2021 Nissan Kicks Receives Minimal But Appreciated Updates

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

Released in tandem with a series of meaningful updates to the gargantuan Armada, Nissan has decided to give the subcompact Kicks a few embellishments of its own for the 2021 model year. While not nearly as comprehensive as its three-row sibling, the updates similarly build upon the existing platform by making small changes customers were undoubtedly harping upon.

Outside, the refreshed Kicks gets a new grille, fog lamps, tail lamps, updated bumpers, and some optional LED headlights. The combination makes the model look like a baby Rogue and brings it in line with Nissan’s current design language. There are also some novel paint options with the manufacturer likewise allowing customers to order two-tone schemes with a black roof.

While hardly the first to implement dueling exterior hues, it’s nice to see the company playing into one of the segment’s more interesting trends. We wouldn’t mind seeing two-tone paint offered on more models, provided it’s done well. The Kicks also allows customers to colorize numerous components on the interior and exterior, allowing for quite a bit of visual customization.

There’s a bit less being done to the interior, though we’d imagine these changes are the ones drivers will appreciate most. Nissan has widened the armrest so it can be used by the driver or front passenger, revamped the center console (with more USB ports), swapped out some of the vents, and made some changes to the upholstery options. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are now standard across the board as well, with a bigger 8-inch touchscreen becoming optional for some of the nicer trims. A Wi-Fi hot spot can also be had, along with keyless entry (with remote start) and a Bose premium sound system.

But the trim levels aren’t changing, nor have there been any big changes to its electronic safety suite. Nissan will continue offering the Kicks in S, SV, and SR flavors — with the latter having a premium version that defaults to the fancier options. And the default safety features still include front and rear automatic emergency braking, lane departure warnings, rear cross-traffic alerts, high-beam assist, and blind-spot warning.

Mechanical components also haven’t changed. The little crossover still has the 1.6-liter engine producing 122 horsepower and 114 pounds-feet of torque as standard equipment. While we almost expected to see all-wheel drive making an appearance, Nissan has opted to keep the Kicks exclusively front-wheel drive and has retained its continuously variable transmission.

Despite doing little for the car’s dynamics, it does allow it to retain its agreeable fuel economy figures of 31/36 mpg (city/highway).

Pricing has yet to be announced but we’ll find out before the 2021 Kicks goes on-sale date of February. We don’t anticipate the model straying from its current sticker, however. $19,000 to start sounds about right.

[Images: Nissan]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • JLGOLDEN JLGOLDEN on Dec 10, 2020

    Just for fun, I rented a 2020 Kicks earlier this year. The cheap-n-cheerful vibe resonated so well that I traded a (disappointing) 2020 Forester Touring for TWO new Kicks, both loaded SR models. The dealer made a great deal, as they seemingly wanted that Forester. With congested city life as the daily norm, Nissan's surround-view camera system has won me over. I cannot imagine owning another car without this safety feature. Also, Nissan's Zero-Gravity seats have been a blessing to my back and thighs. We are never fatigued, even after hours on the road. For basic and economical transport, both Nissan Kicks and Versa are pleasant options. Note: I would have considered a Hyundai Venue, but there were none available for rental, and I need a full weekend of driving to evaluate a car.

    • SCE to AUX SCE to AUX on Dec 10, 2020

      Your comments are as good as any road review I've read. The SR trim really is a meaningful improvement for small price adder.

  • Tankinbeans Tankinbeans on Dec 10, 2020

    From a looks standpoint, I don't hate it, but I haven't driven anything will less than 145 horsepower since my Escort, and that wasn't pretending to be a crossover. It still looks a bit like Cletus and the family with that grille.

  • The Oracle This thing got porky quick.
  • Kwi65728132 I'll grant that it's nicely kept but I'm not a fan of the bangle butt designs, and I know better than to buy a used BMW while living anywhere in the world other than in the fatherland where these are as common as any Honda or Toyota is anywhere else.
  • ChristianWimmer When these came out I thought they were hideous: now they’ve grown on me. This one looks pretty nice. Well-maintained, low mileage and some good-looking wheels that aren’t super fancy but not cheap-looking or boring either, they are just right.
  • Aja8888 Someday in the far away future, all cars will look the same, people will be the same color, dogs will be all mixed beyond recognition, and governments will own everything. That car looks like my son's Hyundai Tucson without badges.
  • Tassos Of course, what the hell did you expect? A SERIOUS, BEAUTIFUL car you can ACTUALLY USE AS YOUR DAILY DRIVER???............. NOOOOO, THIS IS TIM WE ARE TALKING ABOUT. SO HE FINDS SOME OBSOLETE POS WHICH IS 22 years old, .............AND HE PURPOSELY MISSES THE BEAUTIFUL MODEL, THE Classical Beauty E39 that ended in 2003. ...........So he uses his column as a WASTEBASKET once again, to throw the first year of BMWs BANGLED 5 series (as in the INFAMOUS CHRIS BANGLE WHO SCREWED UP THE DESIGN ROYALLY). ................................................ As Dr. Evil, Fake Doctor Jill Biden would scream at the top of her voice, so her senile idiot husband could hear her, "Good Job, (Tim)! You answered all the questions and ticked all the boxes!" ..... KEEP UP THE S---Y work, Tim!