By on December 9, 2020

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]

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13 Comments on “2021 Nissan Kicks Receives Minimal But Appreciated Updates...”


  • avatar
    RHD

    Rogue must auto-correct to “Rouge”. It shows up that way all over the place.
    If it’s really at 19,000, it should sell well for Nissan, as long as buyers think it’s an automatic, and not a CVT. 122HP is not a lot in 2020.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    “2021 Nissan Kicks Receives Minimal But Appreciated Updates”
    Me thinking, now with 1.6Turbo and MT -pretty minimal. No, they changed the fog lights and color options. Thanks for nothing

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    After nearly buying a Kicks in 2018, I’d still consider one of these. I like the one in the photos, as-is.

    I appreciate Nissan’s narrow focus with this vehicle. Options like different engines, more power, AWD, etc, etc, all drive up complexity and cost, even in the base model. Nissan has other cars for people who want those options. For example, the cheapest Rogue Sport AWD starts at $24780 – a big jump from the base FWD Kicks.

  • avatar
    Varezhka

    It’s not a major update, but a much needed one based on the pictures.
    I think the car no longer has that “I got the cheapest car at the rental counter” look of 2000s Chevy Aveo. Still cheap and cheerful, but a dash or two more of the “cheer.”

    $19,000 still seems a bit high for what is essentially a Versa Note replacement, but then again, it’s pretty much where the Hyundai Venue is so I guess it’s fair. I’m sure there’ll be more cash on the hood too.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Yes, $19k is a high price. Adjusted for inflation, my sister’s 1975 Honda Civic wagon cost thousands less. Even a 1975 non-explody Pinto Wagon was about $5k less. Sure, you were more likely to die in a crash in either one, but if you survived, you had enough left over for medical expenses.

  • avatar
    Imagefont

    My wife drive an 08 Sentra. I do not want another CVT experience. They increased the warranty to 10yr/100k but still, Nissans definition of “doesn’t work” is not the same as mine. A warranty is worth nothing if it won’t be honored. So pass on all things Nissan. This little car might be fun with a stick.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      If it makes you feel any better, Subaru (Fuji heavy industries) makes its own CVTs and they’ve extended their warranties on theirs too. Honda has similar problems, but Toyota’s CVTs don’t seem to have severe problems, other than they don’t accelerate well, and aren’t appropriate transmissions for hilly/mountainous areas.

  • avatar
    Hydromatic

    I had a 2020 model as a rental earlier this year. After driving it for a few miles and seeing first-hand just how unroadworthy it was, I took it back and demanded something better.

  • avatar
    JLGOLDEN

    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.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    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.

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