Displaying items by tag: Nissan
When SUVs first arrived on the American scene, they were purpose-built, off-road adventure and utility vehicles. They weren’t luxurious and they weren’t comfortable; they were work wagons used by forest rangers and farmers. Somewhere along the way, they became eight-seat family vehicles, replacing the station wagon and minivan in most driveways. But the trend we’ve spotted for the 2020s seems to be an effort by automakers to recapture some semblance of that off-road adventurism after decades of moving toward making them glorified tall wagons.
The latest automaker to do that is Nissan, which has redesigned the latest 2022 Pathfinder three-row to be more rugged, more outdoorsy and slightly more capable in the dirt than its solidly street-oriented predecessor without giving up any of the luxury, safety and connectivity that modern families expect in an SUV. I drove the new ’22 Pathfinder through Southeast Michigan recently to see if Nissan’s moves to butch up the new Pathfinder have paid off.
The Family Resemblance Is Strong
The fourth-generation Pathfinder was a generic blob-shaped thing that bore no family resemblance to the chunky original 1986 model at all. This new fifth-generation model is a complete departure that incorporates some styling cues from the original Pathfinder, such as the forward-swept C-pillar, three-slot grille and overall squared-off, thick body styling. It’s actually a little shorter than the outgoing model, but changes its proportions by being taller and wider.
I have to say it looks much, much better than the last Pathfinder, with definite family resemblance to the latest angular Nissans like the larger Armada and smaller Rogue. The slim headlights taper into the wide and prominent fenders, with the taillights stretching across the rear to again emphasize the Pathfinder’s width. Its geometric looks make the new Pathfinder feel like a larger vehicle than the one it’s replacing, but the overall dimensions don’t change all that much. Suffice it to say, it both looks and feels big — this was not an effort to slim down the SUV, this was an effort to make it look more rugged and aggressive, and it worked well.
It Expects You to Drive Like the Family’s in There
Powering the 2022 Pathfinder is the same 3.5-liter V-6 that’s in the outgoing model — it makes 284 horsepower and 259 pounds-feet of torque, which is unchanged from the previous Pathfinder. What’s new is what that engine is connected to: a conventional nine-speed automatic transmission, replacing the unloved continuously variable automatic transmission in the old Pathfinder. That change is meant to improve the Pathfinder’s off-road ability, its towing durability, its driving dynamics and more — and in most ways, it delivers. It doesn’t sacrifice gas mileage, which is up 1 mpg combined in AWD versions over the 2020 model (the last model year sold). Lower trim levels increased from an EPA-estimated 22 mpg to 23 mpg, and the AWD Platinum is up from 21 to 22 mpg. The combined rating remains 23 mpg for front-drive Pathfinders, but the city/highway distribution has changed slightly to 21/27 mpg city/highway.
Driving the new Pathfinder is best done at a relaxed pace, as if the whole family is on board for a ride and you don’t want kids dropping juice boxes or Grandma to stress any joints. With moderate acceleration, the V-6 is perfectly adequate, the new nine-speed auto-shifts smoothly and calmly, and the whole experience is that of a big, heavy SUV doing what it does best: ferrying the brood to soccer practice or the mall in quiet comfort. The transmission does hunt a lot for its gears, but with nine speeds to play with, this is to be expected — only occasionally does it feel like it’s missing the beat and not keeping up with the driver’s anticipated moves. For example, when coasting down to a stop but then deciding to give it some more power as traffic has cleared from a light, it gets a little confused and might select a gear lower than it needs to. But overall, the powertrain is smooth, refined and perfectly adequate to the task of powering the Pathfinder.
The Pathfinder’s overall feel is of a heavy SUV, however, especially when negotiating tight turns and roundabouts or performing hard acceleration and braking maneuvers. Body movement is pronounced in such situations, squatting hard on its rear haunches under full acceleration, diving noticeably under hard braking and plowing through quick turns with considerable understeer. It doesn’t like being hustled along quickly, lacking the athletic feel that a Ford Explorer has with its tightly controlled body motions and punchy turbocharged engines. Slipping the drive mode selector into Sport mode does improve steering feel and feedback, but it becomes clear to the driver that this is the equivalent of a family minivan, not a sports wagon, and that you (and your passengers) are going to be happiest keeping the Pathfinder at a simmer rather than a full steaming boil.
