Nissan Kicks the compact contender

The Nissan Kicks has the chops to be a strong competitor in the crossover segment

By Abhijit Mitra
  • Published 15.12.18, 11:56 PM
  • Updated 15.12.18, 11:56 PM
  • 5 mins read
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Nissan Kicks Abhijit Mitra

The Renault-Nissan combine can claim to have created the now popular affordable crossover segment in India with the Duster. Its success spurred the growth of the market with a number of other companies getting into the fray.

All of these vehicles looked like SUVs, stood high off the ground, drove like cars, and could tackle the bad roads more like SUVs although they were essentially meant to stay on tarmac. To be fair, a few of them have 4x4 versions, but they are mostly not for extreme offroading.

The Terrano was Nissan’s badging for the Duster and it, too, is nearly a decade old now. So it’s time for a newer vehicle to join the automaker’s line-up to keep the action buzzing.

Enter the Nissan Kicks, for which the company has just started taking bookings and which it is expected to roll out in January.

t2oS got behind the wheels of a couple of top spec versions to check out their street cred.

The Exteriors

The Kicks is a good-looking vehicle that is quite stylish and beefy. It has been given the metal skin that has got the bulges and flares in the right places — front and rear fenders for instance — to add to the impression that they are needed to house big wheels. The wheels are 17-inch, two-tone alloys that fill out the wells and are shod with reasonably wide tyres. They are placed near the four extremeties of the SUV. (The spare wheel is a pressed steel 16” with a higher profile tyre.) Like a host of others, Nissan, too, has used a brushed aluminium finish at the bottom of the front and rear bumpers to look like scuff plates and enhance its SUV chops, at least the visual ones.

The two-tone paint job — there were red-and-black and grey-and-orange combinations — is for the top version and the lower ones come with a single colour. But the floating roof design remains with the rearmost pillar getting a black finish. The rear end is smart with stylish tail lamps and a steeply raked windscreen.

The rising window line and creases on the flanks are two visual cues that hint at sportiness. There’s just enough chrome all around to make the Kicks look upmarket without making it blingy.

Abhijit Mitra
Abhijit Mitra

The Interiors

The black-and-brown colour scheme of the interiors seems to be in favour with carmakers now. The brown leather on the dash, the seats and the door panels look good along with the black plastic that’s not ‘soft feel’ but should wear well. There are bits with faux carbon fibre finish on the door handles and lower versions would also have it on the dash instead of the leather. (Lower spec versions will get textile on the seats and door panel inserts.)

Upon getting into the vehicle (access is easy), one does get a sense of quality all around as the fit and finish is good. The floating touchscreen above the dash draws attention here. With shiny black finish and brushed aluminium bezels, it carries over a look that we are familiar with from tabs and phones. There are also thoughtful touches all around, such as a light in the cubbyhole ahead of the gear lever so that one can go by sight and not have to feel for things.

The ergonomics of the cabin are good and things fall easily to hand when one is in the driving seat. The instrumentation is clear and Nissan has continued with a digital speedometer, although a dial would have been nice to have.

The seats are well-cushioned and supportive and there’s ample space all around for five people, although from the outside the vehicle doesn’t look very big. The boot has 400 litres of storage capacity and a low loading lip. The seats are split and the two parts can flip down to carry more luggage.

The sense of refinement one gets in the cabin is good, with the engine or ambient noise that seeps into the vehicle mostly remaining at reasonable levels.

Engine & Gears

There will be both a diesel and a petrol version of the Kicks.

Diesel: This would be Renault-Nissan’s tested and proven 1.5-litre K9K mill that has been doing duty in the company’s cars up and down the order in different states of tune for a while now. In the Kicks it’s in the turbocharged 110ps configuration. That’s enough to take the car up to highway speeds and then some. The bulk of the power comes in around 1,700rpm, so at lower speeds one needs to play around with the gearbox a bit to stay there. But that’s not difficult to do with the six-speed manual.

Petrol: This one is a 1.5-litre unit as well. It makes slightly less power than the diesel and has a lower torque output too. But it delivers its power in a more progressive way, especially in the lower revs, than the diesel and, therefore, is easier to drive in traffic. It’s mated to a five-speed manual gearbox that’s smooth and easy to use.

Surround view, where one gets a top angle of the car, is a first in this segment
Surround view, where one gets a top angle of the car, is a first in this segment Abhijit Mitra

Ride & Handling

The Kicks is pretty well sorted out on the road. The suspension does an excellent job of insulating passengers from bad and broken surfaces although it’s sprung on the stiffer side. This is where one feels the goodness of the 17” wheels and the 210mm ground clearance. It even soaked up a few unmarked bumps quite easily.

The grip in general is good and the car is stable even under a few quick direction changes that may be needed in avoidance manoeuvres. Let’s put it this way, one will have to do something very stupid for it to go out of control. Under emergency braking at high speed, it tracks straight and true. So it does inspire a fair bit of confidence in the driver.

In the city it’s easy to manoeuvre. Driving isn’t a problem as visibility is decent if one uses the mirrors and other aids. Nissan has equipped the Kicks with a first-in-segment surround-view system with four cameras creating a picture of the surroundings of the car that’s projected on the touchscreen. That makes placing the car on the road and parking it a complete breeze, particularly since with this one can avoid the obstructions of low height that one tends to bump into.

The diesel, expectedly is the punchier one to drive and does higher speeds more easily. The petrol might be better where one is staying more in lower speeds.

The Final Call

The Nissan Kicks is an all-round competent product that conveys a sense of quality and style. The two engines on offer are proven units that will do the job of hauling this SUV around without stuttering in any foreseeable situation.

As expected, Nissan has loaded the Kicks with the capability to connect with not only mobile phones but even smartwatches, the latter being novel in this segment at least. There are enough USB, auxiliary and 12V sockets all around. Safety features are standard too.

With sporty and chunky looks and a good all-round package, the Kicks makes a strong case for itself as a vehicle one would like to own. Nissan has got it right. Now it has to do the same with the tag.

IN NUMBERS

Form: Compact, two-wheel drive crossover/SUV

LxBxH (mm): 4,384 x 1,813 x 1,656

Ground clearance (mm): 210

Engines: Petrol (P): 1,498cc, inline, 4-cylinder;

Diesel (D): 1,461cc, inline, 4-cylinder with fixed vane turbocharger

Max power (ps@rpm): P: 106@5,600; D: 110@3,850

Max torque (Nm@rpm): P: 142@4,000; D: 240@1,750

Transmission: P: 5-speed manual, D: 6-speed manual

Wheels and tyres: Alloy wheels with 215/60R17 tubeless radials (Spare tyre: 215/70 R16 on steel wheel)

Boot space (litres): 400

Expected price: Rs 9 lakh to about Rs 14 lakh