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If you're thinking about a new small SUV, the 2021 Nissan Kicks is worth your time to see and drive in person.

PMG PHOTO: JEFF ZURSCHMEIDE - The Nissan Kicks has been refreshed for 2021 with a new front look and a larger touchscreen infotainment system, but it is still a fun to drive bargain that delivers great mileage.The new vehicle market today is full of cars, trucks, and SUVs that are bigger and more powerful than they have ever been before. They're also more expensive than ever before, placing a new car out of reach of many people. The 2021 Nissan Kicks is running against that trend, offering a great small SUV that's perfect for the Portland metro area.

The Kicks has been on sale since 2018, and Nissan updated the model for the 2021 model year with a new front look and a larger touchscreen infotainment system. However, most of the vehicle remains the same, and that's a good thing.

PMG PHOTO: JEFF ZURSCHMEIDE - Although the 2021 Nissan Kicks is only available with front-wheel-drive, with modern stability and traction control systems, buyers aren't missing out on much capability compared to all-wheel-drive.

Like many other subcompact SUVs, the Kicks is available only with front-wheel-drive. This helps keep costs down, and with modern stability and traction control systems, buyers aren't missing out on much capability compared to all-wheel-drive. If you must have AWD, it's easy to step up to Nissan's Rogue Sport model.

Engine power in the Kicks comes from a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 122 horsepower and 114 pound-feet of torque, passed to the front wheels through a continuously variable transmission. That's enough to give the Kicks lively performance, even if it won't win any drag races. For getting around Portland or taking a road trip, the Kicks is peppy and fun to drive.

PMG PHOTO: JEFF ZURSCHMEIDE - The 2021 Nissan Kicks has loads of standard and available tech, including a larger touchscreen infotainment system that supports Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, so navigation and hands-free phone and music streaming are easy.

Best of all, you'll see 31 MPG in city driving and 36 MPG on the highway, while carrying up to 32.3 cubic feet of cargo. Even with the rear seats up, you can fit 25.3 cubic feet in the back. A standard adult bicycle will fit in the back of a Kicks.

Any vehicle designed to fit the urban environment needs tech, and the Kicks has the important safety and connectivity features. The touchscreen infotainment system supports Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, so navigation and hands-free phone and music streaming are easy. Nissan also provides state-of-the-art safety with available advanced driver assist features like adaptive cruise control, 360-degree camera coverage, automatic high beam control, lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, and more. Rear automatic braking is standard on all trims, so you will never back into any obstacle.

PMG PHOTO: JEFF ZURSCHMEIDE - The front bucket seats in the 2021 Nissan Kicks are supportive and comfortable.

With all that, the main reason to consider the Kicks is its size and price. The base trim starts at $19,500, and you can get into a fully-equipped Kicks for less than $25,000. What you'll find when you drive this car is that it's comfortable and easy to use. I'm six feet tall and I have plenty of space to be comfortable in the driver's seat. The Kicks is tall enough and the doors are big enough that getting in and out of the vehicle is easy and graceful. That alone makes the Kicks an SUV that I want to drive. I don't have to climb up into it, nor do I have to pull myself up out of it.

On the road, the Kicks is easy to navigate through traffic on the freeway or on Portland's narrow residential streets. It fits into standard parking lot spaces with plenty of room to spare. In a world of giant SUVs, it's a relief to drive something that doesn't require backing and turning just to wedge into an available space. As I mentioned before, the engine power is well-suited to the Kicks, and it's a car I would cheerfully drive every day. If you're thinking about a new small SUV, the 2021 Nissan Kicks is worth your time to see and drive in person.

PMG PHOTO: JEFF ZURSCHMEIDE - The 2021 Nissan Kicks has 25.3 cubic feet in the back with the rear seats folded up, which is enough room for a standard adult bicycle.

2021 Nissan Kicks SR

Base price: $21940

Price as tested: $24,540

Type: Subcompact SUV

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: 2,744 pounds

Final assembly: Aguascalientes, Mexico


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