Comfort and Style Aplenty
But the Pathfinder will happily simmer along all day, with a truly comfortable ride even on high-spec models that have big wheels and low-profile tires. Road noise does make it into the cabin, again thanks to those big wheels and tires, and it’s made even more noticeable by the lack of wind noise to mask it. But the overall serenity of the Pathfinder’s completely redesigned cabin is barely affected by the outside world. The new look inside is excellent, with a modern feel and updated electronics that combine with solid material choices and build quality to create a well-updated cabin.
Seat comfort is good, but we’re still not seeing the “magic” of the so-called Zero Gravity Seats. They just feel like seats — no better or worse than any others, really (except, perhaps, for the aforementioned Explorer, which has seat bottoms that feel too short). There’s noticeably plentiful passenger space, however, with tons of room up front or in the sliding second row, both for width and legroom. The third row in many three-row SUVs is often best used only for children, with a few notable exceptions (like the Volkswagen Atlas and Hyundai Palisade). The additional width that comes with the new 2022 Pathfinder makes the third row here a usable size for adults, as well, especially given the second row’s sliding ability, allowing for passengers in the second and third rows to negotiate available legroom among themselves. Third-row ingress and egress is easy, too, thanks to Nissan’s one-touch EZ Flex Latch and Glide button that slides and tilts the second row, even with child-safety seats attached.
The updated interior electronics are welcome, with an available 9.0-inch touchscreen multimedia system that’s located high on the dash for easy visibility and use. It’s accompanied by an available 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster that provides all sorts of information, some more useful than others, and two different configurations that look slick. There’s also an available 10.8-inch head-up display that puts all the relevant information up in the driver’s sight line but features an oddly offset speedometer readout. Still, everything is clear and easy to read, and after some experimentation with configurations and settings, you’re sure to find a setup that provides all the information you want without having to hunt through menus. As with most new vehicles these days, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard, and Wi-Fi connectivity with wireless charging is available.
About That Ruggedness …
Nissan felt it important to demonstrate that the new Pathfinder is a capable off-roader, as the changes made to amp up its rugged image are more than just cosmetic. That’s why the company booked some time at Holly Oaks ORV Park north of Detroit for a brief romp through the dirt and mud to show off the Pathfinder’s terrain select function.
Rotating the selector through the options to the Mud and Ruts function changes a host of vehicle attributes, while a quick push of the central button engages the automatic hill descent control. And with that, the Pathfinder was off to tackle terrain that it’s unlikely to see in the hands of typical buyers — loose gravel ascents, steep and slippery slopes — which it did without complaint or difficulty, it must be said. We didn’t do any serious rock crawling, but let’s be honest here: Despite the Pathfinder’s looks, this is not a proper off-road machine. It does feature a new clutch that allows for predictive all-wheel drive (no longer waiting for front-wheel slip to be detected before engaging the rears, the computer makes the call before that happens now), but the all-season tires, lack of underbody skid plate protection and no locking transfer case mean this is still a soft-roader, and that’s perfectly fine. You can option up a Pathfinder with accessories that make it a bit more capable, but anyone serious about going further off-road is likely looking at a Nissan Titan pickup in Pro-4X trim instead. Suffice it to say that the Pathfinder will handle rutted dirt roads and family off-grid camping duty just fine thanks to its softer suspension, but you’re not likely to ever see one out overlanding across the Arizona desert.
Nissan has kept the trim levels and pricing for the new Pathfinder simple with four trim levels. Two option packages are available, as well, so finding a Pathfinder that has a specific option you want (like the panoramic moonroof or leather interior) means finding the required trim level. The starting price is $34,560 for a front-wheel-drive S trim, which is roughly $1,400 more than the outgoing 2020 Pathfinder, while a Platinum 4WD rings in at just less than $50,000. That’s a healthy jump over the outgoing model, but it does reflect considerable added standard equipment, the most important of which might be the updated Nissan Safety Shield 360 system that brings automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, rear cross-traffic alert, blind spot warning, high-beam assist and class exclusive rear automatic braking — that last one being a key feature for a family car, where kids may be running around the vehicle. The Pathfinder also features a driver alertness sensor, rear door alert and rear sonar as standard, with blind spot intervention, lane intervention and traffic sign recognition as optional. Nissan’s latest ProPilot Assist cruise control is also available, which helps steer the vehicle on the highway but doesn’t let you remove your hands from the steering wheel, unlike GM’s Super Cruise system.
