We test drove the Nissan Kicks SUV at the Great Rann of Kutch in Gujarat and here are our deep thoughts and thorough impressions
After a relentless eight-hour cab drive from Ahmedabad to the Great Rann of Kutch, my curiosity over Nissan’s new flagship Kicks SUV was only increasing. I was itching to get go in the Kicks the following morning of the media outing, as I had my eyes cast on the SUV for more than two years.
Ever since the Kicks made its production debut in Brazil in May 2016, two years after the conceptual version broke into the scenes, it had an underlying potential for emerging markets written all over it. During the market launch of Datsun Redi-Go in June 2016, Guillaume Sicard, Ex-President of Nissan Motor India, confirmed that the Kicks would be introduced arousing anticipation.
Despite the expected timelines over the last two years, Nissan did take quite a lot of time to bring up the Kicks and there’s a very good reason for that. Unlike the global version, the Kicks had to go through specific changes for India and is finally entering the market in the middle of January 2019. Here is what I contemplated of the Nissan Kicks having spent a day with it:
EXTERIOR: Vivid And Elegant
The Kicks is a compact iteration of the bigger Nissan SUVs such as X-Trail and Murano as far as design is concerned. But it does have an entirely different appeal to the Nissan models found in the Indian portfolio, especially Terrano, due to the inclusion of latest styling philosophy followed by the brand globally.
Up front, the obvious striking feature is the prominent V-motion grille with black honeycomb mesh housing the signature Nissan badge. The bonnet has a distinguished appeal and when viewed straight up it looks muscular. It is a departure from the entire face and that’s a good thing.
The sweptback headlamps bode well with the faux air intake you cannot find in the global spec model and the central air dam has been redesigned with added dynamism and inclusion of horizontal silver trim. The fog lamp area also gets likable silver elements as Nissan has played its cards well to make the Kicks far more appealing than the global version.
The side profile has bold wheel arches and silver body cladding running along the bottom section and is positioned above the thick black cladding present across the entire lower body for added masculinity as a SUV.
The set of multi-spoke 17-inch machine cut alloy wheels is another visual attraction and the Kicks wore it better than the crystal cut wheels on the Captur. The floating roof has been painted in contrast orange colour in the grey shaded Kicks while the red body painted version comprises a black finished roof with more subtlety. Both the colour options get silver roof rails and neatly styled character lines.
Over to the rear, Nissan has made sure it looks different from the international model courtesy of the tailgate applique, shark fin antenna and the aluminium skid plates available on both ends. The boomerang-shaped tail lamps, blackened pillars and turn indicators integrated wing mirrors are other exterior highlights of the Kicks. In entirety, the Kicks can be termed as the best-looking SUV in its segment with a meticulous exterior.
INTERIOR: Like Never Before
The dashboard is not an intriguing place to be and Nissan has minimised the buttons wherever possible. The steering wheel has less controls and it would not distract you. Additionally, the leather wrap does not get in the way of good grippy feel to the SUV and the steering wheel itself is not too chunky or small to cause discomfort on long travel hours.
The semi-digital instrument cluster has digital speed reading in the middle in bigger size than other menus. The multi-info display could have had more inputs on offer and the test vehicle we drove did not possess auto central door locking and high-speed warning alert systems. The interior, in short, takes plenty of influence from the Renault Captur. The leather wrapped dual-tone dashboard finish is highly appealing and the colour theme continued on to the quilted leather seats.
The silver surrounds on the AC vents, around the gear level area and steering wheel, as well as the piano black, finished elements add a pleasant premium touch to the cabin. The cockpit did not feel cramped whatsoever for a six feet guy like me and the steering wheel could only be adjusted for the height and not reach.
FEATURES: Top Draw Yet Misses A Few
The moment you step foot inside the Kicks, you will notice the eight-inch floating touchscreen infotainment system mounted in the middle with Nissan Connect technology for smartphone integration. It allows for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity and doubles up as a reverse camera display with guidelines.
The responsiveness of the touchscreen was immediate throughout our day with the SUV and despite us ripping through the sand and ensued dust, it did stay polite. The segment-first 360 Around Monitoring system uses multiple cameras and it certainly helps in the ease of parking especially in congested spaces.
Nissan has packed the Kicks with several notable features including rain sensing wipers, cruise control system, cornering lamps, cooled glove box, anti-lock brakes, Electronic Brake-force Distribution, dual front airbags, Hill Start Assist and Traction Control along with dual-zone automatic climate control system. However, we so wished panoramic sunroof and auto dimming inside rear view mirror were part of the checklist.
COMFORT And CONVENIENCE: Makes All The Right Noises
I must say the visibility of the LED headlamps is best-in-class and it comes on its own during night time with wider projection. The headroom and kneeroom at front and rear are sufficient for the occupants and I felt the driver seat to be the comfortable place to be than the co-passenger seat.
