Nissan’s Kicks is probably one of the most underrated and under-appreciated SUVs on sale today. This is partly because first impressions aren’t very promising. The edgy looks don’t sit well with some of the more traditional buyers, the Kicks feels a bit laid-back when you want to set off, and then, as the steering is a touch heavy at parking speed, first impressions aren’t great. The Kicks, however, has other skills.
MUSCLE UP: Steering needs a bit of effort at parking speeds, especially as you wind on the lock.
Now I hadn’t driven this car for months but getting into the cabin after a long day at work soon has me going wow. I’d almost forgotten how well this cabin is put together. The build is solid and the dash has very few low-quality bits. What I particularly like is that old-world charm the high-quality leather and chrome exude. And the quilted leather-lined front seats are extremely comfortable too.
FLIP FLAP: Up the blower speed and the vent snaps shut; quite infuriating on a hot day.
Pairing my phone to the car for the first time is also a breeze, and the fact that I manage to do it while waiting at a longish signal, also shows just how intuitive and easy to use the system is. Even the screen is right up there with the best in class. Crisp, clear and bright, the interface is logically laid out and ‘clicks’ nicely every time you successfully execute a touch command. Using the phone is easy, as your list of recent calls is neatly displayed; you can run through them without inadvertently dialing someone while scrolling. And then to top it all, the audio system sounds punchy and clear.
SOFT TOUCH: Touchscreen is slick and has a smartly designed interface.
The next morning I am to join colleagues on a shoot and need to go across town and then out on the highway for a bit. And the Kicks impresses even more here. Part of this is down to the tough tank-like build that’s missing on most ‘soft-roaders’.
Mumbai’s monsoon-ravaged streets are currently a motley collection of potholes, some of which are large enough to sound like you’ve run over an antipersonnel mine. The Kicks, however, rides over most with a deeply impressive degree of nonchalance. This is because both, damping and sound insulation are very good. In fact, the ride is so good, I no longer need to dodge around most of BMC’s finest craters. And that feels great.
ANY ROAD, ANYWHERE: Suspension is built tough, and ride is very comfy, without being too bouncy or soft.
The more I drive the Kicks the less I get troubled by the relaxed throttle responses. I also come to appreciate the smooth engine, the good sound insulation and the strong and sustained thrust that comes in after around 2,000rpm. Nice. The diesel even revs all the way to 5,000rpm, without sounding like something cataclysmic is about to happen under the bonnet. So when a gap in traffic opens out on the highway, I can happily squeeze every last horse from the diesel.
What seems to make driving up to our shoot location even more pleasant is that the Kicks just seems to love speed. It inspires massive confidence even on a wet road, the steering feels firmly in command of the front wheels even as speeds build, and though it doesn’t quite have the agility of say the Renault Captur, its sister car, it’s even happy to enter corners at speed. I’m at the shoot earlier than expected. Nothing to do now, but go on a bit of an exploratory drive. . .
First impressions sometimes don’t give you an accurate picture.
Photography: Omkar Dhas
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