So in the end, yes, the new Pathfinder is indeed a bit more rugged and a bit more capable off-road. But honestly, I think the areas that will matter more to its intended buyers are the better interior space, top-notch connectivity, smooth and quiet ride, and its ability to be an even more comfortable and capable family vehicle. The trend toward being more outdoorsy after enduring pandemic lockdowns will match well with the Pathfinder’s new image and abilities, but it’s good to know Nissan hasn’t sacrificed the aforementioned areas in which the Pathfinder needed to be good in favor of new areas where it really didn’t need to go at all.
Nissan announced earlier that it plans to close its factory in Barcelona, which basically means that Navarra will be withdrawn from sale. At least in Europe.
According to Nissan, the decision reflects the shrinking pick-up market in the Old Continent, where only 116,280 sales were registered last year. The Renault Alaskan and Mercedes X-Class, sister models of the Navarre, were also made in Barcelona, but were discontinued for the same reason.
"Production of the current-generation Nissan Navara for European markets will end when our Barcelona plant closes in December 2021, and sales will be completed during 2022," Nissan said in a statement to Automotive News. "This reflects the declining segment of trucks in Europe and the shift that many consumers are taking from trucks to our range of modern and efficient vans."
Nissan had an alternative solution to import Navarre from Thailand to Europe, although the board of directors has already decided not to do so.
Navarra was first launched in 1985, and was even produced in Greece for the local market. The 2004 model is still considered very important for the European segment of the truck, as it has revolutionized it with a more comfortable cabin, new features and more refined driving quality. Mercedes also tried to steal sales from segment leaders Ford Ranger and Toyota Hilux in Europe with the X-Class, which was closely linked to the Navarre. It was discontinued in May last year due to poor sales, and was followed by Renault Alaskan.
The third generation no longer has diesel engines, which as an alternative come with hybrid versions of the existing turbo gasoline
Three million copies sold in Europe and a total of five million worldwide. A nice number for both previous generations of Nissan Qashqai, a mega-popular SUV of the compact class, well accepted among Croatian buyers of this class. Great numbers and history, but which set a high bar of expectations from the newly introduced new model.
Nissan Qashqai, photo: Nissan
There is not much to say about design, the first step in appearing in front of customers. Qashqai retains the recognizable idea and lines of the previous model, but with cleaner lines, some details performed as a variation on the theme of Juke and Nissan's signature with a mask in the characteristic V-shape. A dose of modernism is given to it by details such as self-regulating, smart LED Matrix lights, 11 body colors, five two-tone combinations and rims that reach up to 20 inches as standard. The first photos create the impression of growing size and - that's right.
Nissan Qashqai, photo: Nissan
It is 3.5 centimeters larger (4,425 m), 3.2 centimeters wide (1,838 m), one centimeter high (1,635 m), and the larger corporate Renault-Nissan CMF-C platform, two centimeters larger axle, gives the impression of size. spacing (2666 mm). The result?
Nissan Qashqai, photo: Nissan
Round three centimeters more space for the passenger's knees in the rear seat (maximum 61 centimeters), a centimeter and a half more headroom and significantly more space in the front seats, where two-meter-tall people will also have a comfortable position. The rear pair of doors opens up to 85 degrees, which greatly facilitates access to the rear seat, and especially the placement of children in the seat.
Nissan Qashqai, photo: Nissan
On top of all that, the trunk grows, by 50 liters, in this class more suitable 480 liters. It will be easier to access because the entry threshold is lowered by two inches. Aluminum alloys are also used more in the construction of the body, so let's say four side doors, fenders and a roof bring total savings of 21 kilograms. The fifth door is now made of composite materials and is 2.6 kilograms lighter, and the platform itself on the scales shows 60 kilograms less than the previous one. Niisan engineers swear that it is almost half as strong, or 41 percent.
The interior also boasts noticeably better materials, including nappa leather, a generally more expensive visual and sensory atmosphere, but also hedonistic elements of equipment such as massage seats or a concert Bose Premium hifi system with 10 speakers.
