations on the road so well that you’ll barely feel them. With such a wide posture, the Nissan Kicks takes corners without much of a roll.
Overall, the Nissan Kicks does pretty well when considering it’s one of the lowest costing crossover SUVs on the market. Nevertheless, it does have a few issues that remind you that price matters.
The manual transmission feels heavy, which is something noticeable in bumper-to-bumper traffic or when driving through parts of the city where lots of clutch work is needed. After a while, you might be wishing you had purchased a model with an automatic transmission.
However, an automatic transmission will place you in the $20,500 to $22,000 price range. Lastly, the stiff steering makes maneuvering the vehicle in close confines slightly cumbersome — again, something that gets better when driving the more expensive models.
Lacks smart storage
While the Nissan Kicks does have plenty of seating and cargo room for its class, it lacks plenty of smart storage. Smart storage includes things like cup holders, storage compartments in the armrests, among other things. The Kicks doesn’t have front cupholders (which is really weird), nor is there a compartment in the middle armrest.
In order to get the rear seats folded down, don’t expect to find a 60:40 split design; instead, there are only two knobs on either side that must be pulled up simultaneously. Small individuals would most likely require assistance folding down the rear seats because of this.
Summing up the Nissan Kicks
The Nissan Kicks is a really cute, sporty, and fun SUV to drive. Not only that but it’s among one of the most fuel-efficient subcompact SUVs on the market. It might have some issues to work out here and there, but that’s how it is most of the time with newly debuted vehicles — it takes a few years for automakers to iron out the kinks.
If you’re willing to spend over $21,000 for it, the Nissan Kicks SR Xtronic CVT offers LED headlights with LED signature accents; sport cloth seat trim with orange accents and stitching; leather-wrapped steering wheel; Intelligent Around View Monitor and a few more storage options.
However, for that price, you’re still getting a pretty nice SUV, especially if you’re a recent college graduate or young couple.