Kicks of­fers good in­te­rior space, plenty of fea­tures, af­ford­able pric­ing

The Southern Gazette - - Saltwire Wheels - BY RICHARD RUS­SELL WHEELS

Kicks is a cute name for a new ve­hi­cle and an ap­pro­pri­ate one for the lat­est Nis­san. The 2019 Nis­san Kicks is likely to boot its way into promi­nence in the blos­som­ing com­pact util­ity ve­hi­cle seg­ment.

The Kicks re­places the Juke as the en­try point to Nis­san’s ex­ten­sive line of util­ity ve­hi­cles. It joins the Qashqai, Rogue, Mu­rano, Pathfinder and Ar­mada. The Kicks is a soft­roader, not an off-roader, avail­able in front- wheel drive only. It goes into bat­tle against an ar­ray of small utes, in­clud­ing: Chevro­let Trax, Ford EcoSport, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Kona, Jeep Rene­gade, Kia Soul, Mazda CX-3 and Toy­ota C-HR.

As the new­est en­try in this al­ready crowded seg­ment, the Kicks faces a for­mi­da­ble task. But it is equipped and priced to do just that. De­signed in Nis­san stu­dios in Brazil and Los An­ge­les, the Kicks is a good-look­ing ve­hi­cle. From the trade­mark Nis­san grill and “float­ing” roofline, to the taut rear quar­ters it is well pro­por­tioned.

The de­sign team was also able to pro­vide an im­pres­sive amount of peo­ple and pack­age space within a small en­ve­lope. The front seats are a re­sult of Nis­san’s “zero-grav­ity” de­sign pro­gram, and more com­fort­able than any­thing else that comes to mind in this class. There is room for two in the rear, three in a real pinch. Both head and legroom are above av­er­age, again con­sid­er­ing the ve­hi­cle size.

There is a class-lead­ing 716 litres of cargo space be­hind the rear seats.

A 17-cm colour touch­screen dom­i­nates the in­stru­ment panel. The cen­trally lo­cated mon­i­tor in­cor­po­rates not only the in­fo­tain­ment sys­tems but also rear and sur­round view dis­plays. Ap­ple CarPlay and An­droid Auto smart­phone con­nec­tiv­ity are avail­able. On the SR trim level; an eight-speaker Bose au­dio sys­tem is stan­dard, with two of those speak­ers lo­cated in the driver’s head re­straint. The Ul­traNearfie­ld sys­tem re­sults in a true sur­round sound ex­pe­ri­ence.

Re­gard­less of trim level, the Kicks comes with tilt and tele­scope steer­ing wheel, cruise con­trol, power win­dows and locks, a/c, 17-cm touch­screen, wire­less con­nec­tiv­ity, front col­li­sion warn­ing with emer­gency brak­ing, rear-view mon­i­tor and Nis­san’s Easy-Fill fea­ture which pro­vides an au­di­ble warn­ing that you have reached the cor­rect pres­sure when in­flat­ing the tires.

The Kicks is pow­ered, sort of, by a 1.6-litre four pro­duc­ing 125 horse­power. Cou­pled with a con­tin­u­ously vari­able au­to­matic trans­mis­sion, per­for­mance is ad­e­quate, if not ex­actly scin­til­lat­ing. Un­der heavy throt­tle con­di­tions, which hap­pen fre­quently, the lit­tle en­gine is kept buzzing rather loudly at high revs. But, there is no trou­ble keep­ing up with traf­fic, and fuel econ­omy can be im­pres­sive if the route does not in­clude too many hills. I av­er­aged about 7.5 litres per 100 kilo­me­tres for a week of mixed city and high­way travel.

The good news is that this is an ex­tremely light ve­hi­cle, at 1,215 ki­los. That en­ables the en­gine to per­form as well as it does and makes a ma­jor con­tri­bu­tion to the fuel econ­omy. It also al­lows the lit­tle ute to han­dle ur­ban streets, and cor­ners with ease. A tight turn­ing cir­cle makes light work of crowded park­ing lots. The ride on the open high­way is pleas­ant and oc­cu­pants are well in­su­lated from nasty road sur­faces.

The lack of all-wheel-drive

may de­ter some con­sumers, but the Kicks does have trac­tion and sta­bil­ity con­trol. It also has hill start as­sist, which means it will re­main at rest when you take your foot off the brake pedal, un­til you reach the ac­cel­er­a­tor.

The SR trim level, as tested, comes with a suite of lat­est gen­er­a­tion safety fea­tures in­clud­ing for­ward col­li­sion and blind spot warn­ing, rear cross-traf­fic alert and a rear view mon­i­tor. That same screen is used for a stan­dard “in­tel­li­gent” around view mon­i­tor. A quar­tet of cam­eras pro­vides a com­pos­ite 360-de­gree view as would ap­pear from above the ve­hi­cle. This is im­mensely help­ful in lo­cat­ing ob­jects front and rear as well as curbs in tight quar­ters or when park­ing. The in­tel­li­gent part is that it pro­vides a vis­i­ble warn­ing when it de­tects any­thing mov­ing within close prox­im­ity to the car.

With an im­pres­sive com­bi­na­tion of in­te­rior space, fea­tures and price, the Nis­san Kicks will cer­tainly make its pres­ence known.

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