From a drive technology point of view, the Nissan Kicks has a Hill Start Assist feature, Vehicle Dynamic Control (Nissan's name for a stability program) as well as a 360-degree camera for reversing and driving into tight spots. The camera works until the vehicle crosses 10 kilometres per hour. The 'All Round View' feature is a first-in-class USP and is really useful in tough situations. As for drivability, the road to Bhuj was very straight and level for the large part so there was not much one say on the handling front. Ride quality however on the few bumpy, rather undulating asphalt was better than one would have expected, although these were factory fresh cars. But given how we liked both departments on the Captur, this is not altogether surprising. NVH (or noise and vibration) levels are superb. After a little start-up clatter, the Kicks is very quiet both inside and outside. The engine also delivers enough power when you need it, acceleration from 30 kmph per hour in third gear is very good and even when you're on sixth gear at around 1200 revs and doing 80 kmph, the Kicks can easily climb to highway speeds without seeming to strain. The car also does not feel uncomfortable going fast for extended periods of time.
Drivability niggles now! Firstly the cruise control buttons - the only buttons on the steering - are a bit confusing. The telephone and media operations are behind the steering wheel a la Renault, and you cannot use them with a smartphone interface like Apple CarPlay. Irritatingly for a Japanese car the turn indicator stalk is on the left and most painful in our opinion is the cramped space down at the pedals. There is no dead pedal and you genuinely have nowhere to rest your foot in the footwell. This is peculiar given that there is a lot of space in the passenger footwell! The only conclusion one can draw from this is that the Kicks for India is likely a left-hand drive car that has been hurriedly brought to market without some important changes being made. The transmission tunnel certainly seems to have a path that creates more space on the passenger side instead of the driver's!
The eight-inch floating display, similar to those on some luxury or premium cars has a superb resolution; much better than anything on any other mass market brand. The touchscreen is responsive and the system starts up and works fast. Of course, it has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The sound system does the job well with audio quality being par for the course. The faux leather-wrapped dashboard and door trims do exude a feeling of luxuriousness, and the overall black and brown interior trim is pleasant on the eye - and rather different too (in a good way!). The rear seats though might feel a bit tight for those of you of larger dimension (particularly if the front seats are pushed back) with knee-room being an issue. Also with the sharply raked window, which looks nice from the outside does make the car feel a bit dark at the back. Of course, many of these issues and niggles will get sorted out as you begin to bear with/get used to them.
Will the Kicks give substantial competition to the Hyundai Creta - that's the million dollar question now isn't it? Hyundai's runaway superhit is hard to beat, and so much will depend on the price. Hyundai prices the Creta where it does - because it can. And we know simply going cheaper (read Renault Captur) isn't always enough. The Nissan Kicks definitely does tick all the boxes as a credible Creta competitor but it might need to undercut that car fairly significantly. So we await the launch now for the prices. But as a first impression, the Kicks makes a good one. The car is also unique enough in terms of looks and features to stand out. And Nissan certainly needs a hit in Nepal. Perhaps this is the Kicks-start it needs!