Nissan India has been making headlines with its soon-to-be launched Kicks compact SUV in India. The Kicks comes in at a time when the Japanese stalwart aims to launch a fresh onslaught to gain a reasonable foothold in the Indian market. In contrast to the global version of the Kicks, the India spec model is designed for the sub-continent and is bigger than the model being retailed abroad. Nissan has positioned the Kicks on the same platform used for the Terrano - it will, in fact, replace the latter in India. Auto Tech Review drove the Kicks to the Rann of Kutch to understand what Nissan is offering and here is what we made of it.
To begin with, the Nissan Kicks is masculine, broad and bold to look at. That said, one cannot help but compare it with the other contenders in the segment. Doing so, we find out that Kicks is not only longer and wider than most of its competitors, but is also taller. Being built on the Duster’s platform, Nissan has moved away from any design similarities with Renault as seen earlier in the case of the Duster and Terrano. But Nissan has not just stopped at that; the car maker has also packed in many exciting new features for comfort and convenience. Safety technology is also one of the highlights on the new Nissan Kicks, and when we were testing out the compact SUV, we realised that it offers a lot more than its competitors in the segment.
PLATFORM, SUSPENSION & DRIVING DYNAMICS
The new Nissan Kicks has been underpinned on the M0 platform that also supports the Renault Duster and Nissan Terrano. The tough and rigid platform will also enable Nissan to keep prices in check due to heavy localisation of parts. Coming back to the platform, the Kicks in India features a longer wheelbase than its international version that has enabled Nissan to create more room inside the cabin. The overall length of the compact SUV measures 4,384 mm, while in terms of width and height, the Kicks stands at 1,813 mm and 1,656 mm respectively. The wheelbase of the Kicks on the M0 platform stands at 2,670 mm. The robust looking alloy wheels house 215/ 60 R-17 tyres. This has also enabled the SUV a good clearance of 210 mm.
The suspension set-up on the Kicks is marginally stiff; it gives the SUV an ability to glide over most bad and broken roads. The vehicles front wheel track measures 1,560 mm, while the rear track measures 1,567 mm. The length of the track gives this compact SUV a wider stance and also brings on offer superior handling characteristic that come into play at higher speeds. The suspension offers great control over the Kicks and this is complemented by a reasonably stiff monocoque chassis. The steering set-up on the Kicks weighs up well at lower speeds and feels lighter, while driving at higher speeds. Overall driving dynamics are fairly relaxed and the build of the Nissan Kicks exudes confidence to the driver, irrespective of the driving conditions.
TECHNOLOGY & SAFETY
Nissan has ensured the new Kicks comes heavily loaded with premium features that ensure an extremely competent package. A brief look at the driver aides being offered makes us realise that this is a little more advanced than most contenders. The package includes driver aides such as hill start assist, vehicle dynamic control, ABS with electronic brake force distribution and brake assist, front and rear fog lamps along with cornering fog lamps, rain sensing wipers, cruise control and automatic headlamps. For the first time in the segment, Nissan has also brought on offer a 360-degree around view front camera, which offers the driver a complete perspective of the surroundings while manoeuvring the compact SUV. The 360-degree camera offers clear visibility and the 8.0 inch infotainment unit acts as a display for the driver. Bolstering the safety on the Kicks, Nissan has built-in a four airbag set-up that will cater to the driver and co-driver.
Nissan is also offering a segment-leading 5.2 m turning circle radius on the new Kicks, catering to quick and convenient manoeuvring in and around city traffic or tight parking spots. The projector headlamps on the Nissan Kicks cast a decent beam and the LED DRLs add a sharp look to the bold facade. Nissan has also built in aspheric ORVMs with turn indicators; the ORVM design helps reduce blind spots and the electronic adjustment and folding functions add a touch of convenience. Speaking of convenience, Nissan is also offering automatic climate control among other features.
In terms of entertainment, the Kicks comes with 8.0 inch display for the infotainment unit. The system is compatible for connectivity through Android Auto as well as Apple CarPlay. The set-up is definitely one of the better ones in the segment; the touch does not feature any lag and the response is seamless. The mobile connectivity also features voice recognition functions for both the Android as well as iOS devices. Another important feature being offered on the Kicks is a connect apps suite for the infotainment system with over 50 different applications on offer. Nissan has also added a wearable watch for connectivity. The design and layout of the floating dash-top display are unique and maintain good ergonomics for driver operation.
POWERTRAINS & PERFORMANCE
The Nissan Kicks has been offered with two engines options; the first a diesel 1.5 litre K9K dCi diesel engine that is also being used on the Renault Duster and Nissan Terrano. Nissan is also offering the H4K 1.5 litre petrol option on the Kicks. While the diesel mill comes mated to a 6-speed manual transmission, the petrol engine comes mated to a 5-speed manual transmission. Nissan at present is not offering the Kicks with an automatic transmission, but may be brought in at a later date. We got a chance to sample the 1.5 litre diesel engine married to the 6-speed manual transmission. To begin with, the engine feels a lot more refined and on the Kicks, it offers an excellent performance.
The turbocharged, four cylinder diesel engine is rated for 108 hp, which comes in at 3,850 rpm and a torque figure of 240 Nm kicking in at 1,750 rpm. The power build-up is smooth and the engine breathes well. The turbo has been tuned to deliver a smooth drive and is not punchy like most diesels. The throttle response is quick and sharp and hurtles the vehicle forward with ease. To add to driving pleasure, the engine’s compatibility with the transmission is phenomenal. The clutch action is light and the overall drive characteristics are quite comfortable.
The six-speed transmission is a slick unit, gear throws are not too long and the shift action is crisp. The engine does go through the first three gears rather quickly, especially if you are getting off in a hurry. But the fifth and sixth gears have longer legs, which offer superb cruising characteristics on highways. With ample power in the mid-range of the band, the Nissan Kicks offers easy and quick overtakes. Braking on this compact SUV is facilitated by discs in the front and drum brakes in the rear. The braking is progressive – the addition of disc brakes in the rear would make for a very well-rounded package.
The Nissan Kicks will enter the market competing with the likes of the Hyundai Creta and the Ford EcoSport. The package for the top variant will offer segment-first features and ample luxurious design aspects to offer a premium appeal. Nissan has claimed to be aggressive with the pricing of the Kicks and we feel it may just undercut the pricing of the Hyundai Creta. For those looking at a bold and strong compact SUV with a perspective on premium safety features and top shelf performance, the Nissan Kicks will be an exciting option.
TEXT: Joshua David Luther
PHOTO: Bharat Bhushan Upadhyay