Nis­san's In­dian re­vival kicks off with the, errr, Kicks

Evo India - - CONTENTS - Pho­tog­ra­phy: Sachin S Khot

NIS­SAN HAS BEEN AW­FULLY quiet of late as they re­work their strat­egy for In­dia — which will now fo­cus on SUVs — and the re­vival starts here. The Kicks is to Nis­san what the Captur is to Re­nault, a more stylish al­ter­na­tive built off the tried-and-tested Duster plat­form with the same en­gines and same me­chan­i­cal pack­age but a new top hat. But un­like the Captur, that has re­ceived luke­warm re­sponse at best, Nis­san have fo­cussed very heav­ily on styling and in the process turned out a com­pact SUV that re­ally turns heads, giv­ing it a fight­ing chance of tak­ing on the Creta.

Global name­plate, but In­dia-spe­cific SUV Glob­ally, the Kicks is based on the new Mi­cra plat­form which In­dia doesn't get, deemed too ex­pen­sive for the coun­try. And so the Nis­san Kicks you see here is the In­dia-spe­cific model which, as the chief en­gi­neer for the SUV Hashimoto-san says, is now be­ing strongly eval­u­ated by other mar­kets as well. Lessons have no doubt been learnt from Al­liance part­ner Re­nault's ex­per­i­ment with the Captur and so the styling de­part­ment have been given a free hand to com­pletely trans­form the Duster/ Ter­rano on which it is based. And the re­sult is an SUV that, ei­ther from in­side or out­side, will not re­mind you of what it is based on.

The styling is full of flourish — all cuts, slashes and the en­tire gamut of Nis­san's global SUV de­sign cues to re­work ev­ery sin­gle sheet metal panel. It runs on 17-inch tyres on the top-end vari­ant, main­tains the Duster's 215mm ground clear­ance, yet still looks bal­anced and pro­por­tion­ate with­out any un­seemly wheel arch gaps. The roof rails are also func­tional and can take up to 100kg. Over­all it is a de­sign that ev­ery­body will love — par­tic­u­larly in this shade of grey with the orange float­ing roof — and, very im­por­tantly, equally se­ri­ous work went into trans­form­ing the in­te­rior rather than raid the parts bin.

The dash­board is all-new and pride of place

is taken by the float­ing 8-inch touch­screen in­fo­tain­ment screen — a big, big step up from the unit in the Captur. It gets Ap­ple CarPlay and An­droid Auto and with Google Maps fi­nally work­ing with CarPlay there is no need for in-built nav­i­ga­tion, which the Kicks does not get. The re­verse cam­era is also com­pli­mented by a bird's eye view that Nis­san points out is a first in class. The cen­tre part of the dash has a leather in­sert, in the same shade of brown as the leather seats, and that gives it a gen­uinely pre­mium look and feel. The di­als are car­ried over from the Captur and is the one thing I don't like, a dig­i­tal speedo in the cen­tre flanked by the tacho (un­in­tu­itively) on the left and a mas­sive fuel gauge on the right.

There are also quirks in the cabin, a fac­tor of its legacy. Re­mem­ber the very awk­ward seat height ad­just on the Duster? Well the Kicks gets a pump-lever but that only works on the seat base, not the en­tire seat, ru­in­ing lower back and un­der thigh sup­port as you lower the seat. The seat feels nicest at its high­est po­si­tion, which is far too high, and my head was al­most touch­ing the roof. The in­te­rior space is the same as the Duster and in com­par­i­son the Creta is more roomy, spa­cious and also airy with more com­fort­able seats too.

More quirks? The steer­ing wheel au­dio con­trols aren't on the steer­ing wheel but on a stalk on the steer­ing col­umn to the right and be­hind the steer­ing wheel. Easy enough to use but you need to get used to it and it leaves un­sightly blanks on the steer­ing wheel it­self. Ac­ti­va­tion of the cruise con­trol is via a switch on the right of the dash and the key­less en­try is that big card-shaped key that is a carry over from the Flu­ence and Koleos.

Tried and tested K9K en­gine

There's noth­ing that I can write that you do not al­ready know about the K9K 1.5-litre diesel en­gine. There is no dif­fer­ence in the state of tune com­pared to the Duster, Ter­rano and Captur while BS VI com­pli­ance will come when BS VI be­comes manda­tory. It makes 108.5bhp of power and 245Nm of torque which gives it a 0-100kmph time in the re­gion of 12.5 sec­onds and a top speed of around 165kmph. All are fa­mil­iar ter­ri­tory as will be the fan­tas­tic fuel ef­fi­ciency which will see that nee­dle on the big fuel gauge move down very, very slowly.

