This is the only Nissan Kicks review you will find in English for ages: driven and evaluated

Nissan has made yesterday its first world presentation in Brazil, more specifically in São Paulo. Due to embargo reasons, we could only bring you our Kicks impressions today. And, under a world perspective, the Nissan Kicks may raise some questions. After all, Nissan already has a B segment crossover, the Juke. But it never sold it in Brazil or in some other important markets. First, because of its unconventional looks, mostly regarded as ugly. Second, because of its cramped interior. And last, because of its price. The Kicks solves some of these problems.

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Built over the V platform, instead of the B platform used by the Juke, the Kicks is extremely light. The version we had the chance to drive, which is the high-end trim, called SL, weighs 1,142 kg. And it will probably be the heaviest Kicks around. The lightest Juke weighs 1,321 kg, while the fully loaded version weighs 1,456 kg. Or 314 kg more. This competitive advantage makes the Kicks be the most fuel-efficient crossover for sale in Brazil, with a fuel consumption of 7.14 l/100 km in highway use and 9.09 l/100 km in urban cycle with petrol. Since all high volume cars sold in Brazil can also run on ethanol, the numbers with the renewable fuel are of 10.42 l/100 km in highway cycle and 12.35 l/100 km in urban use. Very good numbers for a crossover.

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The Nissan Kicks is 4.30 m long, 1.76 m wide, 1.59 m high and it has a 2.61 m wheelbase. Just to keep the comparison inhouse, the Juke is 4.13 m long, 1.77 m wide, 1.57 m high and has a wheelbase of 2.53 m. Its main competitor in Brazil, the Honda HR-V, has an incredible resemblance to the Kicks in terms of dimensions. Most of them are the same apart from width (1.77 m for the Honda) and weight (1,276 kg for its top-end version, the EXL). Even the luggage compartment is similar: Honda says the HR-V can carry 431 l of luggage, while the Kicks carries 432 l.

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The 2.61 m wheelbase could ensure a generous interior, if we are to take the Nissan Versa as an example. It is one of the most impressive cars in the B segment in what relates to roominess. Besides that, the Kicks has the advantage of a higher H point, or a higher seating position, if you prefer. That also saves space, apart from being a feature fans of crossover and SUV crave for.

One of the disadvantages of this sort of vehicle is a worst fuel consumption due to a higher drag coefficient and a larger frontal area. Nissan says the Kicks has a drag coefficient of 0.34 (it has not informed the frontal area) and points out for a great worry with aerodynamics. There are aspects of the car design that had that in mind, such as the fins in the head lights and the surface of the C column, especially created to decrease turbulence. Nissan also states it helps the car be less prone to wind noises and that it has paid careful attention to noise insulation. We are about to share with you our impressions on that.

The car will have 6 color options: Preto Premium (solid black), Prata Classic (metallic silver), Cinza Grafite (metallic dark grey), Cinza Grafite with Sunset Orange roof, Cinza Rust (metallic brown) and Branco Diamond (pearlescent white). There are 3 interior color options: black, macchiato (brown) and sand (beige). Only black and brown cars will have the sand interior. The macchiato will be exclusive for dark grey (with orange roof or not) and white units. The black interior will be offered by all body colors except for the brown paint (Cinza Rust).

 

The contents (and price) of the SL version

The new Kicks will try to appeal to customers with its “emotional geometry” design, but not only that. Even because the V Motion grille, the sonic wave, the floating roof and the boomerang tail lights signature are just a way Nissan has found to have more character. Nissan basically bets on content to make its new crossover stand out of the competition. And on the content of the SL version.

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All of them will be equipped with a 1.6 HR16 engine that delivers 84 kW (both on ethanol or gasoline) at 5,600 rpm and 152 Nm at 4,000 rpm. Top speed is 175 km/h and it goes from 0 to 100 km/h in 12 s. Mostly due to the only transmission available so far, the XTRONIC CVT.

Starting from the dashboard, the Kicks SL will present a 7-inch TFT screen in place of the rev counter. Nissan calls it multifunctional color panel. It presents 12 selectable modes. It is possible to show a compass, the rev counter, navigation tips, the chassis control and the board computer functions, such as the fuel consumption.

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This is a first in B segment cars, according to Nissan. Besides that, the Kicks SL presents the Camera 360, a feature that shows the surroundings of the car and detects moving objects. They appear in the new 7-inch multitouch infotainment system that comes in the top of the central console. Just above the elegant climate control system. The Camera 360 works with the assistance of 4 cameras: one on the Nissan front grille badge, one in each rear-view side mirror and one above the license plate.

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The SL also presents a Chassis Control and the Active Trace Control, systems associated with the ABS that brake specific wheels in order for the crossover to have a better ride. These systems do not exclude the VDC (Vehicle Dynamic Control) and the TCS (Traction Control System) that is already known in the Sentra. No other B segment product from Nissan in Brazil, such as the Versa or the March, present these features. And we doubt cheaper versions of the crossover will have them as well.

The Kicks SL will cost R$ 89,990 in Brazil. In dollars, that amounts to US$ 27,435. This is about US$ 1,200 cheaper than a Nissan Rogue SL in the USA. The Juke costs US$ 20,250. But do not worry in case you live in Mexico, USA or Canada. The Kicks will cost much less in your markets, due to lower taxes and profit margins. It is intended as an entry-level SUV, even cheaper than the Juke. Brazilians can have the hope of cheaper versions, with

 

A manufacturing matter

The Kicks will only be sold initially in the SL version. The 1,000 units special series for the Olympic Games has already sold out. But you could argue that such a car should offer all its versions from the start. And you would be correct if it was not for a manufacturing matter. All Nissan Kicks units are currently being produced in Aguascalientes, Mexico. The Brazilian production of the crossover will only begin at the end of 2016. Its sales will start in August 5, or at least 3 months ahead of that. The explanation for this is the rush in the decision for having a new B segment crossover.

