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Should you wait another month just for the Kicks?

S Muralidhar | Updated on December 13, 2018 Published on December 13, 2018

Finally, Nissan is due to bring in a new model with the Kicks. Can this compact SUV go head-to-head with the Creta?

While the premium family sedan segment continues to clock measly numbers, the compact sports utility vehicle segment is growing at a healthy clip and the Hyundai Creta is currently the top dog. So, despite the price overlap, the clear trend amongst buyers indicates a rising preference for SUVs. There is a wave of new vehicles that are due out in this size and price segment within the next few months. The Tata Harrier, the Kia Motors’ production version of the SP2 concept, and the Nissan Kicks will all be on the roads before April next year. They may end up offering varying levels of equipment, but will eventually expand the market.

After our test drive report last week, you must have got a taste of how the Harrier fares. This week it is the turn of the new Nissan Kicks, which is due out by mid-January 2019. Earlier this week, I drove the Kicks around Bhuj town in Gujarat and over the famous salt flats in the Rann of Kutch. Here are my first impressions.

 

Design

With the Kicks, Nissan’s stable gets a completely new vehicle after a long hiatus. Even though it has been built on the same platform as the Renault Duster and Captur, and the Nissan Terrano, the Kicks doesn’t feel like it is just a badge-engineered vehicle. Strong design differentiators give it a distinct identity though there are a few shared platform parts like the door mirrors and handles. Otherwise, there is only a hint of a connection with the Renault Captur in the Kicks’s stance.

Nissan’s V-motion theme design at the front gives the Kicks the brand’s trademark SUV character. The bonnet grille runs across multiple Nissan models and the sharp LED DRL signature in the headlamps is another brand staple. The bonnet too is a chiselled slab with clamshell edges that enhance its sporty image and highlight the 3D design of the headlamps. Faux aluminium underbody protectors, flared wheel arches with contrast black side cladding and the stalked door mirrors boost the SUV character of the Kicks. Blacked out A, B and C pillars, and the contrast-coloured roof (in the top-trim variant) gives it a unique floating roof look. Nissan officials say that the door panels were extended all the way down to the edge of the side cladding to make ingress and egress easier for the India-spec Kicks. A very different version of the Kicks is sold in some other markets in Asia and some Gulf countries, including Dubai.

The rear design is also meant to enhance its wide, squat stance. The tail-lamps feature 3D construction and wrap around the waistline edges to take a sort of boomerang-like form. The tailgate is a slightly oddly-shaped unit that flows with the overall design of the Kicks except when open and then its offbeat design shows up. The rear could’ve been mistaken for a raised hatch and the SUV character of the Kicks is only redeemed by the dual tone fender and underbody protector. It gets a practical 210 mm of ground clearance, but there are also premium touches with some chrome surrounds and a set of cornering front fog lamps.

Cabin

The Kicks interior looks totally fresh with the choice of colours and materials used. The black and chocolate brown colour theme seems like a perfect fit for the cabin, elevating the premium feel of the interior. The trim strategy for the Kicks hasn’t yet been disclosed, but it was obvious that I was driving the top trim diesel variant. Quilted, stitched leather seats, and even soft-touch leather dashboard and door trim makes the Kicks cabin feel like it is a grade above the segment. The trim variant I was driving also sported a number of decorative plastic trim, which were meant to imitate the finish of carbon-fibre. Auto aircon is standard, as is Nissan Connect — a multi-function connectivity and media compatible application. The top trim will also get an eight-inch floating infotainment monitor at the top of the centre stack with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.

One really innovative feature in the Kicks, which is a segment-first, is the Around View Monitor with 360-degree camera. Basically, the system combines the images generated from four cameras, which are then used to create a 360-degree aerial digital view while reversing or for easier parking. The glove box is cooled and illuminated; and there are a number of storage options for water bottles, coins, etc. The Kicks’ steering wheel is a chunky, wrapped and stitched unit that also seems to have been borrowed from some of the other alliance cars. It is missing a few control buttons, and features only the cruise control reset and speed up/down buttons. The main cruise control setting switch is set on the dashboard next to the headlamp-levelling control wheel. This cruise control switch also doubles up (when flipped up) into a speed limiter button.

The space in the cabin is very much like in the Captur (both have the same wheelbase too). There is adequate legroom for front and rear passengers. Headroom is just about enough for tall drivers. It could have been better if the driver’s seat was hinged an inch or two lower. The driving position, though, is good and offers a clean view of the road with minimal blind spots. The boot offers 400 litres of luggage space with the rear seats in use.

Performance

The Kicks is being offered with the same two powertrains that already find a place in the Duster and Captur; and even in the same state of tune. The petrol engine is the 1.5 H4K, which generates 106 PS of peak power and 142 Nm of peak torque. It is paired with the same five-speed manual gearbox too. The diesel engine is the popular, tried and tested 1.5 K9K paired with the same six-speed manual as in the Renaults. I was offered only the diesel powertrain for the test drive.

This 1,461 cc, four-cylinder engine develops 110 PS of power and 240 Nm of torque. It is a loud oil burner on the outside, but NVH levels have been contained well for a quiet cabin. The six-speed gearbox features relatively short first two gears, but tall gears after. So overtaking and cruising on third and fourth gears shouldn’t be a problem. Mild turbo lag leaves the throttle feeling numb just fleetingly before peak torque starts kicking in from about 1,750 rpm. The suspension is excellent just like in the Duster, easily absorbing most of the potholes and wild undulations on the roads around Bhuj. Unfortunately, the steering also feels very much like in the Duster and Captur; over-assisted and lacking in feel, and even twitchy while cornering.

Bottom Line

There is an ‘Eco’ mode on offer that can be activated with the flip of a switch. The mode seemed more like a change in throttle mapping. Official ARAI mileage numbers haven’t been announced yet, but I got an average of about 14 kmpl during my test drive. A few nifty convenience features improve the Kicks’ appeal as a modern SUV, including auto headlamps and rain-sensing wipers. Safety features include vehicle dynamic control and Hill Start Assist. At launch, the Kicks won’t be offered with an auto gearbox or an all-wheel drive option.

The Kicks is a competitive package with its appealing design and premium cabin. To take on competitors like the Hyundai Creta and even the Jeep Compass (at the top-end), pricing will still remain key and I hope Nissan will be able to offer a good value proposition. Company officials say that, for now, the Terrano will continue to be offered along with the Kicks.

Published on December 13, 2018
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