On the re­fine­ment front too there is no change and the en­gine is quite au­di­ble on start up and es­pe­cially when revved hard. This en­gine can­not match the Creta's 1.6-litre diesel on per­for­mance or re­fine­ment but it is not too far off of its bench­mark ei­ther.

The diesel is mated to the 6-speed man­ual that has an ac­cept­able shift qual­ity while the heavy clutch pedal ac­tion of the orig­i­nal Duster is a thing of the past. No word on au­to­mat­ics as yet but it is only a mat­ter of time be­fore the Kicks gets the AMT from the Duster (I guess the Captur will get it first). While an AMT will not match the re­fine­ment of the reg­u­lar au­to­matic in the Creta, hav­ing an au­to­matic trans­mis­sion is a no-brainer in this seg­ment and if the AMT Kicks can un­der­cut the au­to­matic Creta by over 2 lakh ru­pees, it should find tak­ers.

On the petrol front the Kicks gets the Al­liance's 1.5-litre petrol that makes 104.5bhp and 142Nm of torque and is mated to the 5-speed man­ual. Again no CVT gear­box, some­thing that is do­ing good num­bers on the Duster, but that too should only be a mat­ter of time.

Sorted, es­pe­cially for In­dian roads

Nis­san's pre­sen­ta­tion, not once, men­tioned or even al­luded to the carry-over me­chan­i­cals from its Al­liance part­ner. Yet fact of the mat­ter is the Duster's plat­form is one of the plus points of the Kicks. It's a tes­ta­ment to how in­her­ently right the Duster was at the start that even now its blend of ride and han­dling is ex­cel­lent for In­dian roads, and so it holds true for the Kicks as well.

We drove the Kicks in Bhuj, on the sin­gle­track high­way lead­ing to the Greater Rann of Kutch — a typ­i­cal In­dian road with un­du­la­tions, un­marked speed­break­ers and an­i­mals form­ing mo­bile chi­canes. And through it all, the Kicks stayed planted with ex­cel­lent sta­bil­ity over the

Se­ri­ous work went into trans­form­ing the in­te­rior rather than raid the parts bins of Duster and Captur

un­du­la­tions, great ride on the bro­ken patches and con­fi­dent han­dling to slice through the oc­ca­sional cor­ner and the not so oc­ca­sional bovines. In com­par­i­son with the bench­mark (the Creta), the Kicks is nicer to drive on the high­way with more sta­bil­ity and more planted man­ners while the Hyundai is nicer and eas­ier to drive in the city.

The Kicks is also strong on the brakes and the hy­draulic steer­ing has far more feel than what we are used to these days, though the down­side is you do get kick­back from the steer­ing if you hit a bump mid-cor­ner.

Bang­ing an old drum

I'm bang­ing on so much about the Duster so why not rec­om­mend the Duster and save a fair packet? Well, if you want all-wheel drive on your com­pact SUV then the Duster AWD re­mains the only op­tion, the Kicks does not and I'm quite sure will not get AWD. And if you want an au­to­matic, well, the Duster is still the only op­tion. Then again, the Duster has been around for over a decade and looks and feels dated. What Nis­san have done, and done re­ally well, is up­date the stuff that looks and feels old while re­tain­ing ev­ery­thing that is in­her­ently right. A stylish Duster then, that's what the Kicks is, and I say this with com­plete and un­qual­i­fied praise. If Nis­san can get the rest of the in­gre­di­ents right — the net­work, the brand im­age, the ser­vice qual­ity and of course un­der­cut its main ri­val, the Creta, by at least a lakh of ru­pees then the Kicks should fi­nally kick Nis­san's In­dian op­er­a­tions into higher gear. ⌧

The hy­draulic steer­ing has far more feel than what we are used to these days

Above: DVD player-like fob, as seen on the Re­nault Captur. Sur­prised? You shouldn't be. Top left: Nis­san has equipped the Kicks with an all-new in­te­rior and a float­ing 8-inch touch­screen in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem

Right: Di­als have been picked up from Captur's bin and don't gel with the in­te­rior. Right be­low: Roof rail is func­tional and is good for a 100kg pay­load. Right bot­tom: The en­gine is a straight lift from the Duster

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