Behind the Wheel

2021 Nissan Kicks Review: Better than most of its competition, priced right

The Nissan Kicks has been refreshed for the 2020 model year.

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

For the majority of Americans, driving their vehicle isn't a raucous good time. It gets them from Point A to Point B in a fashion that is reasonably comfortable and fuel efficient while fulfilling their cargo and capability needs. That's where the 2021 Nissan Kicks comes in. For the average small SUV buyer, it checks many of their boxes.

For the 2021 model year, Nissan has refreshed the subcompact SUV giving it new looks and options. Perhaps most importantly, the company is giving buyers more without raising the price too much – it starts at just $19,500, just $400 over last year's MSRP.

2021 Nissan Kicks The fresh exterior of the 2021 Nissan Kicks brings it in line with other SUVs in the Nissan family. Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

The SUV's exterior is now more in line with the revised 2021 Nissan Armada, new 2021 Nissan Rogue, and forthcoming Nissan Ariya. It has a deep V-motion design with a "double V-motion" feature that pairs the sweeping chrome piece with piano black underneath. The Kicks continues to sport Nissan's old logo.

Its grille is flanked by new, slim LED headlights with the top-tier Kicks SR getting a multi-reflector versions of the light. The car also has automatic high beams with adjustable sensitivity and timing and a rear windscreen wiper as standard.

A new rear bumper design and taillight meet to give the Kicks a wide-looking booty. All is not well – the body finisher that covers the tailgate release and rearview camera looks like a glued-on afterthought. But truly, that's my only quibble with the exterior.

Nissan offers the Kicks with a host of two-tone paint jobs. It's nice to see the trend continue with this refreshed model. The Kicks SR tester's Aspen White Tricoat/Super Black body/roof combo was worn well, especially when paired with the available 17-inch black alloy wheels.

2021 Nissan Kicks The 2021 Nissan Kicks is available in a variety of two-tone paint jobs. Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

Nissan gives every Kicks a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that is rated to get 122 horsepower and 114 pound-feet of torque. This is the same engine that is in the Nissan Versa, delivering the same power figures but with slightly varied gear ratios. As in the Versa, in the front-wheel drive Kicks it is paired with Nissan's Xtronic continuously variable transmission (CVT). All-wheel drive (AWD) is not available.

The Kicks came to visit during a week filled with icy and wet roads. It handled them with aplomb. Don't let the lack of AWD scare you away from the dealership lot.

It also wasn't terrible on gas. Nissan estimates that the Kicks gets 31 mpg in the city, 36 mpg on the highway, and 33 mpg combined, making it one of the most fuel-efficient subcompact SUVs you can buy. It has 356 miles of range on a single tank of gas.

Though it's engine isn't large, nor its power figures, Nissan has gotten the formula right with the Kicks delivering a vehicle that can easily and relatively quickly get up to speed without much racket (it has a CVT, and they're naturally noisy under harsh acceleration but there are far more offensive ones out there).

2021 Nissan Kicks The interior of the 2021 Nissan Kicks is made of higher quality materials than the 2020 version. Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

Braking is improved in the Kicks over the previous model year with the addition of better braking equipment.

The interior design of the Kicks remains mostly the same as in previous years but it is filled with higher quality materials than before. The look and feel of the SUV makes it punch above the weight of its price tag in the same way the 2020 Nissan Sentra does.

The Kicks cabin mostly feels spacious for its size. Nissan has made the most of the space with good small item storage, easy-access USB ports up front, and more than one storage option for your smartphone while driving and charging.

Climate controls are easy to find with your fingers while driving. Nissan gave the SR tester a heated steering wheel and heated seats, both of which reacted quickly, a nice addition for buyers in states with a cold winter.

The Nissan continues to have a D-shaped steering wheel, six-way adjustable driver's seat, four-way adjustable front passenger seat, and 60/40 split-folding rear seat as standard. Nissan has given the SUV an electronic parking brake, freeing up valuable center console space.

2021 Nissan Kicks The 2021 Nissan Kicks is relatively spacious for its size. Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

Kicks has best-in-class front seat legroom though its hip room proportions and center console design make the front seats more compartmentalized than what is ideal for larger and taller drivers. Adults can easily fit in the back seats – not something that is a standard in the subcompact class.

The available tonneau cover provides a good amount of hidden storage, covering about two-thirds of the rear cargo area. The cover is easily lowered and maneuvered.

The base model Kicks S gets a host of standard tech features including a 7.0-inch infotainment touch screen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth, three USB ports, keyless entry, push-button start, and Easy Fill Tire Alert. Moving up to the Kicks SV adds Nissan Intelligent Key, automatic climate control, a 7.0-inch driver information screen, satellite radio, remote engine start, and a USB-C port. That's a fairly comprehensive list for this class model.

The Kicks SR is the only model available with a package, which makes ordering easy. The Premium Package adds a fantastic Bose Audio system, Prima-Tex-appointed seats, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, a security system, NissanConnect Services, a Wi-Fi hot spot, the ability to have over-the-air updates, and tonneau cover.

2021 Nissan Kicks Most adults could fit comfortably the rear seats of the 2021 Nissan Kicks. Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

The Nissan Kicks is a subcompact SUV that delivers a lot of bang for its buck, especially with this model year's more premium upgrades. Priced against the competition, it's easy to see why buyers would be looking at it instead of less engaging, less well-equipped counterparts from Honda and Toyota.

