Kushan Mitra drives the new Nissan Kicks not only on the road but also gets a taste of it on the white desert. A good way to start an SUV review, we think. The landscape between Bhuj and the village of Dhordo at the start of the White Desert that separates Gujarat from Sindh is barren. But the fleet of Nissan Kicks compact SUVs or Sports Utility Vehicles storming across the sandy plains gave a much-needed splash of colour.
The Nissan Kicks was unveiled a few months ago and discussions about the cars exterior design have gone on for a while. The ‘floating roof’ concept that is popular with carmakers nowadays is particularly well executed on the Kicks. But how is it to drive, given that the Kicks is Nissan’s version of the Renault Captur – a vehicle that didn’t set the market alight when it launched. The cars we tested are all top-spec diesel manual variants, featuring the same 1.5 litre 110PS (108 bhp) dCi engine that we have known since the Duster, mated to a six-speed gearbox. There is a petrol option with a 1.5 litre 106PS (104 bhp) engine as well which has a five-speed box that we didn’t drive. Surprisingly, given the demands of consumers in this segment, Nissan India is not launching the car with an automatic option – just like the Captur didn’t.
Nissan executives admitted that’s a miss, and hinted that an automatic – possibly a standard torque-converter box – is on its way for both engine options. Hope it comes sooner than later given about 30 per cent of that market is now going auto.
From a drive technology point of view, the Nissan Kicks has a Hill Start Assist feature, Vehicle Dynamic Control (Nissan’s name for a stability program) as well as a 360-degree camera for reversing and driving into tight spots. The camera works until the vehicle crosses 10 kilometres per hour. The ‘All Round View’ feature is a first-in-class USP and is really useful in tough situations. As for drivability, the road to Bhuj was very straight and level for the large part so there was not much one say on the handling front.
Ride quality however on the few bumpy, rather undulating asphalt was better than one would have expected, although these were factory fresh cars. But given how we liked both departments on the Captur, this is not altogether surprising. NVH (or noise and vibration) levels are superb. After a little start-up clatter, the Kicks is very quiet both inside and outside. The engine also delivers enough power when you need it, acceleration from 30 kmph per hour in third gear is very good and even when you’re on sixth gear at around 1200 revs and doing 80 kmph, the Kicks can easily climb to highway speeds without seeming to strain.
The car also does not feel uncomfortable going fast for extended periods of time. The 75 kilometres between Bhuj and Dhordo were covered in just over an hour, and yes it helped that the cows in the area had gone to sleep – possibly smart given its election season!