2019 Nissan Kicks first drive review
The Nissan Kicks, all puns aside, shows that Nissan isn't throwing any punches any more the Kicks is a redesigned and re-engineered model just for India. It's meant to be a more premium alternative to their Terrano SUV, and it packs in a few segment firsts to uphold that more-premium claim, over the whole segment too! Under the skin, it's a mix of some of the best of what we've come to expect from cars of the Renault-Nissan alliance. But it'll really have to be something special to take the fight to the segment leader from Hyundai, the Creta.
First, how does it look?
The Kicks crossover sold internationally is large at just under 4.3m long (even though based on the Micra hatch platform), but with the India-spec Kicks, Nissan has groomed most of the crossover out of it and made it larger! They've based it on the M0 platform we've seen before on the Terrano/Duster. The result? A smart, handsome looking SUV with just the right mix of curves, an upright stance, and modern design elements. To wit, it's 53mm longer than the Terrano, 15mm less in height, with the same wheelbase and 210mm ground clearance. It's been a while since we've seen an SUV, or car, for that matter have lighting elements that don't flow into the grille. And for that reason, the face of the Kicks stands out.
Roofline really takes a dive towards the rear of the SUV, makes for a sharply-raked windscreen
It gets the frills - LED headlights, LED DRLs, a blacked-out D-pillar for the floating roof look, butch plastic body cladding and 17-wheels that fill the arches well enough. The rear door also kicks up towards the D-pillar in a funky-looking flourish. The roofline drops quite low towards the rear, into a quite steeply raked rear windscreen. It is a small viewing space, as we found from inside, but it helps reduce visual bulk at the rear. The tail lamps could be called ordinary during the day, and they don't have LED detailing, so they remain that way at night too.
Clean layout, looks and feels very premium, with plush leather across face of the low-set dashboard
But, it's premium inside right?
That's true, the Kicks will likely tick most boxes inside. And surprise you too! First, it's got a leather covered panel on the face of the dash, making your first impression excellent. The new 'wing' design and floating eight-inch touchscreen help too. Instead of plain black plastic or gloss, the touch points have a carbon-fibre weave, which we all know means good things. The infotainment itself is modern, intuitive, and has physical controls, an always appreciated touch. There's detailing around the climate control knobs too which make it feel more tactile, like on the Renault Captur. The bit that really makes you feel like it's not just a snazzy Terrano inside, is the new, smaller and modern-feeling steering wheel. The steering mounted controls are, surprise, surprise, for cruise control, with audio controls still on a stalk hidden behind the wheel, much like on the Terrano/Duster. Also, the fixed-positioning of the driver's arm rest still gets in the way of buckling up your seat belt, and using the hand brake.
Spacious enough for three, with good headroom despite low roofline. Quilted leather upholstery feels rich, and makes sure you, and your passengers don't slide around on it
Though, the high-set driver's seating position of its cousins continue, and it's something I personally just can't seem to get used to. Others may call it commanding. A segment first is a 360-degree view when reversing, something barely seen in a segment above too, though an auto-dimming inner rear-view mirror is expected at this price. Space at the rear is more than comfortable, except for a strangely short rear seatback, and not too tall headrests. The boot is square, and flat throughout and appears larger than its 400 litres of cargo space would suggest. The Kicks gets two airbags, hill start assist, ABS with EBD and traction control, which can't be switched off unfortunately.
Does it drive differently too?
Like we said, the Kicks is an amalgamation of engineering we're familiar with, under those new exteriors. It rides on the M0-platform, has 210mm of ground clearance, and will only be offered with a manual gearbox and two-wheel drive. Powering it is the 1.5-litre K9K diesel engine in its 110PS/240Nm state of tune, as on Renault-Nissan vehicles here. The familiar 1.5-litre petrol engine (and five-speed manual gearbox) is also on offer, though not for us on this occasion.
Wheelbase the same as on the Terrano, but overall length is up by 50+mm while ground clearance is a comfortable 210mm
The diesel sounds the slightest bit more refined from the outside, and that's a similar feeling inside as well. On the move, there's still a few vibes that come in through the gear lever but shifts themselves are smooth. The big question of lag, as associated with this engine, is thankfully absent. It will pick up from under 2,000rpm but really prefers moving above it, especially from low momentum scenarios, like from over speed breakers.
The Kicks seems to have the shorter gear ratios, as offered on the Duster AWD, and that goes a long way towards masking the engine's lag, and highlighting its weighty mid-range punch. Highway cruising speeds (100-120kmph) has the engine spinning from 2,100-2,600rpm, though enough of that mid-range is available for overtakes. Speaking of weighty punches, the steering is light enough for city work and firms up at speed admirably - but it still suffers a bit of kickback, as on its cousins. This makes it feel like the front wheels are scrabbling towards two different directions sometimes. But it makes up for it with the same firm, yet comfortable ride quality over all kinds of roads - which is the Kicks' strongest point and the one thing we see most people falling in love with - it really is that good. Our route had a few fast sweeping corners and the Kicks stayed firmly glued to tarmac, with confidence. Except for when the road surface wasn't perfect, which is when the steering kickback issue starts showing up, albeit in a meeker fashion than what we've seen before. In a bid to make the brakes progressive, which they are, we're left wanting for outright braking power unless the pedal is really stepped on hard.
Should you buy one?
If you value being different, the Kicks is worth a look. It's good looking, it's fresh, and premium inside. It also offers a solid drive, but doesn't break new ground here. And that perhaps is its biggest problem (apart from Nissan's service network), as good as it is, it isn't different enough to challenge the best. If Nissan can get the pricing right, offering these premium features at the same or lower price point than the Hyundai Creta (so between Rs 9-14 lakh, ex-showroom), then it's got a fighting chance of changing some minds in its favour.
Starts Rs 9.55 Lakhs
Starts Rs 9.5 Lakhs
Starts Rs 10 Lakhs
Team OD | 21 Jan 2019
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