The sharp little Nissan Kicks SUV is freshened for 2021 with several interior and exterior styling revisions, some new standard features and additions to its paint color palette. Value and great gas mileage are carried over from last year’s original Kicks model.
Pronounced exterior styling changes are to the grille, headlights and taillights, front and rear bumpers, and wheel design.
Inside the 2021 Kicks, seat and trim materials have been upgraded, and there’s a new, full center console with built-in armrest.
Model year 2021 also brings Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration as a standard feature for all three Kicks trim levels.
Nissan’s Safety Shield 360, a collection of driver-assist technologies, is standard on every 2021 Kicks model. It includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, radar-based blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, high-beam assist and rear automatic braking.
The Kicks is available in S, SV, and SR trim levels. Each one comes with a 122-horsepower four cylinder engine, a CVT automatic transmission and front-wheel drive. Fuel economy ratings are 31 mpg city, 36 mpg highway and 33 mpg combined. The fuel tank capacity of only 10.8 gallons makes the gas gauge approach empty more quickly than average. An unaware driver might think Kicks isn’t doing all that well with fuel economy, but that’s a false impression.
Kicks SV and SR models get a new 8-inch touchscreen for 2021, a nice enhancement for Nissan’s logical, likable infotainment system.
The optional two-tone paint combinations featuring a black roof expand this year to include Scarlet Ember Tintcoat, Electric Blue Metallic, and Boulder Gray Pearl. They join the existing Aspen White TriCoat and Monarch Orange Metallic.
The base Kicks S model starts at $20,700 with a $1,150 destination charge included. As base trims go, especially for a competitively priced subcompact SUV, the Kicks S is generously equipped.
My test car was the top-tier SR model, still modestly priced at $23,140. The standard features it contains above the $22,500 mid-range SV grade include LED fog lights, LED low beams, black roof rails, rear spoiler, dark chrome grille, outside mirror-mounted LED turn signals and a 360-degree view monitor.
The tester’s optional equipment column was packed with every other item available on the 2021 Kicks, including a persuasive $1,200 Premium Package adding a high-end Bose audio system, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, Prima-Tex synthetic leatherette upholstery, security system, cargo cover and Wi-Fi hotspot.
Kicks has five-passenger seating in conventional subcompact SUV terms, meaning the middle spot in the back seat is not a bastion of comfort. But cabin roominess is good otherwise, and rear seat backs fold down to enlarge cargo space beyond what the sizable cargo area already provides.
The Kicks thrives in congested urban settings where parking space is at a premium and maneuverability is paramount. At the same time, it’s an excellent commuter car and also serves well as a utility vehicle.
The new exterior styling gives Kicks a livelier, more compelling appearance, and the interior upgrades create a more refined environment.
2021 NISSAN KICKS SR
Base price, including destination charge: $23,140
Price as driven: $27,075
Mary Lowry is a member of the Motor Press Guild and a member and past president of the Northwest Automotive Press Association. She lives in Snohomish County. Vehicles are provided by automotive manufacturers as a one-week loan for evaluation purposes only. Manufacturers do not control content of the reviews.