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Nissan Kicks SV: modest and easy to drive

Photo courtesy of Nissan

A car with no razzle-dazzle, but excellent value

Things haven’t been exactly peachy keen for Nissan lately, what with a management shake-up and cratering sales even before the pandemic struck. One bright spot on the Japanese automaker’s U.S. sales charts, however, is the Kicks, introduced in 2018. The small SUV’s recipe for success? High content and low price.

A replacement for the quirky-looking Juke in Nissan’s compact-crossover segment, the Kicks gets Nissan’s Safety Shield 360 as standard equipment on all trim levels in 2020. That means automatic emergency braking, rear automatic braking, blind-spot warning, lane-departure warning, rear cross-traffic alert, and automatic high beams—an impressive suite of driver-assistance features for an inexpensive vehicle. A CVT automatic transmission, Bluetooth, cruise control, keyless entry, and push-button start are also standard on every Kicks.

Get your Kicks onto Route 66 and you won’t find any thrills from its small 4-cylinder engine, which produces a modest 122 horsepower. Nor will you find the Kicks’ rather stiff suspension particularly comfortable. Interior materials are mostly low rent, with lots of hard plastic. Surprisingly for an SUV, AWD isn’t available.

On the flip side, the Kicks is a fuel miser, its steering is quick, controls are easy to use, and the cabin has plenty of room for both passengers and cargo. And the sub-$20,000 base price makes up for the Kicks’ shortcomings.

Vehicle layout: 1.6-liter inline 4 (122 hp), CVT, FWD
MSRP, base model: $19,965; as tested: $21,595
MPG, city/highway/combined: 31/36/33
Safety ratings: NHTSA, not yet rated; IIHS: good (crash-related ratings)
Spare tire: Compact temporary
Final assembly: Aguascalientes City, Mexico
Basic warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles

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