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The 2021 Volkswagen ID.4 is on sale now.

Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG
The all-electric range of the 2021 Volkswagen ID.4 has been confirmed. The model is the first modern electric Volkswagen to be sold in the U.S. and a model that the German automaker is resting a lot of hopes on for the future of sales in the country.

The 2021 Volkswagen ID.4 Pro with all-wheel drive will achieve an EPA-estimated 260 miles of all-electric range on a full charge. The ID.4 Pro S and 1st Edition, which have more features and equipment and therefore weigh more, achieve an estimated 250 miles of range.

The EPA-estimated fuel economy for ID.4 Pro RWD is 107 MPGe in the city; 91 MPGe on the highway, and 99 MPGe combined. The ID.4 Pro S and 1st Edition does slightly worse achieving 104 MPGe in the city, 89 MPGe on the highway, and 97 MPGe combined.

2021 Volkswagen ID.4: Exterior The "1st" badging denotes the vehicle as a first edition model. Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

These new numbers come as part of a second round of EPA testing. Original testing found that the model did not quite hit its target.

How does that compare to other EVs? The Nissan Leaf Plus offers 226 miles of all-electric power. The Hyundai Kona Electric delivers 258 miles. Volvo's XC40 Recharge has just 208 miles of all-electric range but the Tesla Model Y can go up to 326 miles on one full charge.

First out of the Volkswagen gate will be ID.4 models with an 82-kilowatt-hour battery and rear-mounted AC permanent-magnet synchronous motor. That system delivers 201 horsepower and 228 pound-feet of torque.

At a public DC fast-charging station with 125 kW charging, the ID.4 can go from five to 80 percent charged in about 38 minutes. With purchase, ID.4 owners receive three years of unlimited charging at Electrify America DC Fast Chargers at no additional cost.

The 2021 ID.4 is on sale now, with pricing for the rear-wheel-drive ID.4 Pro starting at $39,995 MSRP, before a potential Federal tax credit of up to $7,500. The Pro S carries an MSRP of $44,495. The limited-run ID.4 1st Edition, which sold out the day the vehicle was launched, carried an MSRP of $43,995.

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Honda is working with Verizon on self-driving cars technology.

Photo courtesy of American Honda Motor Co. Inc.

The Mcity campus was designed to be a proving ground for new technologies. Honda and Verizon are utilizing it as such as they partner to explore how Verizon's 5G Ultra Wideband and 5G Mobile Edge Compute (MEC) can be used to ensure quick and reliable communication between road infrastructure, vehicles, and pedestrians.

The 5G technology leverages cloud technology to deliver lower latency, a large amount of bandwidth, and improved communication. This communication includes the way that vehicles interact with ther cars, traffic lights, pedestrians and emergency vehicles to improve threat detection and avoid accidents when seconds matter most. That's where the "V2" in acronyms like "V2V" (vehicle-to-vehicle) and "V2X" (vehicle- to-everything).

Honda and Verizon Test How 5G Enhances Safety for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles www.youtube.com

Honda has been working since 2017 to develop a technology that will help to create a collision-free society. The technology, called Safe Swarm, uses V2X communication to enable vehicles to communicate with other road users and share key information such as location, speed, and vehicle sensor data.

There are some obstacles, not the least of which is the need to outfit each vehicle with onboard artificial intelligence capabilities. The use of 5G helps move the AI capabilities from the vehicle to the MEC, reducing the need for AI onboard each vehicle.

"The ability to move computing power to the edge of our 5G network is an essential building block for autonomous and connected vehicles, helping cars to communicate with each other in near real-time and with sensors and cameras installed in streets and traffic lights," said Sanyogita Shamsunder, vice president of Technology Development and 5G Labs at Verizon. "When you consider that roughly 42,000 people were killed in car accidents last year and 94% of accidents are caused by human error, our new technologies including 5G and MEC can help drivers 'see' things before the human eye can register and react helping to prevent collisions and save lives."

Three safety scenarios have been explored as part of the testing:

  • Pedestrian Scenario - A pedestrian is crossing a street at an intersection. An approaching driver cannot see the pedestrian due to a building obstructing the view. Smart cameras mounted in the intersection relay information to MEC using the 5G network. Verizon's MEC and V2X software platforms detect the pedestrian and vehicle and determine the precise location of road users assisted by Verizon's Hyper Precise Location services. A visual warning message is then sent alerting the driver of the potential danger.
  • Emergency Vehicle Warning Scenari - A driver cannot see an approaching emergency vehicle and cannot hear its siren due to the high volume of in-vehicle audio. Verizon's MEC and V2X software receive a safety message from the emergency vehicle and send a warning message to nearby vehicles. The driver receives a visual warning.
  • Red Light Runner Scenario - A vehicle fails to stop at a red light. Using data from the smart cameras, MEC and V2X software detect the vehicle and send a red-light-runner visual warning message to other vehicles approaching the intersection.

You can watch the video of Honda and Verizon's Mcity tests at http://honda.us/5GResearch.

Honda isn't the only company exploring what 5G communication can offer. Pirelli has installed the tech in its tires and BMW recently updated its My BMW app to make it compatible with the new technology. Audi is working on similar technology out on the road in Virginia and Georgia.

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