Nissan Qashqai, photo: Nissan
Digitization has also knocked hard on Qashqai’s doors. Large digitized 12.3-inch instruments, advanced multimedia with a 9-inch 3D screen, innovative and largest-in-class head-up 10.8-inch screen, interesting animations and wireless mobile charging are part of the new ambience accompanied by a smartphone app which will be able to control the secondary functions. Furthermore, the ProPilot safety system gets a connection to the navigation and detects real and potentially dangerous events in front of and around the car faster and more accurately. The system comes in versions with automatic transmission.
Nissan Qashqai, photo: Nissan
One of the significant innovations will be the electrification of the drive, in terms of a 12-volt mild hybrid version of the famous 1.3 turbo gasoline known designation DIG-T (Direct Injection Gasoline-Turbo), upgraded to 50 components. Mild hybridization does not affect the change in rated power, which is maintained at 140 and 158 hp with torques of 240 and 260 Nm, but will have positive effects on reducing consumption and have the function of giving additional momentum of power and torque when accelerating. The base engine has front-wheel drive and a six-speed manual transmission, more powerful as well, but it comes with four-wheel drive 4x4 and a new-generation X-tronic automatic transmission (CVT) as options. With automatic torque increases to 270 Nm.
Nissan Qashqai, photo: Nissan
The hybrid system carries 22 pounds of weight. An interesting hybrid version of the e-Power unusual operating principle has also been announced, in which the 1.5 turbo petrol engine has a secondary function in relation to the electric motor. The total power output is 190 hp, but the story is somewhat reversed compared to classic hybrids. The petrol is basically not used for propulsion, but primarily for charging a powerful battery and transmitting power to an electric motor that drives the wheels itself, so the ride is very reminiscent of driving an electric car.
The Qashqai also gets a single-pedal e-Pedal braking and acceleration system, known from the electric Leaf. With the new platform, the basis of a more complete driving experience will be thorough refinements on more precise and flexible steering wheel operation, but also filigree polished suspension, which remains semi-rigid in the standard versions, while 4x4 and top models with standard 20-inch wheels go multilink.
Stylish electric Nissan is packed with tech and goes up to 310 miles
Nissan's second electric car has been unveiled and is due to go on sale in the UK by the end of 2021. The Ariya is an electric SUV that slots between the Nissan Qashqai and Nissan X-Trail in terms of size. It comes with two or all-wheel drive, up to 310-miles of battery range, and two levels of power.
It's Nissan's second electric car after the hugely popular Nissan Leaf. More importantly for buyers, it ushers in a new design language for Nissan. In the metal it looks brilliantly solid and futuristic, while inside it's a step up from what you'd find in a Nissan today.
Main rivals include already established electric cars like the Kia e-Niro and Jaguar I-Pace, as well as upstarts like the Ford Mustang Mach-E, BMW iX3 and VW ID.4.
What's it like inside?
As you'd expect, it's bristling with the latest tech. You get a 12.3-inch central touchscreen alongside a 12.3-inch digital display for the driver, and a colour head-up display. There is a suite of driver assistance systems, including an enhanced version of the Leaf’s excellent ProPilot system semi-autonomous adaptive cruise control, with lane-keeping assistance and Nissan’s Safety Shield active safety systems.
The Ariya gets a new 'hey Nissan' voice control system as well as Alexa voice functionality. There's also a Nissan smartphone app to check battery status and set the climate control remotely as you can in many of its electric rivals.
Nissan says that it has the room of a much larger car inside, and this is down to the space efficiency of an electric car, which does not need to house the bulky engine and gearbox in the usual place.
It's a smart new look
The Ariya is certainly more stylish than the Leaf. There are ultra-slim LED headlights upfront, with a contrasting light blade at the rear. It gets animated indicators, two-tone paint schemes and sits on striking large wheels. The design was previewed in 2019 in a concept car – also called the Ariya – and much has remained unchanged going into production.
It has a long wheelbase (the distance between the axle lines), which should deliver that promised extra room inside. It's about the same length as an X-Trail, but the wheelbase is more than 7cm longer.
Performance and range – very competitive
The Ariya comes with the choice of two- or four-wheel drive, and will be offered with two power and torque outputs. The entry-level front-wheel drive 63kWh Ariya develops 220hp and 300Nm for a maximum speed of 99mph and a 0-62mph time of 7.5 seconds. Nissan says that this version will have a 233-mile range in real-world WLTP testing. The version with the larger 87kWh battery pack delivers 245bhp with the front-drive motor, and this one covers up to 310 miles on a single charge.
