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Hyundai Kona vs. Nissan Kicks: Which Is Right for You?

© Motor Trend Staff   Hyundai Kona vs Nissan Kicks comparison review

From Motor Trend

The subcompact SUV segment is one of the most diverse in the auto industry. The compact SUV segment may be well defined, but the one below it isn't. Vehicles in the subcompact segment vary significantly in size, and each one has a specific character. Although that can lead to confusion, it also means there's something for everyone. Want a sporty subcompact SUV? There are a couple to choose from. Does practicality rule the day? Those exist, too. Cool exterior styling? Heck, yes.

Two of the newest entries in the subcompact SUV segment are the Hyundai Kona and Nissan Kicks. Each vehicle seems squarely aimed at the other, but they also have surprisingly different personalities. Because we have both vehicles in for long-term testing, we've compiled the reasons why you might want to get one or the other. After spending a considerable amount of time in both, we've concluded that these two are so different that the type of people they'll appeal to will likely not be the same.


2020 Nissan Kicks

© Motor Trend Staff


Fuel Efficiency

EPA-rated at 31/36 mpg city/highway, the Nissan Kicks is one of the most fuel-efficient subcompact SUVs available. Not many vehicles outside of hybrids and EVs can match the Kicks' efficiency, even among front-wheel-drive variants of subcompact SUVs.


Value

With a starting price of $19,965 and a long list of standard features, the 2020 Nissan Kicks is one of the strongest value propositions in the subcompact SUV segment. Even when you opt for the range-topping SR trim, the bang for the buck remains strong. A fully loaded Kicks SR with the Premium package and the most expensive two-tone exterior color combo will set you back $24,015, and that comes with features such as Nissan's Around View Monitor 360-degree camera and the awesome Bose Personal Plus audio system.


Cargo Space

Tidy dimensions usually mean a vehicle with limited interior space. Not so with the Nissan Kicks; it has 25.3 cubic feet with all seats in place and 53.1 cubic feet when you drop the 60/40 split-folding rear seat backs. That's on the large end in the segment, especially when you consider that the Kicks' dimensions are on the smaller end of the subcompact SUV segment. Credit clever packaging for the spacious interior.


Passenger-Friendly

The upright greenhouse gives the Nissan Kicks a lot of interior space, and the biggest benefactors are you and your passengers. Occupants up front have 40.7 inches of headroom, and those in the rear have 38.5 inches, which is 1.1 inches and and 0.7 inch more than the Hyundai Kona.


Maneuverability

Having a diminutive exterior footprint means you can squeeze the Nissan Kicks through the tight gaps and parking spaces in the city. The Kicks' 34.1-foot turning circle aids in its maneuverability because it enables it to make quick turns even when on a narrow street.


2020 Hyundai Kona

© Motor Trend Staff


Power

The Hyundai Kona is one of the quickest subcompact SUVs on the market, and it's most potent with the available 175-hp 1.6-liter turbo I-4 and seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. During our testing, a front-drive Kona Ultimate hit 60 mph in 6.4 seconds and the quarter mile at 15.1 seconds at 91.7 mph. An AWD-equipped example was only 0.2 second behind to 60 mph and 0.1 second slower on the quarter mile while clocking in a 90.5 mph. All-wheel drive is unavailable on the Kicks.


Driving Fun

A carlike stance and a sporty chassis make the Hyundai Kona one of the most enjoyable subcompact SUVs to drive. Even a base front-drive model with the 147-hp 2.0-liter I-4, 16-inch alloy wheels, and a conventional six-speed automatic transmission handle well for the segment. For maximum fun and optimum handling, go with the AWD-equipped turbo models, which also come with independent suspension and wider 235/45R18 tires.


Style

Just look at it! You won't mistake the Hyundai Kona for anything else on the road (except maybe a Citro├źn if you're in Europe), especially in bright colors, which make it pop out even more. The tiered front and rear lighting treatment and the contrasting cladding that wraps around the headlights and turn signals give the Kona a character all its own.


Electrification

In its segment, the Hyundai Kona is the only one available as a full EV. The 2020 Hyundai Kona Electric offers up to 258 miles of range on a single charge and distinguishes itself with more optional creature comforts, such as ventilated front seats and a 10.25-inch touchscreen. Its looks are even unique, ditching the traditional grille for improved wind-cheating capabilities.


All-Weather Traction

Unlike the Nissan Kicks, the smaller Hyundai Venue, and some other newer entries in the subcompact SUV segment, the Kona is available with all-wheel drive on all trims except the all-electric model. Because that extends the brake-based torque vectoring to the rear wheels, AWD can give you better traction in foul weather and also improve handling. There's also an AWD lock capability, which keeps power distribution to 50/50 front to rear for better low-speed grip.

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