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The 2020 Nissan Kicks is perfect for folks looking to make the switch from subcompact sedan to subcompact crossover. Don’t be fooled by this Nissan’s tiny dimensions, it’s actually surprisingly practical. Along with a price most people can afford, the Kicks has a big back seat and plenty of space to store cargo. Although its four-cylinder engine can be noisy and requires extra effort for passing on the highway, it feels peppy around town and is very fuel efficient. Likewise, it has standard driver-assistance features such as automated emergency braking and can be equipped with modern content that includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration. Sure, the 2020 Kicks lacks all-wheel drive and premium options, but it otherwise nails being an affordable crossover.
Nissan doesn’t make any significant changes to the 2020 Kicks lineup.
The mid-level SV model is our pick of the Kicks litter due to the sheer amount of content that is included for its attractive price tag. The most desirable of these are Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, larger 17-inch wheels, an enhanced gauge cluster, and driver assists such as blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. Nissan also caters to buyers who like to personalize their vehicle, and the Kicks can be had with stylish two-tone paint as well as myriad custom accessories. Among them, we’d recommend the Exterior Electronics package that includes rear parking sensors and exterior ground lighting.
Every 2020 Kicks model is powered by a 125-hp four-cylinder engine that provides adequate but far from thrilling 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 from zero to 60 mph makes the Kicks seem slow, that’s because it is. However, the test results we recorded are only half the story. Around town it feels plenty perky so long as you’re willing to rev the engine. The Kicks is nimble and more fun to throw around than 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 even over the pitted and crumbling roads around our offices in Ann Arbor. The steering is direct and accurate, but there’s very little feedback that comes up from the road to the driver’s hands.
The Kicks has earned excellent EPA fuel-economy ratings; in our 200-mile 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 and even matched Nissan’s own Sentra, which we tested in base S trim with a six-speed manual transmission. Despite its stellar result in our test, the tiny 10.8-gallon fuel tank abbreviates its cruising range.
Interior styling is less trendy than the exterior design of the Kicks, but it 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. Our SR test vehicle featured nice orange-fabric panels on the seats and doors, leather trim on the dashboard, and orange-contrast stitching. The splashes of color do a nice job of breaking up the monotony of the 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.
Nissan Connect may not be among the most beautiful infotainment 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 press while driving but the system’s simple operation and short list of features make it less daunting than the Honda HR-V’s system. All Kicks models come with a 7.0-inch touchscreen, a six-speaker audio system, and Bluetooth connectivity; two different premium audio systems are optional, as is onboard Wi-Fi.
Nissan provides a short list of driver-assistance technology, but the good news is that automated emergency braking is standard across the range. The Kicks sailed through the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s crash tests, earning a Top Safety Pick designation but missing the Top Safety Pick+ award by two tests. It also earned a four-star rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Key safety features include:
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.
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