The four-wheel drive versions use what Nissan calls its e-4orce system. With the 63kWh battery pack you get 275hp for a 0-62mph time of 5.9 seconds and a range of up to 211 miles. The 87kWh four-wheel drive model boasts 310hp and 285 miles of range.
Star of the show will be the range-topping Ariya 87kWh Performance model. You get 395hp and 600Nm of torque for a 0-62mph time of 5.1 seconds. Maximum speed is 124mph. Battery range for the Performance model drops to 248 miles.
The 63kWh Ariyas get a 7kW charger for home connections and the the 87kWh versions come with a 22kW three-phase set-up, where the home set-up can deliver this. The good news is that it uses the latest CCS charger set-up, and can support the fastest public charging, with up to 130kW.
Still cheap, still cheerful, the 2021 Nissan Kicks keeps its tech current while adding some customizable flair.
Versus the competition: With its solid combination of safety equipment, multimedia tech, versatile interior space and value pricing, the Kicks holds its own against competitors like the Hyundai Venue, Kia Soul and other front-wheel-drive-only tiny SUVs. That lack of all-wheel drive keeps it from being fully competitive against models like the Ford EcoSport, Hyundai Kona and Honda HR-V.
The cheap and cheerful end of the SUV showroom is getting a lot of attention from automakers as buyers continue to eschew subcompact hatchbacks and sedans in favor of the slightly larger, slightly taller SUV-style models. Tall crossovers like the Nissan Kicks, Hyundai Venue and Honda HR-V are replacing the Nissan Versa, Hyundai Accent and Honda Fit in the eyes of consumers as the more desirable entry-level models. They’re more expensive than their sedan counterparts, but that hasn’t stopped buyers from making them their choice. In order to keep the Nissan Kicks competitive in the wake of a growing field of competitors, the brand has released a slightly refreshed version for 2021 with some subtle changes inside and out that it hopes will keep the diminutive runabout fresh.
Looks a Little Sharper
Nissan has done a good job updating the look of the Kicks to more closely fit in with the rest of the redone Nissan showroom, all of which is getting a redo as part of the global Nissan Next product update plan. There’s a new grille, headlights, foglights, bumper and trim up front, and revised taillights and trim out back. The look is a very slight change, but it does modernize the Kicks a bit more, and it helps to draw the eye to a wider look even though the car’s track measurements haven’t changed at all. There are also some new wheels available, which are themselves customizable.
2020 Nissan Kicks Specs & Reviews Find a 2020 Nissan Kicks Near You
Nissan is introducing a new program that will allow Kicks buyers to personalize their rides through the Kicks Color Studio, which will offer more than a dozen colored elements — including wheel caps and inserts, mirrors, interior vents and more — that can be mixed and matched in ways to suit the buyer’s tastes. We haven’t yet seen what might be accomplished through use of the Color Studio, but the car itself does benefit from all of the styling changes that have been made. It sports the now-ubiquitous, optional, two-tone floating roof treatment that nearly all SUVs seem to have adopted, but its edgy styling does differentiate it from more generic boxes like the Hyundai Venue and Ford EcoSport. The difference between the 2020 and 2021 model Kicks is subtle, and you’d likely have to park one next to the other to spot the changes, but the new aesthetic is more attractive than the outgoing one.
Hope You Aren’t in a Hurry
Powering the Kicks is a dinky 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine making 122 horsepower and 114 pounds-feet of torque. If that doesn’t sound like a whole lot of grunt, that’s because it’s not. It’s mated to a continuously variable automatic transmission that actually does a decent job of keeping the engine in its limited power band, giving the Kicks the descriptor of “adequately powered, but only just.” Let’s put it this way: In a stoplight drag race between a new Kicks and new 121-hp Hyundai Venue, neither would win. If you want more power, you’ll have to look to a Kia Soul, Honda HR-V or a turbocharged Jeep Renegade. But the lack of any sort of sportiness or alacrity to the drivetrain is OK, as the steering and handling aren’t tuned for entertainment purposes, either. The Kicks rides quite nicely, absorbing bumps and road imperfections with impressive damping, but it’s also a bit floaty, leaning more than you might expect in corners or on highway on-ramps. The steering is highly boosted and not blessed with a quick ratio, but again, this isn’t a ding against the Kicks, as the SUV is basically designed to do one thing well: be cheap, reliable, useful urban transportation.
