The Nissan Kicks has become the successor to the radically-styled Juke globally. The small SUV has finally made it into the Indian market and finds itself bang in the middle of the territory that is ruled by the Hyundai Creta. The immediate future of Nissan India depends on how well the Kicks does, and it is a key enabler in the company registering the planned 5% market share by 2022.
Well, bringing in one of its latest nameplates to our shores should work just fine, but there's more to this new SUV than meets the eye. The India-spec Nissan Kicks isn't the same as its global iteration. Instead, it shares its underpinnings and the motors with some of the older members in the Renault-Nissan family. Apart from employing tried-and-tested hardware, the new model even offers a handful of segment-first features. Our Nissan Kicks review should help you find out if all the above is enough to let the new model take on the segment-leader.
The Same But Different
Globally, the Nissan Kicks is based on the Micra's 'Versatile' platform. The Indian model, however, shares its base with the Duster's B0/Logan architecture. While the shared platform should assist the carmaker to reduce production costs, it has even resulted in more significant dimensions that make the SUV very relevant to our market. Moreover, the increased size helps the Kicks enjoy a proper SUV stance.
While the bigger size, a flat bonnet, upright greenhouse, and high ground clearance of 210 mm lend the Kicks a macho look, the above-mentioned styling elements form a strong visual connection with the international version. The India-spec Nissan Kicks is not only bigger than the Hyundai Creta in every dimension but is even longer than the Renault Duster. Its wheelbase, at 2,673 mm, however, stays the same.
In spite of every inch of the sheet metal being exclusive to the Indian Kicks, the new model's styling is entirely in line with that of the global version. Up front, it features the company's signature V-motion grille, which is flanked by sleek headlamps that carry LED projector units and ultra-cool boomerang-style DRLs. The bumper features chrome trim, rectangular foglamps, and a faux skid plate. In the side profile, the Kicks features machined 17-inch alloy wheels, a quarter-glass for the front window, and a contrasting colour for the roof. The plastic cladding in the lower section is an extension of the lower part of the front bumper and lends a rugged look to the SUV. Highlights of the rear include wrap-around tail lamps, a faux skid plate and a roof-mounted spoiler.
Chic and Well-equipped
Step inside, and the Nissan Kicks for our market is almost entirely different from what you get abroad. That said, you'll be quick to appreciate the attention paid to the fit and finish and the material quality. The overall black-brown theme gives the cabin an upmarket look, while bits like the soft-touch leather pad on the dashboard with white stitching, quilted leather seats, and the brushed silver accents lend a premium touch.
The front seats are adequately comfortable and offer decent lumbar support. Overall, the ergonomics are spot on, with the driver benefitting from a commanding driving position and having all the controls easily within reach. The chunky steering wheel feels good to hold. At the rear, the wide seat and the flat floor result in adequate space for three occupants. That said, the under-thigh support could have been a tad better, and the overall dark ambience and the upward sweeping window line make things slightly claustrophobic.
The foldable centre armrest on the rear seat has provision to carry two cans/small water bottles, while the door pockets are quite deep and can carry a 1-litre bottle each. Strangely, however, the front centre armrest doesn't have a storage area beneath it. What's even stranger is that the cup holders generally found below the centre-console are conspicuous by their absence. Other issues include the lack of a dead pedal and that the steering is adjustable only for rake, and not for reach.
The top-spec trim comes with several bells and whistles. The frills on offer include automatic aircon, rear AC vents, cooled & illuminated glove box, Around View Monitor Display (AVM) 360 Camera, and an 8.0-inch Floating infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity. The safety equipment includes Intelligent Trace Control (Vehicle Stability Control), ABS with EBD & Braking Assist, Cruise Control, Auto Headlamps, Front & Rear Fog lamps with corner feature, Hill Start Assist, and Four Airbags.
Familiar and Delightful
For our test drive review, we drove the diesel version which comes with the critically-acclaimed 1.5-litre K9K diesel engine. The oil burner puts out a maximum power of 110 PS and a peak torque of 240 Nm. It comes mated to a 6-speed Manual Transmission. There's no surprise here; the Kicks drives almost entirely like the Duster. There's a noticeable lag until 1,750 rpm, after which there's a remarkable surge in performance. The engine is quite eager to rev, and the meat of the powerband is between 2,000-4,000 RPM. The NVH is better controlled than in the Terrano and the Duster. That said, some of the diesel engine clattering does creep into the cabin at low speeds, but it never gets annoying.
The six-speed transmission has well-defined ratios and offers a slick shift action. The clutch action is relatively light, too. There's not much to complain here, but an automatic gearbox should make the Kicks a more accomplished cruiser. Moreover, the automatic unit will help the company market its latest SUV as a genuinely premium SUV.
Thanks to the platform-sharing, the dynamics stay mostly similar to those of the Duster and the Terrano, which is a good thing. The steering is well-weighted at high speeds, and at the same time, isn't too heavy to manoeuvre the car around the tight spots on a congested street. There's a slight body roll at moderate-to-high speeds, but things never get unnerving. The high-speed stability is decent, too.
But like the Duster, it's the ride quality that's the new offering's forte. The Kicks can glide over most of the surfaces and irons out most of the irregularities without losing its composure and letting the undulations affect the occupants. Well, the new model exhibits the kind of ride quality that one associate with some of the pricier models. While the brakes are adequately potent to haul down the Kicks from high speeds, they seem to lack adequate bite unless the brake pedal is pressed hard.
The Indian Nissan Kicks not only is flamboyant but manages to look a wee bit more macho owing to its larger dimensions. In spite of sharing most of its hardware with some of the older models in the Renault-Nissan lineup, the Kicks comes across as a thoroughly modern vehicle that feels adequately premium. True, there's no automatic option, and the cabin has a few rough edges, but the Nissan Kicks does have a lot going for it. While prices aren't out yet, if it is positioned in the INR 9 lakh-13 lakh range, it should make the new SUV a great value proposition and a worthy opponent to the very popular Hyundai Creta.