The Kicks will spearhead a new SUV-focused strategy from Nissan in India, but is it good enough to take on the Hyundai Creta?
Not having updated their product portfolio in a while, Nissan hasn’t had sales numbers to be proud of in recent times. Sure, the Micra and Terrano were both decent vehicles, but there’s no denying that they’ve begun to show their age. In a bid to bounce back, Nissan has devised a plan for the next few years that focuses on SUVs to rekindle its hopes in the Indian market. Kickstarting this strategy is the all-new Kicks – all set for its India launch in January 2019. The idea is to target a segment higher than the Terrano and take the battle to the mighty Hyundai Creta. So we got behind the wheel of the new Nissan Kicks to find out if it really kicks ass.
Statement of intent
Design-wise, the India-spec Kicks is more or less identical to the international model. Look closely, however, and you’ll notice the differences – and there are quite a few. Starting at the front, the bumper has been remoulded. There’s also an faux aluminium skid plate to give it the feeling of a true SUV. The bold, chrome V-motion grille looks a bit antithetical, and I for one am not convinced with the design of the front end. The car looks considerably better from the front three quarter angle though. In profile, it’s hard not to see the semblance with the Juke – Nissan’s very uniquely styled crossover that sells internationally – especially in the C-pillar region. The Kicks has a very unique rear. The windshield is steeply raked and the tailgate is wide. And I can’t help but see an uncanny resemblance between the Kicks and some of the new Lexus models – especially in the treatment of the lights. Dimensionally, the India-spec Kicks is bigger than the model on sale internationally. In fact, the wheelbase is longer too – making it marginally bigger than the Terrano, but not overly large.
The story is similar on the inside too. The Kicks does a lot of things right, but there are also a few aspects that could have been better thought of. The leather wrapped dashboard looks and feels premium, but the plastics in certain parts are hard and could have been better quality. Taking the centre stage is an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system. The touch responds well to inputs and the display is crisp too. The semi-digital instrument cluster has two pods - one for the tacho and the second for the fuel gauge. Speedometer reading is digital.
We instantly fell in love with the front seats. Good lumbar support and side bolstering means driving long hours is likely to be very comfortable indeed. The driver’s seat is quite high and offers a commanding driving position. But, on the flip side, headroom is a bit compromised. While it won’t be a problem for people of average height, taller drivers will likely have something to complaint about. There are a few other issues with its ergonomics too. The steering-mounted controls are actually steering-column-mounted, like the are on the Duster, and they continue to feel counterintuitive to use. Lastly, and most annoyingly, the central armrest in between the front seats is not adjustable or foldable – and it gets in the way when you’re shifting to second, fourth and sixth, or even while fastening your seatbelt for that matter.
The Kicks has a few first-in-class features though, like a 360-degree camera and leather covered dash. However, it does miss out on a sunroof, wireless charging and telescopic adjustment for the steering wheel.
New bottle, old wine
Nissan will launch the new Kicks with the same engine options that as those of the Terrano and Renault Duster, which means that it’ll have the 1.5-litre H4K petrol motor and the trusted 1.5-litre K9K diesel. At the media test drive, we only had the latter to sample. This engine makes 240Nm of max torque at 1,750rpm. Below this mark, the Kicks feels a little slow to react, but once it crosses the 2,000rpm mark, there’s plenty of grunt to play around with. In fact, it continues to feel that way a little after its peak power is delivered at 3,850rpm. It does get audible and strained at such engine speeds, though. Although the engine feels more refined than the Terrano and the Duster, it still isn’t a match for the creamy nature of the Hyundai Creta. Once you come to terms with that, the Kicks can be a reasonably fun car to drive – as long as the tach o needle is in the right range.
The 1.5-litre diesel motor is paired with a 6-speed manual transmission. The first two gears are short and require continuous shifts when driving in slow moving traffic. But, on a positive note, the gearing allows you to jump to the higher gears quite quickly – thereby improving efficiency.
The Kicks is based on the same M0 platform that underpins the Duster and Captur. This essentially means that it inherits the same merits and demerits of that duo. On our test route, we encountered a few really fast, flowing corners, and the Kicks attacked them with reasonable confidence. Part of this handling performance is also courtesy of the stiffly sprung suspension that controls the lateral movement efficiently. The limited communication from the steering wheel and the kickback it suffers mid-corner from any undulating surface, however, limit the extent to which you can push the car. As far as ride quality is concerned, the way it manages to even out undulations is indeed quite impressive. It’s only at higher speeds on really wavy roads that the Kicks tends to feel a bit too bouncy for rear passengers.
Kick ass or kick aside?
From the sharp design and rich interior to the long feature list, the Nissan Kicks does kick ass, but it also has a few pitfalls. Poor ergonomics and the steering kickback are two most prominent drawbacks. While it doesn’t blow your mind in any one respect, it does pretty well on most counts. With that in mind, there’s no denying that the Kicks can be worthy of your consideration as an alternative to the Creta – but only if it’s priced right!
- Nissan Kicks
Engine: 1,461cc / 4-Cylinder / 16-Valves / Turbocharged
Transmission: 6-Speed Manual / Front-Wheel Drive
Power: 108bhp @ 3,850rpm
Torque: 240Nm @ 1,750rpm
X-Factor: Edgy design, strong mid-range and a fine ride & handling balance gives the Kicks a leg up, but we’ll have to wait to see how it’s priced.