The benefit of seemingly being powered by a band of lethargic gerbils is fuel economy that tops the list of competitors: 31/36/33 mpg city/highway/combined, unchanged from the 2020 model year. You won’t achieve those levels if you drive it with a heavy foot, but if you’re using the Kicks as it’s intended to be used, these numbers should be achievable. Part of the reason they’re achievable is that the Kicks is available only with front-wheel drive, similar to vehicles like the Hyundai Venue and Kia Soul, and unlike the Honda HR-V, Ford EcoSport and Jeep Renegade that offer optional all-wheel drive.
This really is intended as a city car, one you’d buy if you have limited parking space, fight narrow streets filled with delivery trucks all the time, or need a basic conveyance to get you and friends or cargo around town easily. In that role, the Kicks excels — lower-speed stop-and-go traffic is where it truly feels most at home, with excellent outward visibility, surprisingly good sound insulation and an upright, high-sitting driving position that makes you feel like you’re piloting something other than a dinky little subcompact SUV. It’s not that the Kicks can’t handle the highway — it does so rather well, with a surprising amount of steady high-speed calmness for such a small vehicle. It’s just that the compact dimensions, clever packaging and ease of use lends itself to tighter urban environments instead of America’s wide interstates.
New Tech, Nicer Inside
The interior gets a little love from Nissan in this refresh, as well, but just like the outside, changes are minimal and designed to further improve the experience, not dramatically change it. First and foremost is the new optional 8-inch touchscreen; a 7-inch screen (2020’s only offering) is still standard. The new 8-inch model feels big in this compact interior, and all versions now feature standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, another thing that used to be optional. The rest of the interior looks largely the same, with Nissan insisting there are new materials, new vents, new trim and new covering material for the dash and doors. A new center console armrest replaces the previous driver-seat-mounted armrest, but it’s still too small and too low to be of any use for actually resting your arm.
The interior isn’t overly spacious, but it doesn’t feel cramped. The seats sit high but are oddly firm and not terribly comfortable for longer missions. Backseat room is adequate, with decent room for two to sit without their knees pressed against the front seatbacks. It doesn’t feel like it has the bountiful legroom of a Nissan Versa or Sentra, but it’ll do for getting friends to dinner across town or younger kids to soccer practice. The cargo area is surprisingly large, with a deep well and a surprising reach from the liftgate to the rear seatbacks that make for more room back there for luggage or boxes than you might expect to find. Of course, those seatbacks fold to increase the cargo area, but they don’t fold flat; they remain raised above the level of the cargo floor, so the surface isn’t totally flat for larger items.
Research the Nissan Kicks
The cabin is competitive with others in the class thanks to the updated multimedia system, the option of up to four USB ports (two type A, two type C), and its acceptable level of space and utility. The Honda HR-V still feels like it has a more cavernous cargo area, especially with its trick folding backseat stowed, and the Hyundai Venue’s interior feels a bit more upscale, with a multimedia system that simply seems better designed and a level of standard safety systems that hasn’t yet been beaten. But the Kicks feels like an easily viable alternative to any of them, with its subtle improvements keeping it in the hunt for those first-time buyers seeking something new and relatively affordable with all the latest tech, a solid level of standard safety equipment and a value equation that definitely works in its favor. It’s a decidedly competitive entry to the burgeoning field of entry-level vehicles and should be on anyone’s consideration list when shopping for one.
Full pricing for the 2021 Kicks was not yet available at the time of publication, but overall pricing is not expected to be appreciably different from the outgoing 2020 model given its starting price of $20,595 (including destination), a modest $430 increase.
Small but welcome updates keep the nearly new Kicks SUV fresh and competitive.
If I'm entirely honest, the Nissan Kicks didn't have the makings of a hit when it was first announced for the U.S. market. Adapted from elsewhere in the world and a bit behind Nissan's own styling curve, it appeared to be a quick and dirty move to get something, anything in a suddenly hot segment. Driving it, though, revealed its charm. What it lacked in specs it made up in value and practicality. It surprised with a carefully chosen but impressive list of standard features and a genuinely enjoyable driving experience. Even so, Nissan has kept on top of updates, culminating in this smartly refreshed 2021 Nissan Kicks.
