Nissan’s aggressively priced Kicks has loads of space and a strong engine, but just how well will we get on with the CVT, and will we miss having loads and loads of kit?
The Nissan Kicks has been around in India since January 2019. A model specifically recreated for markets like India where rough roads and difficult driving conditions exist, the Indian Kicks differs from the international one considerably. Known as the D15 and based on the hardy B-Zero Alliance platform, as against the comparatively effete Nissan ‘V’ platform, the D15 is longer, wider and simply tougher.
The Kicks today comes with a 156hp turbo GDI engine, with the power running through to the front wheels via Nissan’s X-Tronic CVT gearbox. While the Kicks is roughly the same size as the Creta, the price difference between the two is a massive Rs 3 lakh. Can the Kicks Turbo deliver a similar experience at a much reduced price? And just how good is having that 156hp to play with everyday?
ALIVE AND KICKING: There’s always plenty of power available under your right foot.
The Kicks we have comes with a relatively basic spec. It gets no automatic headlights or auto wipers, no quilted ‘leather’ seats, no leather on the dash, and no paddle shifters behind the steering wheel either. You do get automatic stop-start to help save fuel at the stop lights, and the key fob has a remote start function that allows you to start the car and cool the cabin from afar. Don’t know how the watchman will react if I start the car late at night; I’ll tell you how that goes.
ELBOW GREASE: The steering feels heavy at low and parking speeds.
First impressions of the Kicks Turbo on the daily run are of a hardy SUV that’s built tough and can take any punishment. That frankly feels fantastic, especially in today’s world of ‘lightweight’ car-like SUVs. There is an underlying layer of stiffness at low speeds but the suspension also feels tough enough to take any hammering.
Gouged out sections of road, craters that have yet to be filled – you can just fly over all of them. The Kicks rides flat, the suspension shows no sign of ever wanting to bottom out and despite the little bit of stiffness, you aren’t really tossed around too much either. In fact, in many ways, the Kicks feels as comfortable over broken roads as a body on frame SUV, but without the ‘kick-back.’
RUBBER BANNED: CVT gearbox successfully mimics manual shifts; it’s pretty neat.
Nissan’s X-Tronic CVT even works well in traffic. There is inevitably a bit of stretch and strain when you put your foot down, and that rankles, but what helps is that the CVT, even in D, runs through a false set of ratios, and that reduces the rubber-band effect quite successfully. Tap the throttle and you get a strong response from the quick shortening of ‘gears’ and the meaty punch of the 1.3 turbo GDI engine.
It may have 156hp, but where the engine shines is in the mid range. Once the boost is up and turbo is on song, you get a fat stream of torque that hurls the Kicks forward, so blowing past slower traffic is quite a thrill. And the manual shift function works well too. The selector has a springy, positive action when you punch in a request for a ‘gear’. Do this aggressively even, and the X-Tronic CVT responds quickly.
The Kicks Turbo is also very effective on longer drives. The wide and deep boot means you can just chuck your weekend luggage in the back without having to shuffle bags around, the tall ‘gearing’ of the CVT gearbox allows you to cruise at a low engine speed, and because the Kicks has plenty of power to overtake and great straightline stability, passing other cars on the highway is also a breeze. Even the brakes have tremendous bite and deliver a very high level of confidence.
No parcel tray but the boot is wide and deep.
The steering is a bit heavy at low speeds and the seats do feel a bit hard, but all in all, the Kicks Turbo works well because it is spacious, delivers effortless performance and dismisses bad roads like they are not there.
HARD CASE: The seats feel a bit too stiff, especially when you are tossed around.