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Nissan Kicks: Comfortable, confident youth-oriented crossover

By Ghaith Madadha - Aug 08,2022 - Last updated at Aug 08,2022

Photo courtesy of Nissan

Putting to one side the seemingly 1990s nostalgia-inspired marketing campaigns of rappers and lip-synching contests pushing hard to position it as a youth-oriented crossover, the 2022 Nissan Kicks is still a reasonably fun, practical and comparatively affordable car — just like the outgoing model, introduced in 2017.

Face-lifted but otherwise mildly updated, the new Kicks features a design refresh, improved infotainment system and new trim textures and colours, but is powered by the same single engine and gearbox choice, and is offered in three specification levels.

 

Sporty styling

 

First introduced a an attainable and Brazilian-built replacement for both Nissan Juke and Qashqai models in certain — mainly developing — markets, the Kicks might not have been as wildly leftfield in its styling as the Juke. It was nevertheless an attractive and mildly adventurous design in its own right, with muscular surfacing, short but wide stance, fashionably descending roofline, bulging clamshell bonnet, and boomerang-style rear lights. Additionally, it was and still is offered with two-tone paint and blacked out pillars for a sporty floating roofline effect.

The 2022 Kicks features a more aggressive front treatment, with slimmer, sharper and higher-set headlights, deeper and bigger faux lower side intakes and a taller, wider and blacked-out grille with re-designed mesh. Its front lip and rear bumper are also mildly update, while rear lights are linked with a slim horizontal element. In weight, dimension and engaging ease of driving, it remains similar to a family hatchback, albeit with generous 200mm ground clearance to make short work of dusty dirt roads and urban bumps, potholes and kerbs.

 

Maintaining momentum

 

Carried over, the Kicks’ naturally-aspirated 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine develops 118BHP at 6,300rpm and 110lb/ft at 4,400rpm, and is progressive in delivery and with decent refinement and noise insulation. Responsive from idle and versatile in mid-range, the front-wheel-drive Kicks keeps a good pace when driven with light weight load and on relatively level and urban conditions, and is so moderately brisk when wrung hard to high revs. Accelerating through 0-100km/h in around 11.5-seconds, the Kicks returns frugal 5.2l/100km headline combined fuel consumption rating. 

Driven in a sportier manner or with additional passengers, the Kicks’ rate of acceleration obviously decreased, and consumption rose, when tackling steep, high elevation hill climbs. To be expected, this was, however, remedied somewhat by adopting a sportier, hatchback-like driving style, for which the agile and eager Kicks is happy to oblige. Turning in early and maintaining momentum through corners in such conditions, one needs to finesse the Kicks cornering angle to maintain grip at a brisk pace but without setting-off power-cutting stability controls.

 

Alert and agile

 

Smooth and efficient, the Kicks’ continuously variable transmission (CVT) prefers to keep revs at a more efficient low and mid speed range in normal driving conditions, but becomes more permissive in allowing revs to rise high with aggressive throttle inputs. With no simulated pre-set ratios to manually choose from, its CVT doesn’t always hold revs as high as desired during spirited driving, but has a “low” ratio setting for slow, steep inclines. However, it would potentially be more rewarding with a manual gearbox, as available in Latin America.

Riding on front strut and rear torsion beam suspension and weighing just 1,141kg — as driven in mid-range SV specification — the Kicks is nippy, tidy and keen to adjust cornering lines on throttle or to pivot weight with well-placed but small brake inputs. Sitting high but nevertheless nimble and alert, the Kicks’ damping is meanwhile taut and provides good rebound control. Well-balanced between adequate body lean control and ride comfort, it is forgiving if slightly busy and firm over some imperfections, but is smooth at speed.

 

Engaging 

and ergonomic

 

True to its hatchback-like underpinnings in its eager handling agility and manoeuvrability, the Kicks v engaging through narrow winding roads. Its electric-assisted steering is, meanwhile, direct, quick and accurate, but refined and stable at speed. Flickable and tidy turning-in, the Kicks’ steering and comparatively slim 205/55R17 tyres provides decent feel. With confident front grip, understeer is only apparent if one pushes too fast and tight into a corner. Meanwhile, front disc and rear drum brakes are reassuringly effective but can fade slightly on prolonged use on steep descents. 

Well-packaged, the Kicks’ stylish and ergonomic cabin features sporty flat-bottom steering, and a good mix of updated trim and fabric upholstery textures. Also receiving a larger, more capable infotainment system, it meanwhile features good front and decent rear passenger space, and accommodating luggage volume.

Slightly pricier than its 2017 predecessor, the Kicks features an alert, upright, and supportive driving position, configurable digital instrument pod and reversing camera to help with parking. It rear headrests are slightly forward jutting, lacks a rear armrest and features a single USB port.

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

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

Transmission ratios: 4.006:1-0.55:1

Reverse/final drive: 3.77:1/4.01:1

Power, BHP (PS) [kW]: 118 (120) [88] @6,300rpm

Specific power: 73.8BHP/litre

Torque, lb/ft (Nm): 110 (149) @4,400rpm

Specific torque: 93.2Nm/litre

0-100km/h: 11.5-seconds (estimate)

Fuel consumption, combined: 5.2-litres/100km

Fuel capacity: 41-litres

Length: 4,302mm

Width: 1,760mm

Height: 1,613mm

Wheelbase: 2620mm

Track, F/R: 1,520/1,535mm

Minimum ground clearance: 200mm

Cargo volume, min/max: 432-/912-litres

Kerb weight: 1,141kg

Suspension, F/R: MacPherson struts/torsion beam

Steering: Electric-assisted rack & pinion

Turning circle: 10.4-metres

Brakes, F/R: Discs/drums

Tires: 205/55R17

Price, on-the-road, with comprehensive insurance: JD22,900 (as tested)

Warranty: 5-years or 300,000km

 

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