One of the hottest segments in the Indian market currently is the compact SUV one. There are very able competitors in there, namely the Kia Seltos and Hyundai Creta. But wait, there is another. Nissan’s Kicks had recently gotten a BS6-update with which came a pleasant surprise. Basically, the Japanese automaker decided to plonk a new 1.3-litre, turbocharged petrol engine which produces 154bhp and 254Nm of torque, making it the most powerful turbo-charged petrol car in its class. This new BS6-compliant HR13 DDT engine even borrows cylinder coating technology from the famed Nissan GT-R for enhanced performance & fuel efficiency. Hmm! Quite interesting, indeed. But what’s the point? Well, if you haven’t noticed, there’s quite a bit of turbocharging going around recently and Nissan wants to seize the moment. So, does it work? That’s what we tried to find out.
At startup and idle, the Kicks Turbo feels very similar to a naturally aspirated engine. But once you’re on the move and decide to overtake someone ahead of you, you’re in for a treat. Hit the 2,500 RPM mark and wham! You will feel that turbo-charger kicking in to lunge you forward with a great sense of urgency. And, even though the surge of turbo feels quite pronounced, it isn’t too jarring. Although, it should put a big smile on your face. However, with that chunk of power also comes some amount of torque steer at the wheel. The feedback from the steering wheel is good but the uncomfortable seating position and other ergonomic bothers like the slightly lower set gearbox and tiny side view mirrors don’t really help you in getting comfortable too quickly. Although at higher speeds the steering does weigh up well, at lower speeds it can be a little heavy to operate. However, straight line stability is solid and the Kicks does an excellent good job of soaking up bumps. There is a hint of body roll around tighter corners but overall the Kicks Turbo can handle itself pretty well. Even, the front discs do a good job at bringing the Kicks Turbo to a halt.
It’s also got a fair bit of safety-based technology like Vehicle Stability Management System, Electronic Stability Control and Traction Control System. It even gets two airbags and ABS with EBD as standard. In fact, even though its steering wheel weighs up decently at high speed and, it boasts of a claimed best-in-class turning radius of 5.2m. It does turn in quite easily but feels a bit cumbersome due to the weight factor mentioned earlier. However, it’s fairly easy to go to the shops and potter around town for work. It even has best-in-class ground clearance, which is a big boon if the going gets rough and you have to kick off the tarmac roads. The Kicks Turbo can be had with either a six-speed manual or X-Tronic CVT. As you can see, we have the manual gearbox and have to report that slots in well, like the clutch pedal. Overall, however, the Kicks is fairly engaging to drive but I would love to see this engine in something a little closer to ground and sportier.
I had to take a little breather from driving, even though I don’t really want to. But, we had to take out sometime to have a look at some of the creature comforts and design elements on the Kicks Turbo. Let’s start with the inside. On the inside, there’s an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system which doubles as the first-in-segment 360-degree Camera. There’s also the old-school instrument cluster and dual-tone interiors with some of the dashboard finished in leather. There’s also a centre armrest with cup holders for the rear passengers and an armrest at front as well. Although, the front armrest cannot be opened or adjusted. And, there’s the automatic AC, rear AC vents and USB charging ports at the front. The back seats are decently shaped as well and there’s plenty of room to go around. The head room and underthigh support are good too. I personally felt that the front seats could learn a lot from the ones at the back.
As far as technology goes, there’s a lot more that the Kicks Turbo offers. Take for example the auto headlamps, cornering fog lamps, idle start-stop system, cruise control, Hill Start Assist (HSA) and rain sensing wipers. There’s even a first-in-class feature called ‘remote engine start’, which allows you to start the Kicks Turbo from the smart key – Neat! From the outside, the kicks pretty much remain the same, in fact there aren’t badges to suggest that it’s a turbo either, which is a little strange. But that gives the Kicks Turbo that ‘sleeper’ appeal. However, there is a lot more to the story than just the technology and power. The Kicks Turbo does a look dated as far interior and exterior design is concerned. Compared to some of its rivals, the Kicks could learn a thing or two about how to dress up for an occasion. However, there is a sense of simplicity and solidity that will surely appeal to some too.
However, all of this becomes subjective once the pricing comes in. The 1.3-litre turbocharged petrol variants start from Rs 11.85 lakh ex-showroom and go up to Rs 14.15 lakh ex-showroom. Therein lies a significant detail. You see the Kicks Turbo undercuts its rivals by quite a margin in that regard. Which is where it’s USP lies. So, if you’re looking for a rugged, capable SUV that may lack in terms of design but delivers on the promise of performance at a reasonable price, then the Kicks Turbo could be the answer for you.