Nissan Kicks: Keen Compact Crossover

Fun and flickable, the Nissan Kicks is an accomplished compact city crossover with the clearance and comfort to deal urban obstacles with keen and nimble hatchback-like handling.

Photos by Ghaith Madadha, on location in Jordan

Launched last year and rolled out in various American, Asian and Middle Eastern markets since, the Brazilian-built Nissan Kicks is a practical and fun driving crossover. A particularly good value proposition in more basic specifications, the Kicks is set to replace both Nissan’s smaller Juke and larger Qashqai crossovers in certain markets. Starting from  JD17,900 and retailing at JD23,900 on-the-road, as driven in SL guise, the Kicks is available with three trim levels regionally and a sole engine and gearbox option.

If not quite as adventurously leftfield in design as its Juke stablemate, the Kicks is nevertheless quite the eye-catching and unconventional design on its own merit. Available only with front-wheel-drive, the compact Kicks’ muscular design however lends it a bigger sense of presence, and features sharp complex lines and defined and ridged surfacing. With Nissan’s trademark V-motion grille and boomerang rear light design, the Kicks also features optional two tone paint and blacked out pillars for a distinctive floating roofline effect.

Comparable in size and drivability to a C-segment hatchback, but with an SUV-like flavor, the Kicks is an ideal urban crossover that is efficient and easy to park and maneuver. With generous 200mm ground clearance and 20.6° approach and 28.4° departure angles it dispatches a developing city’s bumps, lumps and cracks in a comfortable stride. Cabin headroom is meanwhile generous in front and better than average in the rear and width decent, if not huge, while minimum uniformly shaped 432-litre luggage volume good.

Powered by a naturally-aspirated 1.6-litre four-cylinder developing 118BHP at somewhere between 5,500-6,000rpm and 110lb/ft at around 4,000rpm, the Kicks’ engine is progressive in delivery and just right in refinement and sound insulation, without being too distant. As responsive from idle and versatile in mid-range as it needs to be for keeping a good pace, the Kicks accelerates through 0-100km/h in 11.5-seconds, and returns both a good headline combined fuel consumption  rating of 6.1l/100km, and is frugal in real world driving.

A perky engine that is happy to rev high in its own right, the Kicks’ 1.6 can however initially seem unwilling to rev all the way to 6,000rpm, owing to its continuously variable transmission. Ultra smooth and efficient in normal driving, CVT does however prefer to keep a car in its more efficient low and mid speed rev range, and is not as clear cut in changing ratios when more power is needed. However, Nissan’s CVT is one of the better ones there are.

Seemingly ‘learning’ and adapting its ratio shift algorithm to ones driving style after a short drive, the Kicks’ throttle becomes more responsive as more aggressive. With lower ratios called up more often and held for longer periods of time to allow the engine to rev more freely to just past 6,000rpm, the Kicks’ sportier transmission profile better handles inclines and suits its sporty driving, but one would still have preferred the Latin American spec manual gearbox option. Meanwhile front disc and rear drum brakes proved reassuringly effective even on steep descents.

Despite high ground clearance and aggressive SUV-like design, the Kicks is true to its hatchback-like underpinnings and size in the way it handles with eager agility and maneuverability. Fun and frisky through narrow winding roads, the Kicks’ electric-assisted steering is direct, quick and precise yet refined and stable at speed. Flickable and crisp on turn-in, the Kicks’ steering provides decent feel owing to comparatively slim 205/55R17 tyres. Meanwhile front grip is assured, with understeer apparent only if pushed too fast and tight into a corner.

Riding on front strut and rear torsion beam suspension and weighing in at just 1,135kg, as driven, the Kicks is nippy, tidy and keen to adjust a cornering line on throttle or to pivot weight with a dab of the brakes. Though riding high, it feels nimble and alert, while damping is taut and provides good rebound control. Finding a happy medium between firmness and comfort, it well-controls body lean through corners but rides forgivingly if slightly busy over imperfections and smoothly at speed.

Well-packaged and accommodating, the Kicks could have freed up more space if the centre console were removed. Stylish and ergonomic with sporty flat-bottom steering wheel, it features soft textures prominently, while some hard plastics for affordability. Driving position is alert, upright, supportive and with good road visibility, while a clear instrument cluster features an analogue speedometer and configurable digital pod for rev counter and other information. Driven in well-equipped top SL spec, the Kicks features a rear and around view monitor with Moving Object Detection.

Specifications: Nissan Kicks

  • Engine: 1.6-litre, transverse 4-cylinders
  • Bore x stroke: 78 x 83.6mm
  • Valve-train: 16-valve, DOHC
  • Gearbox: Continuously variable transmission (CVT) auto, front-wheel-drive
  • Reverse / final drive: 3.77:1 / 4.01:1
  • Power, BHP (PS) [kW]: 118 (120) [88]
  • Specific power: 73.8BHP/litre
  • Torque, lb/ft (Nm): 110 (149)
  • Specific torque: 93.2Nm/litre
  • 0-100km/h: 11.5-seconds
  • Fuel consumption, combined: 6.1-litres/100km
  • CO2 emissions, combined: 140g/km
  • Fuel capacity: 41-litres
  • Length: 4,295mm
  • Width: 1,760mm
  • Height: 1,590mm
  • Wheelbase: 2,620mm
  • Track, F/R: 1,520/1,535mm
  • Minimum ground clearance: 200mm
  • Aerodynamic drag co-efficiency: 0.34
  • Headroom, F/R: 1,034/977mm
  • Shoulder room, F/R: 1,347/1,350mm
  • Hip room, F/R: 1,298/1,270mm
  • Cargo volume: 432-litres
  • Approach angle: 20.6°
  • Departure angle: 28.4°
  • Kerb weight: 1,116-1,135kg
  • Suspension, F/R: MacPherson struts / torsion beam
  • Steering: Electric-assisted rack & pinion
  • Turning circle: 10.4-meters
  • Brakes, F/R: Discs / drums
  • Tyres: 205/55R17
  • Price, starting / as driven: JD 17,900 / 23,900 on-the-road
Previous articleNissan Pathfinder Hybrid SV: Value And Versatility
Next articleLada 4×4 Urban – Test Drive In Jordan