► Nissan Kicks crossover tested
► 1.6-litre petrol engine, FWD
► SUV not destined for the UK
When we were asked by Nissan to drive a low-cost compact SUV called the Kicks, we didn’t have high expectations. Frankly, the recipe sounded just like the Ford EcoSport’s: a low-end ‘global car’ that had so many corners cut, to appease all markets, that little of note would remain.
Then there was the fact that the Latin American-market Kicks – which we tested in Brazil – was just a little portlier than the Juke, yet smaller than the Qashqai, cramming it between two already successful and competent alternatives.
Ah, so it’s an unmitigated disaster, then?
Imagine our surprise to find the opposite. The Kicks actually feels rather accomplished, and certainly not cobbled together out of whatever the company had lying around. Probably the most remarkable bit was the cabin’s quality. The dash looks great – it’s an iteration of Nissan’s Gliding Wing design seen on the Sway and Gripz concept cars – and the materials used and the assembly felt very much first-world.
We’re not talking premium German here, granted, but we can think of many less prestigious brands that don’t manage as satisfying a finish. Nissan’s press bumf also makes lots of noise about the lack of it intruding into the cabin, and we can confirm it’s comparatively quiet on the move.
The real audible issue is the Nissan’s 1.6-litre petrol engine. It isn’t unpleasant at constant speeds but it generates a raucous din when worked hard, which the CVT only exacerbates. The engine’s party trick is the capability to run on part-bioethanol fuel, which is widely available in Brazil thanks to the proliferation of sugar cane it’s manufactured from.
You might not take to the Nissan’s styling, though. What you probably can’t see in the pictures is the Kicks’ overly narrow rear track, leading to a reverse-Bladeglider look. It’s also got a fair amount of negative camber at the rear, which is highly incongruous given its nature.
How family friendly is it?
There’s loads of space for four adults – headroom in the back is surprisingly plentiful (more so than the Juke, it seemed to us) despite the styling giving it the appearance of the reverse. The boot’s useful too, measuring 432 litres in capacity and thus trumping the Focus/Astra/Golf trio.
The front seats could do with a little extra bolstering to keep you sat in the right place around bends, though, and the touchscreen sat-nav looks five years old already – but you can opt for Nissan’s around-view monitor, which is a relative luxury in cars of this type.
How does it handle?
Rather predictably, like a small, front-driven hatchback on stilts. There’s an acceptable amount of body roll, and it’s pretty user-friendly, but it’s never going to reward you with any vaguely memorable drives.
Its steering isn’t going to win any awards for telegraphing what’s going on under the front axle, either, but neither is the Juke’s... or the Qashqai’s, X-trail’s, Note’s – you get the idea. It is very responsive, however, and it doesn’t feel off the pace with European-focused cars in this respect.
Less impressive was the ride quality, with sharp jolts through the cabin if you hit a speed bump a fraction faster than you meant to. It’s not very economical, either, and its quoted Brazilian-market price doesn’t appear very competitive – it’s more expensive than the EcoSport, for example.
Don’t tell anyone at Nissan, but in some ways we like this car more than the Juke. There’s something characterfully honest about its design and execution. It drives well, feels strongly built and does everything it’s meant to do.
Will it ever make it onto UK roads, though? The official line is no, and when you think about it, there’s hardly a business case for it given the firm’s current line-up. Shame.
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