Driving can be an adventure. As such, there is almost always some sort of soundtrack that accompanies road trips, daily commutes, and getting to and from major life events. After Daddy’s Digest spent a week with the 2021 Nissan Kicks SR, there just happens to be a song that entirely encompasses what this little entry-level crossover sport utility is all about – and it also happens to be called “Kicks”. In 2017, Canadian artist Lights released the track in question on the album Skin & Earth. Its chorus repeats “It’s how we get our kicks” in a high-energy and youthful passion, and it’s that joie de vivre that carries over into this coincidental automotive incarnation.
Because the Nissan Kicks starts at $19,898 and tops out somewhere in the neighbourhood of $25,000 Canadian before taxes and fees, the price tag alone it makes it a very appealing candidate for young buyers looking for their first new car. Originally released in North America for the 2018 model year and refreshed for 2021, the Daddy’s Digest test car, courtesy of Nissan Canada, was the top-range SR Premium and was $24,998, plus $485 for two-tone metallic paint.
The SR Premium gets extras such as a remote engine start function, Bose audio, leatherette seating surfaces, rear disc brakes, a 360-degree camera, a rear spoiler, LED headlights and fog lights, 17-inch wheels, and Android Auto/Apple CarPlay smartphone integration. As a kudos to Nissan, all trim levels get several autonomous driver assist safety features as part of the Nissan Intelligent Mobility system, including forward collision automatic braking with pedestrian detection, rear automatic braking, automatic high beams, and adaptive cruise control.
In terms of how the Kicks looks, it presents itself as a neatly styled compact car. This year’s mid-cycle refresh gives it a more modern feel, and the LED Lighting all around gives a lot of extra pop. Thankfully, the compact exterior dimensions still translate to impressive space inside for a car of this size. Rear-facing car seats do require one front passenger to sit a bit further forward, but unless you’re over six feet tall, this is completely manageable for a couple of years while running around the city until your child goes forward-facing. A stroller will also fit in the rear cargo area, and even does so better than other compact hatchbacks such as the Mazda3 Sport or the Toyota Corolla Hatchback.
Even though it does manage to handle kid duty without completely falling flat on its face, the Kicks’ youthful charm still always finds a way to shine through. Lights’ song has a few lines that go:
Tell me 'bout the last time you got free
Laughed 'til your sides split, cut your knees
Do you wanna take a trip with me?
This summarizes the Nissan’s personality reasonably accurately. It isn’t exactly the best car you can buy, but it doesn’t try to be, and it does everything more than well enough – you’ll be spending thousands more to do better. Its 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine only makes 122 horsepower, but that’s okay – it’s a lightweight car and the transmission makes the most of it and returns excellent fuel economy. Refinement levels are good, and adults can fit in the back without too much complaint.
For drivers who like to jazz up their rides a bit more, Nissan offers the Kicks Colour Studio, which offers dealer-installed colourful accessories to personalize your car. Door handles, spoilers, wheels, and rocker trim can all be enhanced in a variety of colours to suit your taste, including orange, blue, or white, among others. Other accessories include upgraded Rockford Fosgate audio, a stainless steel exhaust finisher, and exterior ground lighting.
As a complete package, the 2021 Nissan Kicks SR isn’t just an affordable car to get into – it can also be expected to be an affordable car to keep running. The mechanical bits are simpler than many of today’s complex cars and will likely be cheaper to maintain, and the fuel efficiency will be easier on the wallet (we saw well under 7.0 litres per 100 kilometres on the highway). Keeping these operating costs low means more time and money to enjoy life – and isn’t that what Lights is singing on about?
Jerry Vo cut his teeth in writing as an automotive journalist and is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC). Having reviewed cars since 2015, he takes pride in providing relevant and technically savvy consumer advice, and is extending that over into reviews in various other categories at Daddy's Digest. He is a proud dad of one and is letting the wonderful journey of parenthood teach him new things every day.