Nissan invited us to a “surprise” launch event in Dubai, only telling us that it will be a crossover of some sort. That crossover turned out to be the 2018 Nissan Kicks. The more surprising news was that it will replace the Juke crossover and the Tiida hatchback in the carmaker’s GCC line-up, even though these cars will continue to be on sale in other markets such as Lebanon and Jordan.
The Nissan Kicks is a front-wheel-drive sub-compact based on the Juke platform, but it’s a bit larger in overall size. The styling follows Nissan’s new corporate theme started by the Maxima, although not much beyond a few character lines are shared between the two. We drove the base model, and it still didn’t look particularly basic, with stylised covers over the 16-inch steel wheels, roof rails, rear spoiler, and silver trimmings on the front bumper. Higher-spec models with 17-inch alloy wheels and a few more body-colour trim bits don’t look too different.
While it may be small in crossover terms, it offers more space than the already-spacious Tiida, with ample legroom, headroom and boot space. Our car also had 60/40 split-folding rear seats, a cargo net and a rubberised storage accessory in the boot to organise smaller items. The wind deflectors on our test car are also optional accessories.
Cabin materials were exclusively hard plastic, broken up by padded door inserts and a felt-cloth headliner. Part of the dash in our base car had an interesting dimpled texture, but higher models get a leatherette patch on that panel.
Features are minimal on our base car, with keyless entry, manual a/c, simple 2-speaker stereo with USB and Bluetooth, with safety features that include 2 airbags, ABS with EBD, ESP with hill-start assist, tyre-pressure monitor, as well as front disc brakes and rear drums. Nissan’s “Intelligent Mobility” features such as the Around View Monitor (AVM) and the Moving Object Detection system (MOD) are restricted to the top model, as are parking sensors and side airbags. The base model won’t get you the LED running lamps, auto headlights, fog lamps, auto a/c, smart key, 7-inch touchscreen navigation, digital gauge cluster and such either.
The Nissan Kicks is powered by the company’s usual 118 hp 1.6-litre engine with 149 Nm of torque, mated to a CVT automatic. Available only in front-wheel-drive form, the little crossover offers fairly adequate performance in the city, and struggles a bit in full-throttle highway overtaking, but settles down well when crusing. The CVT still needs work to remove that “rubber band” effect on acceleration, but Nissan says they’ve added artificial “steps” to simulate gear changes (although we didn’t notice any “shift-shock” jerks).
The ride is comfortable on smooth roads, but allows in a fair bit of harshness and road noise on uneven surfaces. Built in Mexico and sporting a few obvious panel gaps, it is completely solid in construction with no odd squeaks or rattles.
The handling is very good, with minimal body roll and tight turning abilities, aided by ESP-related features such as “Active Trace Control” that uses the brakes to tighten cornering. The steering is a bit on the light side and offers minimal feedback, but does the job fine, as do the brakes.
But the real kicker is the pricing. The Kicks starts at Dhs 56,300 for the base 1.6 S, followed by Dhs 61,500 for a slightly better-equipped 1.6 SV, and topping out with the leatherette-upholstered 1.6 SL at Dhs 68,500. However, navigation and parking cameras are optional. Still, that’s pretty impressive pricing for a Nissan as it hits right at the heart of compact-sedan territory.
Photos by Mashfique Hussain Chowdhury.