2018 Nissan Kicks 1.6 petrol first drive review
Nissan has a rich heritage of building SUVs and you will be surprised to know that there was an Indian chapter to that too, which dates back to the 60s. The vehicle that wrote that chapter was called the JONGA - a go-anywhere SUV that was of service in the Indian army. It was the second generation of the Nissan Patrol and its modern-day descendant is a flagship for the brand's SUV operations. Unfortunately, it is neither a war vehicle anymore nor does it have any connection to India. But it certainly has quite a few off-road tricks up its sleeve despite its luxurious heft. I can say that because I went dune-bashing in it in a desert on the outskirts of Dubai.
That is a small story in itself and the experience was courtesy of Nissan India. The Middle East is where's Nissan SUV range has a stronghold and therefore it was the perfect place to sample and understand what Nissan's modern-day SUVs are capable of. We had a choice of four SUVs to drive through the day - the Patrol mothership; the Pathfinder, which lends its design direction to the Terrano; the X-trail, that unfortunately isn't coming to India anymore given the high taxation on hybrids; and the Kicks, which is currently one of Nissan's smallest offerings in the SUV space alongside the Juke. Given the time constraints post the dune bashing, I diverted all my attention to the Kicks and let the other SUVs be. You may have already heard about Nissan's plans of introducing the Kicks to India, but the car that you see here is not it. I still went after it, since it is a good starting point to get an insight into what is coming our way.
Seen here is the Middle-East spec Nissan which is different in size and specification to the model headed to India
The development of the Kicks in India follows the same path as the Captur, meaning that compared its compact European (or Middle Eastern) counterpart, it will be a size larger. The recent teaser images (pictured below) revealed by Nissan India hint that the finer details, like the streamlined shape for the headlights, the boomerang inspired taillights, the V-motion grille etc., will look more or less similar to the Kicks you see here.
Spy shots courtesy - Indian Autos Blog
The India-spec will have wheel arches that flare out more for an imposing stance. Given the current trend, I'm hoping to see a dual tone paint-scheme with the Kicks too and I particularly like the grey-body-tangerine-roof combo sold in the United States (pictured below).
While the India-spec Captur shares its platform with the Duster and Terrano, the Kicks will be based on Nissan's versatile V-platform. Compared to the car seen here, the Kicks headed to India will be longer and will sit on a higher ground clearance and a longer wheelbase.
The compact dimensions of the Kicks we sampled makes it very hatchback-like in space and feel. The view from the driver's seat is, therefore, not as high as you would like from an SUV. However, the India-spec model will offer a relatively more commanding view of the road. The quality of materials used in our test car seemed to be on par with our Captur long-term tester, but the Kicks certainly has better aesthetics than its French cousin.
The ME-spec Nissan Kicks we spent time with was a base-spec model but the range-topping trim comes with a better kit overall comprising of an eight-inch touchscreen system that looks better and is more feature rich than the Media-NAV system from the Captur/Terrano. The same infotainment system will come to India as well and like the competition, it will offer Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. To that effect, earlier this year, Nissan Motor Company's Vice President for Global Design, Alfonso Albaisa, told OVERDRIVE, "Design sells in India and so does technology expression. Maybe in other markets, you have a balance of things on the interior, but we are hearing from our Indian customers that they want a big screen and connectivity. The Indian market also has great suppliers for connectivity! So that requirement is a bit of a priority for us, different from the other markets."
The Kicks sold in Dubai only comes with a 1.6l, 120PS/149Nm petrol engine, which is a refined motor that belongs to the familiar HR line-up of engines from Renault-Nissan. We managed to drive the Kicks on the highway and within the city and the engine, with its CVT gearbox, felt adequate for these chores. The India-spec model might continue to use the tried and tested 105PS 1.5l petrol and the 110PS 1.5 diesel instead to keep the development costs and tax benefits in check. The latter will undoubtedly be the volume generator.
The ride quality on Dubai's butter smooth highways was decent but felt quite like a hatchback when I managed to drive it on a rough road. The suspension is a tad bit noisy and the ride gets quite jarring on the sharper bumps. Handling is pretty neutral and this isn't an enthusiast's car. It remains to be seen on the higher ride height of the India-spec Kicks changes things.
Save for the design and connectivity options then, the upcoming India-spec model will have little in common with the ME-spec Kicks we drove. But the takeaway for me is that the car we sampled feels like a modern compact crossover that is easy to drive and more cosmopolitan in its appeal. It instantly reminded me of the Nissan Juke that had left me impressed a couple of years back. I hope that the Indian-spec Kicks is able to replicate that and not end up feeling (and being) more utilitarian instead, in a bid to be more a butch SUV in comparison. Nissan has the case of the India-spec Captur to learn from and addressing those concerns should help them create a contender that can create waves in the Rs 14-20 lakh SUV bracket when it is launched in January 2019.
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