The biggest fix is right up front, where Nissan has given it a nose job. Although the Kicks has always had a fun, funky vibe going on, the old car's puckered face always made it look like it had already been on Nissan lots for years. Pumping up the grille and upgrading the headlights (all the way up to full LED units on the SR trim we drove) have gone a long way toward making the Kicks look like a new car rather than a retread. The rear end didn't need as much help but got it anyway for a net gain.
The most important work, though, was done inside. It sounds like a small thing, but a new center console is worth talking about here. Few things remind you of how cheap a car is as not having a center armrest for the front passengers. Nissan has fixed that with a full-length center console featuring an enclosed bin for your things, an armrest, and big cupholders. Deleting the old-fashioned handbrake made it all possible, and you get a modern electric parking brake as a bonus. Unfortunately, you do have to pay for it because you can only get it on the SV and SR trims. The base Kicks S keeps the old setup.
Hovering above all that is an updated infotainment system. Seven inches is standard, but it now provides Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality free of charge. The optional upgrade unit grows to 8.0 inches and now includes a Wi-Fi hot spot and over-the-air software update capability.
You have to look a little harder for the other big get. The Kicks has always had the hardware needed for adaptive cruise control but didn't offer the feature until now. Add it to the shockingly long list of active and passive electronic driver aids, which already got a big upgrade for the 2020 model year and most of which is standard on all models.
The new splashes of accent colors on the seats and doors are more visible. It's a small thing, but on a car with fun two-tone paint options, the black-on-black interior needed more pizazz, and it didn't take much to dress things up. The Kicks already felt like a screaming deal at $25,000 fully loaded (before dress-up accessories), and the '21 updates only make it feel like you're getting more for your money.
That feeling doesn't extend to the mechanical bits, but they were already doing a fine job. With only 122 horsepower and 114 lb-ft of torque and no substantial weight added, the Kicks drives exactly the same as it always has. Here again, there's nothing special on the spec chart, but Nissan does a lot with a little. Its simple suspension works quite well at providing a comfortable ride and chipper handling. It still has a bit of body roll, and the steering still feels disconnected, but somehow it's fun to swing around a corner when you get the chance.
Similarly, the continuously variable transmission is tuned well to make it feel like the little engine is really trying. It's still among the slowest new cars on the road— it needs more than 10 seconds to get up to 60 mph—but its eager demeanor makes it feel quicker than it is. Meanwhile, it continues to get excellent fuel economy at 36 mpg on the highway.
It can get noisy getting up to speed and then cruising on the freeway, so I again have to recommend the SR Premium package if you can swing it. The Bose Personal Plus stereo included in the package delivers better sound quality than some luxury cars I've driven. It's an easy recommendation when the whole package, which gets you nice faux-leather seats, a security system, a cargo cover, and heated steering wheel and front seats, only rang in at $1,000 last year. Now, though, it includes the NissanConnect services, a WiFi hotspot, and over-the-air software update capability, so don't be surprised if the package price goes up.
Although Nissan hasn't released complete pricing yet, we do know the starting price has gone up by $430 to $20,595. That's still an incredible deal, though it's worth remembering the base model didn't get any upgrades. We're still waiting to find out how Nissan will price the SV and SR models with the new goodies. Even if those prices do go up a bit, the Kicks will likely top out in the neighborhood of $27,000, and that still could be a killer deal, especially now that there's even more to back it up.
I've always maintained the Nissan Kicks' greatest quality is its honesty. It's an inexpensive car that doesn't try to trick you into thinking it's something it's not. The good features aren't all reserved exclusively for the top trims or buried in dozens of add-on packages. Everything is straightforward and a solid value. It's a car that knows what features you actually want and delivers them with unpretentious style.
The latest Nissan GT-R Nismo offers savage acceleration and sublime steering, but at £180k it's only for the very wealthy
The 2020 GT-R Nismo could be a final farewell for Nissan’s iconic performance car – and it’s a fitting one, because it’s fantastic to drive, with a real depth of ability and great driver rewards. It’s the ultimate GT-R and still a unique experience in the performance car world, but at £180k it’s pricey. At nearly £80,000 cheaper but only slightly less powerful, the GT-R Track Edition seems like better value.
The Nissan GT-R is the perfect example of automotive evolution. Since the car was unveiled in 2007, one of its closest rivals, the Porsche 911 Turbo, has been facelifted, replaced entirely, then facelifted again before a new model launched this year.
