The Great Rann of Kutch: Nissan may have been a bit under the radar in India lately, but they are about to kick up a storm and shake things up by early 2019 with the launch of the new Nissan KICKS. The stylish compact SUV which is already on sale in certain international markets has some important changes in the India specced version.
We were at the Rann of Kutch recently for an exclusive media drive experience, and came back with a first hand report after testing it for over 250 odd kms.
Nissan KICKS makes a strong first impression with its design. Since it is positioned as a smart premium offering for urban markets, the crossover styling gets prioritised over hardcore SUV substance. It has oodles of road presence with its angular design and muscular haunches but may look comparatively smaller to others in the segment due to its lower height. But that isn’t a bother. The signature ‘V-Motion’ front grille finished in chrome, combined with the blacked out LED headlamps gives the Nissan KICKS a strong front fascia. The blacked out pillars on the side and floating roof in contrasting colours together with the shark fin antenna, roof rails and 17″ alloys give it a sporty and youthful profile. The rear is well designed too, with the swooping rear windscreen and boomerang tail lamps adding to its attractiveness. Overall, the Nissan KICKS definitely gets a second glance on the road, thanks to its unique design. The imposing front and fender, longer wheel base, wider body, lower height and 210 mm ground clearance makes it a well proportioned vehicle with a great stance.
The interiors are smart, premium and extremely well finished with quality material all around. There are no compromises whatsoever, in terms of fit & finish and it feels like being inside a vehicle that is from a segment above. The all-leather interior with quilted seats stitched in black & brown dual tone gives the cabin an ultra premium ambience. There are a host of features including a soft touch leather wrapped dashboard and door trims, a leather wrapped steering wheel, a semi-digital instrument cluster with MID and analogue speedometer, and an 8″ touchscreen infotainment display. The floating design of the touchscreen is well integrated, and the break in design flow makes it the centre of attraction inside the cabin. It is a breeze to operate with no lag whatsoever, and comes equipped with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. A host of tech integration through Nissan Connect 2.0 give customers a lot more control, convenience, safety and security over their vehicle. Other creature comforts include keyless entry, start/ stop ignition button, automatic climate control, rear AC vents, rear parking sensors and cruise control.
Storage space around the cabin may seem a bit inadequate. While the doors can fit in 1.0L bottles on all four, the cooled glove box is compact and may not hold as much as you may wish to stuff. There are cubby holes in the centre console but no storage under the central arm rest. The rear seat comes with an arm rest with two cup holders, but you won’t find flaps on the back of the front seats.
The one feature however that sets the Nissan KICKS apart from its segment competitors is the inclusion of an Around View Monitor. The system utilises cameras around the car to create a 360° view of the outside environment and is a smart piece of tech that is usually found in the luxury segment. The AVM alerts the driver of any obstacles in potential blind spots, and is a great feature to have in Indian cities.
In terms of safety equipment and features, the Nissan KICKS comes with 4 airbags, ABS, EBD, Electronic Stability Control, Hill Start Assist. Rain Sensing Wipers and Cornering Fog Lamps.
The cabin offers adequate room for four adults with ample head and shoulder room. Rear legroom is good, but may be at a premium if occupants at the front happen to be taller than average. The boot is large at 400L and serves well for family luggage over an extended road trip.
The Nissan KICKS shares its powertrain with the Renault Captur, and will be launched in both petrol and diesel variants. The petrol variant will be the 1.5L 4-cylinder unit which produces 106 PS of power and 142 Nm of torque, and the diesel variant will be the 1.5L dCi engine, producing 110 PS of power and 240 Nm of torque. While the petrol engine is mated to a 5-speed manual transmission, the diesel engine gets a 6-speed manual transmission. It is expected that an automatic variant will be added to the portfolio at a later date, although no formal announcement has been made yet.
We drove the 6-speed manual diesel and were blown away with how well it handled. Nissan’s offerings have traditionally been good at providing a comfortable ride, at the expense of handling quality. With the KICKS however, high speed stability and cornering ability have been vastly improved. The car is a delight around sharp corners with minimal body roll and remained stable at high speeds upto 150 km/h on straights. The steering is well weighted, the transmission quick & responsive and power delivery is smooth. The vehicle feels supremely secure and solid too. While the quiet cabin shuts out the world, the driving dynamics and responsiveness inspires confidence and ensures that you remain engaged and connected. Never lonely or bored.
One feature that we sorely missed was the dead pedal. For a vehicle suited for impromptu road trips, it is a glaring omission. A telescopic steering would have been nice too.
With the KICKS, Nissan aims to transform its strategy in India. At a product level, we think it has done a great job, and the vehicle holds tremendous promise. For its impactful design, comfortable cabin, premium trims and a host of first-in-segment tech, it is well worth a consideration. Topped with a driving experience that could rival some more expensive offerings, Nissan might just have a winner at hand. Pricing and expansion of after sales & service would however hold the key. While it is widely speculated that the Nissan KICKS would be priced between INR 11.0 lacs to INR 14.0 lacs, we feel there may be a surprise in store. Pricing the base model under INR 10.0 lacs with a range topping model at under INR 12.5 lacs would be the sweet spot. But we will have to wait for a while to know more.
Bookings for the Nissan KICKS have begun, and the vehicle is expected to hit the roads by end of January 2019. Watch this space for more updates and a complete review once it hits the roads.