At the back, the seats couldn’t do 60:40 split disappointingly while the twin retractable cup holders in the middle acted as armrests too. Apart from the ample space for three, the soft suspension tuning did make the long hours easily bearable and the adjustable headrests do come in handy in situations. The thigh support of the seats was very decent as well. The presence of bulky front armrest was annoying in some aspects.
While it played its part in providing support, the lowly positioned handbrake was hard to negotiate with due to its obstruction. There is decent amount of cubbyholes to place your stuff in too and the glove box offers good depth to place your everyday items and paperwork. The class-first dual zone automatic climate control is another highlight as it effortlessly spread chilling air across the cabin in very less time – perhaps we were lucky to be on in The White Dessert this time around.
Another key point to note is the good outer road visibility while seated in the confines of the cabin. Moreover, the driver’s seat is arranged in such a way to have a confidence inspiring road vision. The design of the A pillar does not hamper the oncoming vehicle while cornering in most cases. The trunk capacity is as similar to the Hyundai Creta at 400 litres and it provides ample room for lugging your usual stuff around.
ENGINE, PERFORMANCE AND SPECS: Not New, Not Old Either
The Japanese manufacturer will sell the Kicks in both petrol and diesel engine options but there’s nothing new to them, as the tried and tested 1.5-litre units continue to be employed. The 1.5-litre K9K diesel powertrain produces 110 PS at 3,850 rpm and 240 Nm at 1,750 rpm, and is connected to a six-speed manual transmission.
The 1.5-litre H4K petrol, on the other hand, develops 106 PS at 5,600 rpm and 142 Nm of peak torque delivered at 4,000 rpm, and is mated to only a five-speed gearbox. No 4WD is available though and it could have been an interesting option if taken into account.
The India-spec Nissan Kicks measures a length of 4,384 mm, making it 89 mm longer than the global sibling. The width of 1,813 mm and height of 1,656 mm ensure it becoming wider and taller as well in comparison with a longer wheelbase of 2,673 mm. This explains why the Kicks has roomier cabin that its international counterparts and Hyundai Creta.
DYNAMICS And HANDLING: Composed And Justifiable
Nissan offered only the oil burner for us journos to test though and we came out impressed. Despite no change in power and torque outputs compared to the Terrano, the four-pot mill felt more refined throughout the rev range.
The power was adequate enough on and off the road but the torque could’ve been a bit more for additional punch. Due to the smoother yet immediate power delivery, the Kicks gave the confidence to push for three digit speeds. In ideal condition, the engine was stress free and the same momentum is carried forward during cruising speeds or beyond. This explains why the Kicks can be credited with having the quietest cabin in the segment, complemented by the absence of tyre noise.
In the top speed runs, we managed to hit more than 160 kmph three times courtesy of the long straights in the largely abandoned road stretches. The engine invites to push harder and is a slouch by no means, and I do feel it will turn out to be one of its USPs. The kicks was the nicest Nissan I drove in a long while and certainly the premium of the lot.
The confidence behind the wheel is ensured by Vehicle Dynamic Control system. It provides a steady track on road and makes you not lose the tarmac (and mind) – allowing for cornering at higher speeds with ease. The VDC makes the Nissan Kicks a really good handling machine and is practically agile in typical driving situations.
The M0 platform Renault-Nissan alliance uses in India has been carried forward with updates. It makes the Kicks a far better handler compared to both the Duster and Terrano. The Kicks did absorb regular potholes you witness on the typical roads quite well and the body roll was not very noticeable.
Even at higher speeds, the body roll was to a point of being negligible while the suspension, despite being on the softer side, worked surprisingly well while tackling uneven roads. The best-in-class turning radius of 5.2 metres was another advantage the Kicks had. Furthermore, the engine did make a good note while climbing up the rev order.
KICKS REVIEW VERDICT: Destined To Throw Some Serious Punch
While the Vehicle Dynamic Control is an absolute plus factor for the Nissan Kicks, the braking capability could have been improved. The absence of 60:40 split folding rear seats and panoramic sunroof are other glaring features the Kicks could have had.
The Kicks is the most feature-loaded Nissan SUV ever to reach India at an accessible price range. Moreover, it has a striking visual presence and a cabin with good amount of space. It also comes with class-leading driving dynamics and usage of appreciable premium quality materials.
Compared to Hyundai Creta, the Kicks ticks all the right boxes but everything will be down to the pricing Nissan fixes. Due to the well-established platform, Nissan is expected to position the Kicks highly aggressively in the market with heavily localised content.
With supposed prices around Rs. 11-16 lakh (ex-showroom), the Kicks should enable the breakthrough Nissan has long been looking for India. However, it will have to see through another rivalry in the form of Tata Harrier that launches around the same time mid next month.