Instead of launching new models Nissan has continued to hone the GT-R, the car that challenged the supercar establishment, with just one major facelift over its 13 years on sale.
In Japanese this is called kaizen – the constant need to evolve and improve – and it’s at the heart of the 2020 Nissan GT-R Nismo.
This could be the GT-R’s swansong, tuned by Nissan’s in-house motorsport arm. The Nismo features a carbon fibre bonnet, boot lid and a large fixed rear wing, carbon fibre bumpers and front fenders, and carbon fibre side sills.
There are Brembo carbon ceramic brakes measuring a massive 410mm at the front, and many carbon fibre vents and ducts to aid with cooling the enhanced 3.8-litre twin-turbo V6 engine. The new nine-spoke 20-inch forged RAYS alloy wheels are only 100g lighter collectively, though.
Thanks to a pair of turbochargers from the GT-R GT3 race car, the Nismo makes 592bhp and 600Nm of torque. That’s a lot, but despite the lightweight components the GT-R still weighs 1,725kg, which is also quite a lot for a track-focused model like this.
However, the GT-R has always used its weight to its advantage, controlling it well but using it to work the tyres (very lightly cut Dunlop Sports Maxx track rubber here) to find grip. With four-wheel drive traction has also traditionally been superb, and so it is here too.
The kaizen approach extends to the tweaks to the chassis as well. The Bilstein adaptive dampers have been reprogrammed to make them 20 per cent softer in rebound and five per cent softer in compression – a much needed change compared with the previous Nismo – that Nissan says has been possible due to the near 30kg weight saving.
The chassis tweaks and new tyres (one fewer groove for a bigger contact patch) have improved the steering. This is one of the most surprising areas of the GT-R Nismo.
You’d expect it to be fast having looked at the figures, but given the styling, the weight and the four-wheel drive set-up, you might not expect the steering to be so delicate.
It offers genuine feedback. It’s subtle, but the light set-up means you can sense what those lightly treaded front tyres are doing, pulling cambers and the crown in the road, as well as when the fronts start to lose their purchase on the tarmac or load up in a corner.
Even on greasy roads with the temperature hovering just above zero, grip and traction are still great.
With the powertrain and stability control in R mode, and the suspension in Comfort to help even more with finding grip, the GT-R will tighten its line in a corner as you open the throttle. It’s a delightfully natural sensation despite the many, many calculations the car is making underneath you and means you can start to unwind the steering and focus on firing the car down the next straight.
The new turbos are claimed to enhance the acceleration response by 20 per cent; there’s still some lag, but it serves to make the ensuing onslaught as full boost hits all the more outrageous.
Nissan doesn’t quote a 0-62mph time, but around the 2.5-second mark in optimum conditions seems possible. In December over bumpy roads the engine’s aggression spikes the revs over bumps and ruts in the road, such is the massive thrust in the mid-range.
But the motor still revs hard right the way to its limiter like few turbocharged performance cars can. It’s accompanied by an aggressive, gravelly hiss as air is compressed and forced through the intakes by those new turbos, and a V6 howl from the revised titanium exhaust.
Few cars deliver their performance with a blend of brutality and delicacy as the 2020 GT-R Nismo. It’s undoubtedly packed full of tech, but given the sensations it offers and how these are reminiscent of the original, it seems almost old-school and analogue in many ways. The GT-R is sometimes thought of as being a digital car, but the Nismo proves it’s anything but that.
So the evolution of the species has worked here, but in some ways there are some big drawbacks to the GT-R. Despite the softening off of the set-up, and even in Comfort mode, the Nismo is firm. The damping always feels sophisticated, just still a bit much for the UK in the suspension’s default setting – and especially the racier R mode.
Occasionally it knocks the wind from your lungs in this mode – but not quite as much as when you clock the £180,095 price tag.
It’s a very accomplished car dynamically, but while the changes to the car’s interior for the facelift a few years ago injected a little more quality, the infotainment is still stone age compared with a Porsche 911 or an Audi R8. Quality is fine, but nothing more, even if the carbon backed Recaro seats are brilliantly supportive and very comfortable too.
At least the GT-R is practical, with two small rear seats and a fairly large 315-litre boot. It’s not so efficient though; all that power means figures of 19.7mpg and 325g/km CO2, if it matters to you.