ROAD TEST: 2021 Nissan Kicks SR Premium

By Shari Prymak

Although crossovers have been growing rapidly in popularity year after year, not everyone has the hefty budget required to enter the door of crossover ownership. The majority cost upwards of $30,000 and can easily go far beyond that depending on the model. For those seeking something more modestly priced, comparable to that of a traditional compact car, the options can seem a bit limited. Fortunately, Nissan has this space well covered with the Kicks, which is the brand’s smallest and least expensive crossover.

What’s great about the Kicks is that it offers many of the benefits of crossover ownership at a very attractive price point. As far as the design is concerned, all of the crossover traits are present, including the flared wheel arches, high ride height, and SUV profile. Nissan has updated the look with the brand’s latest design language, and it is a pretty sharp-looking thing, especially if you go with one of the two-tone colour options and dark wheels on the higher trim levels. It also offers a surprising amount of space with a generously sized cargo area, spacious seating, and rear seats that fold flat.  It obviously doesn’t offer the same level of practicality as larger crossovers, but, for a small family, it could certainly do the job.

The interior comes well-appointed with decent use of materials and loads of useful features. The touchscreen infotainment system, 7 inches wide on the base model and 8 inches on higher trims, is very easy to use and well designed with standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. Other nice touches include straightforward climate controls, plenty of USB ports, including USB-C, and comfortable memory foam filled seats which Nissan calls its Zero Gravity seats. On the SR trim, the seats come upholstered in a nice looking two-tone Prima-Tex material which does a pretty good impression of real leather. Heated seats are another nice touch which are included on every version.

The Kicks shares its underpinnings and drivetrain with the subcompact Versa sedan. The result is that the Kicks enjoys all the same benefits as the Versa, including its outstanding efficiency, excellent maneuverability, and easy to drive nature. The ride quality is adequately compliant and it handles corners without fuss. The 1.6L engine produces 122 horsepower and 114lb-ft of torque powering the front wheels through a continuously variable transmission. It’s no powerhouse, but it certainly gets the job done just fine and saves fuel along the way. Over a week of mostly highway driving, I averaged about 7.5L/100km, which is pretty impressive, even for a small vehicle.

The best part about the Kicks is the amount of value it offers at every trim level. For an MSRP of $19,898, the base S model comes extremely well-equipped with advanced features such as blind-spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning, and automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection. The $22,898 SV trim adds intelligent adaptive cruise control, remote engine starter, 17 inch alloy wheels, and a heated leather-wrapped steering wheel. Go for the top SR Premium for $24,998 and you also get a 360 surround view monitor, Prima-Tex faux-leather, and a premium Bose sound system that includes speakers in the driver’s seat headrest.

The subcompact crossover segment is filled with desirable options. The trouble is that most of them command significantly more money than the Kicks without offering much extra. Aside from the lack of optional all-wheel drive, there really isn’t anything missing here that you’d pay a lot more to get in a comparably-equipped Hyundai Kona, Kia Soul, Mazda CX-30 or Honda HR-V. As far as crossovers go, the Kicks remains an outstanding value, and a top recommendation for those who want it all on a budget.