Nissan’s 2023 Kicks is a tiny SUV with a similarly tiny price tag. No shame there. It’s strictly an on-roader thanks to its simple underpinnings and lack of available all-wheel drive. The Kicks’ interior is at the very least practical and cargo-friendly, especially with its rear seats folded down. All models come with the same 122-hp four-cylinder, front-wheel drive, and continuously-variable automatic transmission (CVT). Acceleration is poky, we’ll admit, but its lethargy is less noticeable when driving around town. At least its fuel efficiency is economy-car frugal. If you want more power and refinement you’ll have to pay more for vehicles like the Mazda CX-30 and the Volkswagen Taos. The Kicks’ affordable price, though, makes it attractive to budget buyers, and those drivers won’t find they have to make compromises when it comes to infotainment and driver-assistance tech, as Nissan offers a lot of those features as standard.
What’s New for 2023?
Nissan has made no changes to its tiniest crossover for the 2023 model year. The Kicks carries over with the same three trim levels and available features as last year’s model.
Pricing and Which One to Buy
The Kicks is well-equipped even at the base S trim level, which includes a host of standard driver-assistance features. We’d spring for the mid-range SV; it adds desirable items such as the new 8.0-inch infotainment display, adaptive cruise control, 17-inch wheels, and a center-console armrest.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
Every 2023 Kicks model is powered by a 122-hp four-cylinder engine that provides barely adequate acceleration. A continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) handles shifting duties and drives the front wheels; all-wheel drive is not offered. If the leisurely 9.7-second jog to 60 mph makes the Kicks sound slow, that’s because it is. However, the test results we recorded are only half the story. Around town, it feels surprisingly perky, so long as you’re willing to push deep into the throttle and let the engine rev. The Kicks is nimble and more fun to throw around than some larger SUVs, but it’s no thrill ride on a twisty road. The suspension is tuned for comfort, and it provided a well-cushioned ride even over the pitted and crumbling roads around our offices in southeast Michigan. The steering is direct and accurate, but there’s very little feedback that comes up from the road to the driver’s hands.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
The Kicks has earned excellent EPA fuel-economy ratings of 31 mpg city and 36 mpg highway; in our 75-mph real-world highway fuel-economy test, it sipped fuel more like an economy car than an SUV. Its 37-mpg result tied with the Toyota C-HR. Despite its stellar result in our test, the tiny 10.8-gallon fuel tank abbreviates its cruising range. For more information about the Kicks’ fuel economy, visit the EPA’s website.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
Interior styling is less trendy than the exterior design, but it the Kicks is well-built, looks grown-up, and has a user-friendly interior. An adult-sized rear seat means it can haul people and cargo without the cramped feeling one might experience in rivals such as the C-HR. Splashes of color throughout the cabin do a nice job of breaking up the monotony of what would otherwise be an all-black interior. Despite its small size, the Kicks impressed us with its results in our cargo tests, matching and beating some larger rivals. We managed to fit 19 of our carry-on suitcases with the rear seats folded. Small-item storage is at a premium in the cargo area and the back seat, but front-seat occupants won’t notice the pinch thanks to large door pockets and a large glovebox.
Infotainment and Connectivity
Nissan’s infotainment system is not among the most beautiful interfaces on the market today, but it’s intuitive and easy to learn. We wish some of the on-screen icons were larger and easier to actuate while driving but, overall, the system is intuitive. The base Kicks S comes with a 7.0-inch touchscreen, a six-speaker audio system, and Bluetooth connectivity while the mid-range SV and the top-spec SR get an 8.0-inch display, an extra USB-C port, and access to Nissan’s NissanConnect telematics and concierge system. Buyers of the SR can order the optional Premium package, which adds a Bose stereo system and a Wi-Fi hotspot.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
Nissan provides a host of standard driver-assistance technology, and automated emergency braking is standard across the range. For more information about the Kicks’ crash-test results, visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) websites. Key safety features include:
- Standard automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection
- Standard lane-departure warning
- Available adaptive cruise control
Warranty and Maintenance Coverage
Nissan offers a wholly average warranty package. Drivers who need higher-mileage protection should consider the Kia Soul and its industry-best powertrain warranty, and those who prefer complimentary scheduled maintenance coverage might be interested in the C-HR.
- Limited warranty covers three years or 36,000 miles
- Powertrain warranty covers five years or 60,000 miles
- No complimentary scheduled maintenance
2021 Nissan Kicks
front-engine, front-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door wagon
DOHC 16-valve inline-4, aluminum block and head, direct fuel injection
98 in3, 1598 cm3
122 hp @ 6300 rpm
114 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm
continuously variable automatic
Wheelbase: 103.1 in
Length: 169.1 in
Width: 69.3 in
Height: 63.3–63.4 in
Passenger volume: 94 ft3
Cargo volume: 25 ft3
Curb weight (C/D est): 2700–2750 lb
PERFORMANCE (C/D EST)
60 mph: 9.6 sec
100 mph: 36.5 sec
1/4 mile: 17.4 sec
Top speed: 110 mph
EPA FUEL ECONOMY (C/D EST)
Combined/city/highway: 33/31/36 mpg
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