The small SUV is everywhere, slowly invading city streets, remote stretches of highway, and garages and driveways across the country. The rising popularity of the compact SUV makes a lot of sense, all things considered. With fuel economy better matching that of a sedan and a solid amount of interior space for friends, family, and luggage, these are the kind of cars that promise to be able to do it all; and in some instances, they can. That said, with so many compact SUVs taking to the road, there are some gems, and there are some flops. Sorting through the weeds and finding the best compact SUV can be quite the challenge, especially with so many promises being thrown out by automakers. So, to help you make sense of this crowded atmosphere, we’ll compare two leading competitors, the 2020 Chevy Trax vs 2020 Nissan Kicks. Here are two SUVs that attempt to do it all and more, yet will they live up to our expectations?
What Should You Expect?
Compact SUVs are expected to be small, relatively affordable, great at conserving fuel, have ample interior spacing, and offer at least one powertrain that delivers some moderate power to play with. It’s a tall order to fill, and many miss the mark. When it comes to style, price, and variety, both the Nissan Kicks and the 2020 Chevy Trax exist within similar lanes.
The 2020 Nissan Kicks offers up three different trims to choose from, including the S, SV, and SR. And if you’re looking for the lowest price possible, you’ll undoubtedly find it in the Nissan Kicks with its starting cost falling below $20,000 at $18,870 MSRP. That said, cheaper is not always better. A low price can be equivalent to poor specs, build quality, and overall driving experience. It is still too early into our review to tell one way or the other, but as it stands now less than $20,000 for a new compact SUV is a solid deal that is bound to attract many a driver on a budget.
Speaking of budget, the Chevy Trax is also a great fit for anyone looking to purchase a compact SUV on the dime. Starting at $21,300 MSRP, the Chevy Trax is also rather affordable, although maybe not quite as cheap as its Nissan competitor. Like the Nissan Kicks, the Chevy Trax offers three trim levels the LS, LT, and Premier.
Styling-wise, the Chevy Trax is bite-sized, and it doesn’t try to hide it with its rounded, almost bug-like appearance. This design choice can be either charming or polarizing, depending on your individual taste. The Nissan Kicks, on the other hand, takes a more traditional approach, almost looking like a wagon-like crossover in some instances. However, neither vehicle is a looker and will likely blend in with almost any showroom collection.
Bite-Sized Power for Bite-Sized Cars
We really shouldn’t expect a whole lot out of the performance of either of these vehicles. They attempt to balance fuel economy and power, and don’t need much thrust to propel forward considering their size. With that in mind, it’d be nice to have seen a hybrid powertrain for both of these vehicles; however, that’d almost certainly bump the price.
The 2020 Nissan Kicks sports only a single-engine choice, and it’s an underwhelming 122 horsepower 1.6-liter inline-4 engine that’s paired with a CVT transmission. And while the Nissan Kicks may look like a compact adventurer, it only offers a single front-wheel focused drivetrain, so you’ll be stuck on the pavement. Sure, this smaller engine and lack of alternative drivetrain options does amount to a total of 32 mpg combined, but at what cost? Riding in the Nissan Kicks is simple, if at least uninspiring. Set on 17-inch wheels, and using rear-set drum brakes, the affordability factor of the Nissan Kicks shines through most in this SUVs overall performance.
The Chevy Trax, on the other hand, makes for a more pleasurable driving experience, and it’s due in major part to the 138 horsepower 1.4-liter turbo-4 engine that also puts out 148 lb-ft of torque. This torque-centric engine makes for some thrilling riding, and with all-wheel drive available, the Chevy Trax can set tracks of its own out on the trail. The 6.2 inches of ground clearance you get, also adds to the versatility of the Chevy Trax. While you won’t be doing any rigorous driving in this compact SUV, it is nice to know that poor road conditions won’t necessarily stop the Chevy Trax. The turbocharged engine is paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission, which is a bit dated but performs better than the CVT offered in the Nissan Kicks.
A Moment in the Cabin
Step into the Chevy Trax or the Nissan Kicks, and you’ll find an interior that is simple, yet effective. That said, if you prioritize cargo capacity, the Nissan Kicks is the clear winner. With a max total of 53.1 cubic feet of cargo space, when the rear seats are folded, of course, you’ll find more than enough room for all of your luggage. However, passengers can’t expect to love much in the legroom department, as they’ll only get 33.2 inches of space to move around in. And with rather stiff cloth upholstered seats, and awkwardly set armrests in the front, it seems Nissan was trying to prioritize their small crossover as a thing mover rather than a people mover.
The Chevy Trax falls a little short when it comes to cargo space, and that is due in large part to its smaller size, but the 48.4 cubic feet of total storage space isn’t bad all things considered. And with 35.7 inches of rear legroom to work with, the Chevy Trax certainly has a more well-rounded interior cabin. Just like the Nissan Kicks, you can expect basic cloth upholstery in lower-end models, with the top-tier trim offering synthetic leather to recline in.
Another example of how Nissan managed to get to that low-low price is in interior technology. The base model Nissan Kick S gets the bare minimum in the form of a single USB port, and a 7.0-inch infotainment touchscreen that doesn’t offer Apple CarPlay or Android Auto integration. While you will find seamless phone connectivity in higher trims, you’ll have to pay more for it. That said, the standard suite of active safety features in the Nissan Kicks is rather impressive, as all models get features like automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitors, and lane-departure warnings.
Once again, the Chevy Trax capitalizes on areas where the Nissan Kicks misses the mark. The base model Trax comes with a 7.0-inch infotainment display that is compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Move up to higher trims, and you get some seriously premium add-ons like remote start, an audio system designed by Bose, and leather seating. Although a big miss for the Chevy Trax is the lack of active safety features on base models, and more importantly, automatic emergency braking is completely missing from the trim-lineup. While not essential for a great driving experience, the fact that it is not offered at all is a little disconcerting.
Trax vs Kicks
In a match-up of the Nissan Kicks vs the Chevy Trax, the winner isn’t so easy to define at first. Although considering the Chevy Trax offers a more thrilling ride, better infotainment, and a more passenger-focused design, it is easy to overlook the missteps like a lack of automatic emergency braking, higher cost, and smaller cargo hold. That is just our opinion though, the best way to know for sure is to take both cars out for a spin, and we highly recommend checking out both of these affordable compact SUVs.