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Compact SUV Comparison: Should You Make Trax or Go For Kicks?

A silver 2020 Chevy Trax is parked in an empty warehouse.

Sporty, dependable, fun, exciting, and versatile are just some of the words people think of when they hear about compact SUVs and crossovers. These vehicles have stepped in to provide a value proposition that meets the needs of many compact sedan drivers as well as SUV customers. They are fuel-efficient and easy to drive like sedans, but are roomier, provide more cargo space, and are often safer alternatives. For drivers of midsize SUVs, compact SUVs provide almost as much room, but provide better gas mileage and are less expensive. For those of us who live near urban areas, crossovers and compact SUVs offer another advantage, and that is the ease of parking. I can tell you from personal experience that parallel parking a full-size or midsize SUV on a busy city street is not my definition of “fun.” However, I’ve never had this problem with a compact SUV. This is probably why every major auto manufacturer offers at least one crossover or compact SUV in its vehicle lineup. Two of the best on the market are the 2020 Chevrolet Trax and 2020 Nissan Kicks.

Both seat up to five passengers, have affordable prices, provide a great deal of standard safety features, and help you get your kicks while making tracks around town. Nevertheless, there are some differences between the two vehicles when we compare the 2020 Chevy Trax vs 2020 Nissan Kicks.

Available Trims and Pricing for the Chevy Trax and Nissan Kicks

As stated earlier, both the 2020 Chevy Trax and the 2020 Nissan Kicks are affordably priced. In addition, each is offered in three different trim levels. The base model Chevy Trax is the LS with an MSRP of $21,300. This features all standard components on the Trax model, including 16-inch painted aluminum wheels. The Trax LT adds roof rack side rails, deluxe cloth seating, remote vehicle start, and cruise control, for an MSRP of $23,200. The top-of-the-line model is the Trax Premier, with an MSRP of $27,600. Among the additional standard features on the Trax Premier are leatherette seating, 18-inch alloy wheels, a power sunroof, and a Bose premium 7-speaker audio system.

The base model of the 2020 Nissan Kicks is the S with an MSRP of $18,870. This model features 16-inch steel wheels. The Kicks SV has an MSRP of $20,500 and features an upgraded infotainment system and 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels. The top model is the Nissan Kicks SR with an MSRP of $21,120. This model features LED headlights with LED signature accents, sports cloth seat trim with orange accents and stitching, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. While both the Trax and Kicks features three trim levels, the pricing differences make the Kicks somewhat more affordable.

A blue 2020 Nissan Kicks is driving on a wet city street after losing the 2020 Chevy Trax vs 2020 Nissan Kicks comparison.

Can the Nissan Kicks Out-Perform the Chevy Trax?

Both the 2020 Chevy Trax and 2020 Nissan Kicks feature only one engine option. All models of the Trax come equipped with a 1.4-liter turbo EcoTec 4-cylinder gas engine. This engine is paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission and has been rated to produce up to 138 horsepower and 148 lb-ft of torque.

In comparison, the Kicks comes equipped with a larger engine that is surprisingly less powerful. The 2020 Nissan Kicks features a 1.6-liter DOHC 16-valve 4-cylinder gas engine, which has been rated to produce up to 122 horsepower and 114 lb-ft of torque. The transmission is Nissan’s own Xtronic CVT, which stands for continuously variable transmission. Instead of having specific gear speeds in the CVT, the transmission constantly adjusts the speed according to driving conditions.

When looking solely at fuel efficiency, the Kicks has a decided advantage. The Kicks is estimated to provide up to 31 MPG in the city and 36 MPG on the highway (33 MPG combined). But for the 2020 Trax, fuel economy depends on the chosen drivetrain. When equipped with front-wheel drive, the Trax provides an estimated 26 MPG in the city and 31 MPG on the highway (28 MPG combined). When equipped with all-wheel drive, the Trax can provide up to 24 MPG in the city and 29 MPG on the highway (26 MPG combined).

This actually points out a couple of issues with the 2020 Nissan Kicks. First of all, the Kicks only comes in front-wheel drive; there is no all-wheel drive option available. This can be a problem for drivers who live in more temperate climates and have to contend with winter snow and ice. Second, the Kicks is underpowered for its size, making its pickup feel sluggish, particularly when compared to the more peppy engine on the Trax. Finally, a number of drivers have complained about the Xtronic CVT as the engine’s constant speed adjustment makes the ride feel somewhat choppy. It appears that when it comes to the Kicks, Nissan has sacrificed performance in order to increase fuel efficiency.

Which Compact SUV Has the Most Passenger Space and Cargo Volume?

Two women are walking towards a blue 2020 Chevy Trax which is parked on a city street.

One complaint many consumers have about compact SUVs is that space can seem somewhat tight. However, both the 2020 Chevy Trax and the 2020 Nissan Kicks have plenty of space for passengers and cargo. The Trax provides 92.8 cubic feet of passenger space, while the Kicks provides slightly more at 93.9 cubic feet. However, the designers at Chevrolet seemed to have provided a more comfortable configuration of their vehicle’s passenger space.

The 2020 Chevy Trax offers front-row passengers 39.6 inches of headroom, 40.8 inches of legroom, 51.7 inches of hip room, and 54.1 inches of shoulder room. In the second row, passengers 38.8 inches of headroom, 35.7 inches of legroom, 50.7 inches of hip room, and 52.8 inches of shoulder room.

In contrast, the Nissan designers seem to have put too much emphasis on front-seat space. Front seat passengers in the 2020 Nissan Kicks get 40.7 inches of headroom, 43.7 inches of legroom, 50.9 inches of hip room, and 53 inches of shoulder room. However, in second-row passengers recieve only 38.5 inches of headroom, 33.2 inches of legroom, 49.1 inches of hip room, and 53.2 inches of shoulder room. As a result, the rear seat passengers might find it a little tight in the Nissan Kicks, especially if there are three passengers in the back. This interior space issue carries over to the cargo capacity of the vehicles as well.

The 2020 Chevy Trax has 18.7 cubic feet of cargo space in the hatchback that expands to a spacious 48.4 cubic feet with the rear seat folded down. While the 2020 Nissan Kicks has a comparable 25.3 cubic feet of cargo space in its hatchback, this only expands to 32.3 cubic feet with the rear seat folded down. In other words, when you sacrifice the rear seat, you only get an additional seven cubic feet of cargo space in the Kicks, while the Trax affords a full 30 cubic feet for cargo when this is done. Clearly, the Kicks was not designed with transporting cargo in mind.

Which Model Has the Better Entertainment System?

Both the 2020 Nissan Kicks and the 2020 Chevy Trax come equipped with an infotainment system on a 7-inch touchscreen. However, that is where the similarity ends. The base model Kicks S does not have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto on its system, and drivers will have to spring for the more expensive Kicks SV if they want the Nissan Connect features. This is nothing like the Chevy Trax. If you buy a base model Trax LS, you will get all the features of the Chevrolet Infotainment System 3, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as OnStar and Chevrolet Connected.

While both mid-level trims of the Kicks and Trax, the Kicks SV and Trax LT add SiriusXM satellite radio, only the Trax LT has the option of adding a Bose premium 7-speaker audio system, a standard feature on the Trax Premier. If you want the Bose stereo on your Kicks, you will have to pay an extra fee on your Kicks SR, since it is not a standard feature on the top-of-the-line Nissan.

Which Will You Bring Home?

At the end of the day, which one should you bring home to your garage? We believe the answer here is clear; you can’t go wrong with the 2020 Chevy Trax.

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