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2021 Nissan Kicks Performance Review


Performance: 5.7

The 2021 Nissan Kicks returns excellent fuel economy and is fine for driving around town. However, its highway acceleration, handling, and ride quality are less impressive.

  • "Despite its underwhelming powertrain and paltry acceleration … the Kicks is actually somewhat pleasant to drive, and it achieves a best-in-segment 33 miles per gallon in combined driving." -- Autotrader
  • "The rear twist beam setup delivers more than acceptable ride quality and reasonably good control in corners. The Kicks isn’t likely to keep up with something like a Hyundai Kona in the twisty stuff but as a basic urban commuter it brings the goods." -- Forbes
  • "Although the Kicks’ 122-horsepower engine is not all that thrilling, it gives Nissan’s smallest SUV an EPA highway fuel-economy rating of 36 mpg, which is excellent." -- Kelley Blue Book

Engine Options, Horsepower, and Acceleration

  • Engine: 122-horsepower 1.6-liter four-cylinder
  • Drivetrain: front-wheel drive
  • Transmission: continuously variable automatic (CVT)

The Nissan Kicks has adequate power and acceleration at low speeds, and the CVT is refined. However, the Kicks struggles to get up to higher speeds.

  • "You'll need to forcefully lay into the accelerator when merging onto a highway, and even then, you’d better make sure there’s a pretty large gap between you and the closest vehicle coming up from behind. That said, the Kicks does an impressive job disguising its power deficit around town. The throttle response is eager, and its CVT admirably maximizes the little engine’s potential." -- Autotrader
  • "Its powertrain leaves us wanting, especially when traveling at highway speeds, but as a city-focused commuter the Kicks is, um, a kick." -- Car and Driver
  • "The powertrain is also up to the task that a vehicle in this market segment would be expected to complete. … Nissan does as good a job as any manufacturer today with programming its CVTs to avoid making them too annoying." -- Forbes

MPG Estimates

The 2021 Kicks gets 31 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway, which are among the highest fuel economy estimates in the subcompact SUV class.

Handling and Braking

The Kicks is easy to maneuver in tight spaces and exhibits some sporty handling attributes, but there isn’t much steering feedback. Critics are also mixed on the ride quality: Some say that it's comfortable, while others note that it feels too stiff.

  • "Around town and in everyday driving, the Kicks does just fine, and its nimble attitude, tight turning circle, and taut suspension make quick work of twisting turns. One minor complaint centers around the Kicks’ short 103.1-inch wheelbase that, along with the stiff suspension, translates to a somewhat jittery ride that could get bothersome on long trips." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The Kicks is nimble and more fun to throw around than some larger SUVs, but it's not exactly a thrill ride on a twisty road. The suspension is tuned more for comfort, and it provided a well-cushioned ride. … The steering is direct and accurate, but there's very little feedback that comes up from the road to the driver's hands." -- Car and Driver
  • "The Kicks’ chassis and suspension are also ably tuned. On our mountain road test, the Kicks maintained its composure through mid-corner bumps and remained poised through successive corners. Unfortunately, the steering is curiously slow." -- Autotrader
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2021 Nissan Kicks

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