Everything you need to know about the 2018 Nissan Kicks
Nissan's latest entrant into the crossover market, aims squarely at young city-bound people, looking for their first car
apanese auto-maker Nissan has an incredibly vast portfolio of vehicles. There is a sedan, hatchback, SUV or pick-up truck with a Nissan badge in almost every segment, each catering to a certain kind of customer. And for those looking for their first SUV - what we call starter SUV - they have the recently-launched Nissan Kicks. Positioned below the X-Trail, it replaces both the popular Tiida and the comically-styled Juke; and Nissan has limited the starting price to about Dh60,000 to keep things affordable. To buy or not to buy? Let's take a closer look.
DESIGN & AESTHETICS
The first time we laid eyes on this sub-compact crossover was at the launch a year ago. And though it may adopt an 'SUV' moniker, it's not much bigger than a hatchback - measuring just 4,295mm end-to-end and 1,760mm hip-to-hip. But it is significantly taller: at 1,590mm height, it grants that elevated perspective people seek.
Though similarly sized to the toad-shaped Juke, it is styled nothing like it. Instead, it takes on familiar cues from its siblings, like the Maxima. The angular nose - with large pulled-back headlamps - is very distinctive and if you can afford the upgrade (SL or SV models), you can make the proper LED units yours as well. At the centre, it sports the corporate chrome V-Motion grille. In profile, its elevated hatch form becomes obvious, but with some deliberate styling - like its floating roof, LED turn signal lights and plastic wheel arches - things are kept interesting. You also find slight bulges around the wheels arches, emphasising its off-roading roots and shoulder creases that fade into a three-quarter panel, all of which indicate this wasn't a shoddy job. At the rear, it's all about the evolved C-motif, or boomerang headlamps as Nissan calls them, with a black plastic bumper and a barely-visible exhaust pipe. The base S variant vehicle gets 16-inch and 20-hole steel wheels, which is good if you're the kind who hates to see rims scratched; the 10-spoke 17-inch alloys are the sportier choice.
The Nissan Kicks may not come across as a beefy all-conquering SUV, but it does have a certain amount of distinction and road presence that one may find endearing.
Reserved for the SL trim is the I-key, which makes getting in a simple act. With it, you can just walk up to the car and tug the handle without clicking unlock to open the door. It allows for push-start ignition as well. As standard comes a surprising amount of space - more so than its size suggests. The front cabin is lavish, thanks to the large range of seat adjustability. The spacecraft-inspired "zero gravity" seating, designed to disperse pressure at points, keeps it comfortable but doesn't necessarily create an out-of-this-world experience. and to be honest, the fabric is a bit scratchy. Faux leather is reserved for the SL trim. The rear cabin is similarly fitting for tall adults. But keep the count to two (or three, if they're kids). The seats split in a 60:40 fashion and fold down too.
The driver gets to grip a sporty little flat-bottom wheel, but the blank spot on the spokes - where presumably the cruise control buttons reside - is an agonising sight. It also begs the question: why isn't cruise control available? So, if you're a long hauler, this may be something to consider.
But it does get some extras - like the half-digital and half-analogue instrumentation. To the left, is a 7-inch customisable screen that can be adjusted to relay revs, a compass, tyre pressure etc. In parts, the cabin does have a cost-cutting look and feel, but Nissan has injected fun details to overcome the banality associated with budget cars. Some unique features elevate the ambience in higher models: like the leather-bound dashboard with contrasting stitching and piano black surfaces. And, between all that is a 7-inch infotainment screen - placed neatly like a photo frame on a table - with aesthetically aligned buttons and physical knobs for volume and tune. As for functionality, there is space for a bottle in the door bin, a useful pocket under the centre console and smallish central bin. And you get a couple of USB ports.
POWERTRAIN & PERFORMANCE
All Kicks get their 'kick' from a naturally aspirated 1.6-litre 4-cylinder engine. The 118 horses and 149 Nm of torque it churns out isn't enough to move mountains, nor is it too keen on climbing any. But it is apt for city-scouting purposes. Expectedly, it isn't the quickest to 100 km/hr in its segment, but, Nissan gets points for being honest by putting the 11.5 seconds claim on the spec-sheet.
Being a vehicle of discounted price means you miss out on some standard stuff. For example, braking relies solely on the effect of single discs with a single caliper upfront and drums in the rear. Luckily, the Kicks is such a lightweight, weighing just 1,135 kg at its heaviest, you don't need superhero-like stopping power. And the Hill Start Assist will prevent you from rolling down queued-up ramps of malls on those busy Thursday evenings.
The ride comes across as marginally firm. Your bottom can feel the beat of broken tarmac and it's mostly due to the torsion beam suspension at the rear. The independent struts upfront do help to keep the traction though. The Kicks also uses simple but innovative technologies like Active Trace Control, which intervenes while taking corners by discreetly applying brakes to inner wheels individually to ensure the intended trajectory is maintained. Similarly, Active Ride Control applies the brakes for a split-second after a large bump to reduce the "bounce" effect on the suspension. How much these affect everyday drivability is hard to tell, but from our days of driving it, we know Kicks is good as a daily commuter.
There is play in the electric power steering and so it isn't the most direct. But its light nature mixed with a tight turning radius makes it a rather easy vehicle to meander through traffic and in parking situations. Don't be fooled by the 200mm ground clearance: it will certainly help you avoid a few curbs and potholes, but the only-front-wheel-drive configuration means it is best to keep away from the sands.
The boon of the small displacement engines combined with a light weight is good for fuel economy. Company claims are a hybrid-rivalling 6.1L/100km, but even beyond test scenarios you can expect sub-8L/100km figures. The 41-litre tank may leave you wanting though.
FEATURES & FUNCTIONALITY
For cargo capacity, Nissan says you can fit 2 cycles with the seats folded, 3 golf bags with a single seat folded and 2 suitcases with the seats up. That is more than sufficient! But keep in mind, the seats don't fold flat and there's a loading lip to overcome.
Pumping out your sweet jams is an average sounding 4-speaker stereo system with USB ports and Bluetooth connectivity. Unfortunately, we didn't get the Bose 8-speaker system with the personal space tweeters situated on the front headrests; but you can upgrade to the 6-speaker unit for a more enriching sound in the SV and SL variants.
There is a reverse camera and even a 360-degree view which is a boon for new drivers and those who find parking a task. Filling in the remainder list of "safeties" are 6 airbags (SL model), ABS, rear sensors and ISOFIX points built into the rear seat.
The 2018 Nissan Kicks is geared towards young and tech-savvy individuals who are seeking an easy-to-drive vehicle with an elevated drive position. Some cabin plastics are hard but at least there is plenty of space on the insides. And while this isn't the segment's envy for power and off-road prowess, it did prove itself to be a frugal friend on our journeys.