2020 Nissan Kicks SR: Reinventing the subcompact car
The 2020 Nissan Kicks is a great inexpensive subcompact car. It just took me awhile to figure that out. I'll explain.
I was confused when manfacturers first began building crossovers that were only available with front-wheel-drive. The original crossovers were smallish Sport Utility Vehicles based on cars with available all-wheel-drive. Because of that, they were less expensive and more fun than traditional large SUVs, while still offering their additional traction.
But now there is a growing wave of vehilces called crossovers that only come with FWD. Most still mostly look like SUVs and provide many of their benefits, including higher ride heights for better visibility and more cargo space, thanks to their boxy designs and large rear hatches. But they don't offer AWD at any price.
So given that I think AWD is a great option for wet weather Pacific Northwest driving, I was puzzled by the early crossover that didn't offer it. For example, although I liked the practicality of the Kia Soul, I assumed it was aimed at young people who didn't understand why they should also want AWD.
But now companies are tripping over each other to introduce new small FWD-only crossover-style vehicles like the Toyota C-HR, the Ford EcoSport, and the Hyundai Venue.
Driving the 2020 Nissan Kicks it hit me, there vehicles aren't meant to be smaller and more economic versions of traditional SUVs, they are supposed to be alternative to tradtional cars. They are not car-based, they are unique to themselves. And, despite the lack of available AWD, they offer the same other advantages as the earlier crossovers over conventional sedans — more ride height, more interior room and more cargo space.
On top of that, they are almost as economical as the least expensive cars in their class. The Kicks starts at just $18,870 with a lot of standard equipment. Our fully-loaded SR version only cost $26,776 and included multiple exterior and interior packages that improved its looks (like the 17-inch black wheels) and driving enjoyment (such as the 8-speaker Bose Premium Plus Audio System).
Every version of the Kicks comes standard with a 1.6-liter four cylinder engine that pumps out 122 horsepower mated to a Continuously Variable Transmission. Although that's much power, the combination is tuned for peppy around town performance and only struggles a little to pass in freeway traffic. That's not a bad, considering it is EPA rated at 31 miles per gallon in town and 36 on the freeway, which is great for any non-hybrid vehicle.
Although the Kicks is bascially an upright box like all crossovers, it is styled as fastback with buldging fenders, which gives it an aggressive appearance. Inside, all versions have a restrained dash with easy to understand controls and a standard 7-inch display screen. Our SR version came with a leather interior that looked and felt much more premium than the price suggested.
On the road, our Kick SR was surprisingly comfortable, with a relatively soft suspension that smoothed out the road but allowed a little body roll in corners. The tradeoff was worth it, helping the Kick drive like a larger car while still being small enough to park just about anywhere.
Once upon a time, people looked forward to buying their first car. Now they can look forward to buying their first crossover, with the 2020 Nissan Kicks being an example of how good they can be.
2020 Nissan Kicks SR
Base price: $21,120
Price as tested: $26,775
Type: Subcompact crossover
Engine: 1.6-liter four-cylinder (122 hp, 114 lbs-ft)
Transmission: Continuously Variable Transmission
EPA estimated mileage: 31/36
Overall length: 169.1 inches
Curb weight: 2,672 pounds
Final assembly: Aguas, Mexico