We have been informed Nissan was not quite convinced about it until it presented the Kicks Concept at the São Paulo Motor Show. It was deemed by the public as the second best car of the whole show, just a little behind the Jeep Renegade, which was already a production car. That made the Nissan management realize it might have a great product to increase its participation in the Brazilian market. So they decided to have it ready as soon as possible.

The Resende plant has started production in April 2014. It would require an additional investment and the training of more workers in order to get the Kicks ready for an introduction at the Rio Olympic Games, which Nissan sponsors. Aguascalientes would be able to produce it earlier, even if in a relatively small number. A long time commercial deal between Brazil and Mexico for car imports would allow the prices to be competitive, but there is a volume restriction that would prevent the sale of cheaper versions in the expected amount.

When the Kicks production starts at Resende, it will be possible to introduce the other versions of the crossover will no restrictions. And Aguascalientes will be able to supply the new crossover to the Mexican, American and Canadian markets. The Kicks will be put for sale in 80 countries. The Olympics will be a major display for all of them. And even to evaluate the potential of the crossover for other markets.

 

Driving impressions

We had a fairly long driving experience with the Kicks SL. We have driven it from the Hotel Unique, in São Paulo, until the Hotel Fasano Boa Vista, in Porto Feliz. It is a 120 km drive through uncommonly even roads. That has prevented us from experiencing how the car behaves in bad tarmac, something Nissan engineers call “patchwork asphalt”. And that is pretty common in Brazil, even if we refer to it in a much less elegant way.

The Kicks has a high driving seat position, no matter what you do. I have tried to place the seat a little lower, so that the seat belt would be ideally placed between my neck and my left shoulder, but it was not possible. The other option would be to raise the seat belt anchorage in the B column, but it could not go any higher. So I drove the Kicks with the seat belt over my shoulder.

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The seats are very comfortable, unlike the ones used by the Versa, which have short bases and provide very poor thigh support. Nissan has made these seats with Zero Gravity technology, a special foam developed by Nasa that provides a better seating position. We felt it provides good lateral support.

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But that charges a price in the space offered by the back seat. When you adjust the front seat for a driver that is 1.85 m tall, a person of the same size would rub one’s knees in its back. In the Versa, this passenger could cross legs and still not reach the front seat. The back seat also presents a low back support, probably to preserve rear visibility. If you seat with without adjusting the head restraint, it will make you quite uneasy there. And this is very likely on purpose.

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The car starts with the help of a button placed beside the gearshift selector. Thanks to the i-Key, a “keyless system”. If you pay careful attention to the gear lever, you will see it has a small button right below the black part of the knob. This is where you activate the Sport mode of the CVT. We had not seen it when we started to drive. After we have seen it, it was difficult to push. And when we pushed it, it only made the car a lot noisier. There is a delay when you press the kick-down whether the Sport mode is activated or not. The Nissan CVT is a perfect match for the 2.0 engine, but it seems not to like the 1.6 very much. Speaking of noises, the wind noise in the Kicks is pretty noticeable, even with the carmaker’s efforts to minimize them.

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The steering column can be adjusted both in distance and height and it is not difficult to find the best view of the dashboard. The steering wheel has a flat base, an item that suggests an sportiness only a bigger engine could offer. Or a turbocharged one. There are controls in it for the 7-inch TFT screen and also for the sound system and the Bluetooth connection with your mobile.

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As soon as we put the car to move, we realize the gas and brake pedals are very close to each other. If you drive an automatic car with both feet, you will find that a little uncomfortable. The rear-view side mirrors are similar in size to the ones used by Versa and March. In other words, they are smaller than we would like them to be.

In the short way up to the highway, the Kicks has proved to be a very nice companion in city traffic. It is agile, nimble and very easy to park. Especially due to its short turning circle of 10.2 m. It is the highway that shows its shortcomings.

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Even being a nicely equipped crossover, with an elegant interior, the Kicks has no cruise control. And it is greatly missed in the long and boring straights we had to cross with it. We had no chance to test it in tight bends. The few ones we have taken show it has a setup that privileges comfort over stability. And that is a right decision. The new crossover main clients will be soccer moms and other customers that would much rather have a soft vehicle than a sports car.

These are also the guys that are making a line to buy the Honda HR-V, the Jeep Renegade and its competitors. The HR-V can cost up to R$ 99,200, or R$ 10,000 more than the Kicks. With a lot less content. Even if the new Nissan is expensive, it is much cheaper than the competition. Nissan must be anxious to start selling it in August 5. And in other countries. It promises to be a kick in the nuts of its opponents.

Gustavo Henrique Ruffo

I have been an automotive journalist since 1998 and have worked for many important Brazilian newspapers and magazines, such as the local edition of Car and Driver and Quatro Rodas, Brazilian's biggest car magazine. I have also worked for foreign websites, such as World Car Fans and won a few journalism prizes, among them three SAE Journalism Awards and the 2017 IAM RoadSmart Safety Award. I am the author of "The Traffic Cholesterol", a book about bad drivers that you can buy at Hotmart, Google Play, Amazon and Kobo.