The Nissan Kicks operates in a very competitive segment which is the compact SUV space. With the Hyundai Creta and the Kia Seltos owning the segment, Nissan had to up its game with the Kicks, in order to compete with the bigwigs. And it did, sort of, by putting the 1.3-litre turbocharged petrol engine under the hood (the same unit that the Renault Duster gets). This particular engine is the most powerful turbo petrol motor in the segment. My colleague Shams drove the Duster 1.3 Turbo and was impressed with the performance. So here I am, trying to get some 'Kicks' out of the same engine, in a different body.
Also Read: Renault Duster 1.3 Turbo Review
What has changed?
The engine under the hood is new. Well, it is the same as the one on the Duster. It displaces 1,330 cc and makes 154 bhp at 5,500 rpm along with peak torque of 254 Nm from a very low 1,600 rpm. Our test car had a 7-step CVT gearbox. What is interesting is that the 1.3 turbo engine borrows the cylinder coating technology from the famed Nissan GT-R or the Godzilla, meaning there is a bit of the GT-R in the Kicks and that's a good thing, obviously!
Plus, the turbo unit on the engine gets an electric waste-gate which when coupled with a high-pressure direct fuel injection system and electrically actuated variable cams; the motor offers you performance beyond your expectation. Plus, the tech from the GT-R and the overall updates make for a very refined engine too. There is a likeable hum that you can hear inside the cabin. It is definitely not noise. NVH levels are decent enough
The performance of the 1.3 turbo motor feels quite refined and eager. There is no dearth of pulling power even at the bottom end but the engine truly comes into its own in the mid-range. Even a gentle tap on the throttle responds in instant acceleration and that does feel good. The power on tap translates into quick overtakes be it in city or the highway. The 7-step CVT is one of the better CVT units we have experienced. It doesn't feel inadequate, although the engine is so good that a better automatic gearbox would have worked wonders.
The SUV does feel a little cumbersome in traffic thanks to an oddly heavy steering. It does get better at high speeds though. One will feel some torque steer at high speeds but nothing that will make you feel uncomfortable. As far as ride quality is concerned, the Kicks irons out most of the undulations decently, although the setup is on the firmer side. You will still feel the sharp-edged bumps climbing up your spine. There is decent body-roll should you wish to corner hard, but overall, the Kicks feels planted at high speeds. The suspension is strong enough to tackle bad roads on a continued basis.
There is no change to the exterior styling of the Nissan Kicks. The SUV continues to have a crossover-like silhouette and good proportions. A rather odd fact that we found out was that the Kicks 1.3 Turbo does not have any badging, decals or a sign saying that it gets a turbo charged engine under the hood. Talk about being extraordinarily subtle here. We mean a customer would like his/her car to embrace the fact that it is indeed a 'Turbo'. There is absolutely no way to distinguish from the outside whether the Kicks is a turbo model or not! Straightaway that is a miss in our books!
Well, the interior stays the same too. There is no change in the cabin. It feels solidly built, gets a nice leather padded dashboard, but there are a few cheap plastic bits used especially on the door panels and the gear knob itself feels very cheap to hold. The ergonomics aren't that great either. The gear knob is a little low set and it is a little difficult to find a good driving position. But the seats themselves are comfortable. The rear passengers have enough room too, but miss out on a USB charger. Up front, there are no cup holders and the cubby hole is a touch too deep, so if you put your phone, wallet or other such paraphernalia there, retrieving it may not be as quick and easy.
The 8-inch floating touchscreen on the dashboard is capacitive and offers good feedback. You also get smartphone connectivity options via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (mention which variants get it and what's available in the base). Plus, the Nissan Connect app helps you get fair bit of connected car features as well. The key card gets a special button for remote engine start, which is quite helpful in case you want to start the car remotely. If the AC is left on, then it will cool the cabin as well.
The Nissan Kicks gets dual airbags along with anti-lock brakes and electronic brake-force distribution as standard. Rear parking sensors are standard too. The turbo models get traction control, vehicle stability management, electronic stability control and hill start assist as standard. The top-spec XV Premium (O) trim gets a 360 degree camera along with an extra airbag on the driver side.
Pricing and rivals
The Kicks finds itself among elite competition in the Hyundai Creta, Kia Seltos and its own sibling, the Renault Duster among other. The prices of the Nissan Kicks 1.3 turbo start at ₹ 11.85 lakh, going up to ₹ 14.15 lakh. The prices of the Creta 1.4 Turbo start at ₹ 16.16 lakh and go up to ₹ 17.20 lakh. Similarly, the prices of the Seltos 1.4 Turbo start at ₹ 15.54 lakh and go up to ₹ 17.29 lakh. Therefore, the Kicks 1.3 undercuts the Seltos and the Creta significantly.
But, it loses out to its cousin, the Renault Duster 1.3 Turbo in terms of pricing as the Duster turbo prices start at ₹ 10.49 lakh and go up to ₹ 13.59 lakh. All prices mentioned are ex-showroom, Delhi. Of course, you also get the non turbo 1.5-litre petrol variants, which are significantly more affordable than the turbo models, with just two variants, XL and XV, whose prices are ₹ 9.49 lakh and ₹ 9.99 lakh respectively. And of course, like the Duster, Nissan has done away with the diesel engine for the Kicks too.
The Nissan Kicks 1.3 Turbo offers solid performance but loses out on refinement, features and comfort. Having said that, it is close to ₹ 2 lakh cheaper than the Korean duo of Creta and Seltos, but the price difference too is nullified by the sheer popularity of the other two. It may be value for money, but it is yet to catch up with its rivals in many aspects. But if you do end up buying one, you will have fun driving the Kicks 1.3 Turbo.