Why would I buy it?
- Mid-range performance
- Ride quality
- Good looks
Why would I avoid it?
Nissan's diminishing dealer network
Engine and Performance
Petrol power is all that one gets with the Nissan Kicks, albeit in two BS6 offerings. A 105bhp/142Nm 1.5-litre naturally-aspirated petrol with only a five-speed manual gearbox, and the new 154bhp/254Nm 1.3-litre turbocharged petrol with either a six-speed manual (we have here) or a CVT automatic transmission. Post cranking this 1.3-litre mill, you won’t be left with the impression that this is one of the more silent or refined engines, simply because it puts up a considerable share of NVH.
But first thing first, the lack of low-end torque means you’ll end up stalling the engine numerous times to get on the move. Two ways out of this are to either feed in more throttle or keep the auto start/stop mechanism on so that it instantly cranks again. Now we noticed that there’s a substantial amount of turbo-lag at low revs (below 2,000rpm). So, the only way one can see some usable road action in this rev range is to slot into a lower gear and keep the revs on the boil at over 2,000rpm. This is where the surge picks up prominently, after which, keeping it pinned will let it run away strongly till about 4,500rpm, before tapering off gradually until the 6,000rpm redline.
It’s this resilient mid-range punch that not only allows for some fun behind the wheel but what’s also needed to perform overtakes/speedy manoeuvres. Likewise, our Vbox equipment clocked the run from 0-100kmph in a respectable 10.24 seconds. Moreover, our drivability tests of 20-80kmph (third gear)/40-100kmph (fourth gear) took a reasonably swift 9.41/12.51 seconds. Our only gripe is that the notchy gearshifts with a heavy clutch robbed us of some quick-shifting fun. But besides that, the gear lever benefits from short throws and well-defined gates.
Ride Quality and Handling
From the Kicks’ ride and handling attributes stem a comfortable ride, both on smooth and broken roads. The latter is taken care of in its stride with considerable ease. Sure, the suspension feels a wee bit firm over the harsher bumps, but it never gets to the point of being intolerable. And also adding to its set of repertoires is the lofty 210mm of high ground clearance which allows the Kicks to steer clear of most road hurdles.
Even the chassis balance is quite favourable as per SUV standards. But that’s only if one doesn’t push it too hard around the bends. This way, only a controllable amount of body roll is experienced. Meanwhile, the steering itself isn’t quick (three turns from lock-to-lock) and is on the heavier side which becomes apparent whilst parking. Otherwise, the steering is quite feelsome and weighs up appropriately as the momentum rises. But the exciting bit is that there’s some neat torque steer to be sensed. Also, braking feel by far is confidence-inspiring even in panic situations.
Comfort, Convenience, and Features
Much like the exterior, the Kicks’ cabin remains untouched. As such, it’s an uncluttered ergonomic one that boasts both premium looking materials as well as some that aren’t, the latter mainly seen lower down in the cabin. That apart, the cabin is draped in a yummy chocolate brown shade, which when combined with the similarly dyed leather upholstered seats, produces an interestingly palatable experience. We specifically found the floating eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system with its orderly layout of controls to provide a respectable user experience.
It’s clear to me now though, that things like the climate control setup, power window switches, and stalk controls that’ve been borrowed from the Duster/Captur parts-bin can be a disappointment to most. Notwithstanding, the Kicks is a large spacious SUV that not only offers adequate head-, knee-and shoulder-room overall, it’s also able to provide seating for three adults at the rear without a squeeze. Yes, there are AC vents here, but we’d certainly have approved of an adjustable backrest, and maybe even some more under-thigh support, but I’ll admit that I’m just plain nit-picking now.
Other than that, storage options here are limited, but what partially makes up for this flaw is the Kicks’ cavernous 400-litre boot-space that satisfies the most varied requirements. Plus, the features included in the Kicks XV Premium (O) dual-tone version are the automatic headlamps, electrically adjustable door mirrors, cruise control, front fog-lamps with the cornering function, a cooled glove-box, rear AC vents, rain-sensing wipers, ‘Nissan Connect’ functionality, and a segment-first 360-degree camera with parking sensors. However, it sadly misses out on important ones such as auto-dimming inner mirror, a sunroof possibly, and wireless charging of course.
The Nissan Kicks makes its case worthwhile by being well-equipped with a host of safety features that include adjustable headrests, ABS, EBD, and four airbags, electronic stability control, hill start assist, seat-belt and speed warning, traction control system, and vehicle stability management system.
Upfront, the Kicks sports Nissan's latest V-Motion grille. And, this being the top-spec variant means there are full-LED headlamps with good-looking DRLs to savour. In profile, you can spot the cross-over stance of the Kicks owing to the shape of the roofline as well as the flared well arches that house the diamond cut 17-inch alloys with wide rubber. The rear, on the other hand, is quite dramatic due to stylish tail lamps, layered sloping elements, and the blacked-out C-pillar which gives the effect of a floating roof. If attention is what you want, the Kicks will serve it to you in oodles.
The turbocharged Kicks range in the manual avatar starts from Rs 14.67 to Rs 17.12 lakh (OTR Mumbai), and to just give you an idea, it’s more affordable than the top-of-the-line Kia Seltos that’s more feature-laden but less powerful. What goes heavily under the axe for this Nissan is the lack of modern features and a dwindling dealer network that’s also known for its inconsistent service support. This is truly unfortunate considering the Kicks is a robust, capable, and handsome SUV with strong performance and dynamics to match.
Pictures by Kapil Angane