Let’s be honest: the Philippines still has quite a way to go before EVs become truly mainstream.
Yes, there are already brands (including Nissan with the Leaf) in the Philippines selling EVs. However, such vehiles are still considered niche by most car buyers despite the introduction of the EVIDA law and Executive Order No. 12 which cut import tariffs on EVs to zero for a period of 5 years. Critically, there's also the matter of the country’s charging infrastructure which is still in its infancy, as well as the high cost of electricity. As a result, most buyers get hybrids that come with the benefits of an EV but still have an internal combustion engine (ICE).
Seeing this, Nissan decided to bring another vehicle that can deliver an EV-like driving experience without the dreaded range anxiety most buyers associate with EVs.
That vehicle is the Nissan Kicks e-Power. While it might have a 1.2-liter engine under the hood, it doesn’t directly power the front axle. It’s only there to charge the lithium-ion battery which in turn powers the electric motor driving the front axle but we'll get more on that later.
Let’s begin with the Kicks e-Power’s looks. We already got to test the top-of-the-line VL so it was only natural for us to get our hands on the mid-range VE. Despite serving as the mid-grade variant, the VE almost looks the same as the range-topping VL. From the full LED headlights & daytime running lights, Double V-Motion grille finished in black, stylish 17-inch alloy wheels, and boomerang-inspired LED taillights, the Kicks is stylish but not pretentious.
Some may miss the Juke’s unique and unorthodox looks, but the Kicks’ more contemporary appearance is a nice, fresh change that doesn't really offend nor bore anyone. Moreover, I actually like its more civilized looks as it’s essentially a wolf in sheep’s clothing when it comes to performance which we’ll get to later.
Open the doors and those familiar with the Almera’s interior will find a similar-looking cabin. That’s because Nissan essentially put the sedan’s dashboard onto the crossover which is not a bad thing if we’re being honest. From the digital instrument cluster to the touchscreen media display as well as the climate control panel, everything is where you’d expect it to be which makes for an ergonomic and sleek interior.
Perhaps the only change that’s apparent is the quirky gear selector which looks more like a mouse for an old-school PC or Macintosh. The plasticky interior may put off some customers but we have to remember that the Kicks e-Power was built to meet a price point. And despite the heavy use of plastic, Nissan was still able to make the interior look classy through the use of average materials.
Looking for leather seats? Sorry, but that’s only available in the VL. However, the black fabric seats with blue contrast stitching on the VE are still a nice touch as they complement the Riptide Blue paint finish on the exterior. The other good news is the Zero Gravity seats have been carried over to the VE which means drivers will not feel short-changed when it comes to riding comfort, especially on long drives.
Infotainment comes in the form of an 8-inch touchscreen media display. While it may not be the biggest screen in the market, it does come with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard which is always a must-have in any new vehicle. On regular VE variants, the touchscreen is complemented by a 4-speaker system.
But this particular test vehicle has an Infinity sound system complete with a massive subwoofer in the back. This does not come as standard on any Kicks but for those who are curious, then we can tell you that Infinity is accepting customization options for customers.
As to what this unit has, it comes with a Kappa 103 WDSSI subwoofer, a pair of Kappa 63F door speakers, Kappa 603CF speakers (with tweeters), a DSP4425 amplifier, and a Primus 3000A amplifier for the subwoofer. We just wish they selected a side mounted subwoofer so we won't have to worry about scuffing when we load cargo into the boot.
While the Kicks e-Power is designed to be a fuel-efficient hybrid, that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun behind the wheel. Yes, there are still people who consider hybrids and EVs boring to drive, but the Kicks e-Power wants to change that notion, and then some.
Despite having already driven the crossover over 500 km (and back) when Nissan invited us for a drive to Misibis Bay last year, driving the Kicks e-Power VE is and always will be a pleasure. Since it drives just like an EV, the crossover delivers instantaneous torque at 0 RPM. The result is fast and smooth acceleration that might surprise first-time drivers of the Kicks e-Power.
Put your foot on the floor and you'll be immediately planted in the driver's seat thanks to the immediate acceleration and pulling power. That's because the electric motor is the one powering the front wheels. Yes, it has a 1.2-liter three-cylinder under the hood but it's only there to charge the battery pack which then supplies power to the front-mounted electric motor.
Plant your foot on the accelerator and it can actually surprise some sports coupes and big turbo-diesel SUVs or pickup trucks. This also translates to easier overtaking especially when driving on provincial roads since the power comes in with no delay whatsoever. This is made more apparent when you switch from Eco to Sport mode which dials in power delivery that much faster. Keep your foot to the floor and you might be surprised the Kicks e-Power can easily hit triple-digit speeds.
The Kicks e-Power isn’t exactly designed to be a canyon carver like most sports cars but I do have to commend Nissan for being able to make the crossover handle itself well. Sharp corner after every sharp corner and the vehicle just follows through with no delay. Combined with its precise steering, the Kicks e-Power is quite agile despite being a crossover.
Its ability to make quick work of turns is complemented by the battery pack that’s placed underneath the front seats. This gives the vehicle a lower center of gravity which greatly helps in delivering sharp handling.
Unfortunately, the added weight has also resulted in a slightly stiff ride. It’s not exactly the most jarring vehicle to be in but you do feel that ride quality could use some improvement, especially for those seated in the back seat. Hopefully, Nissan can install softer dampers in a future update or retune its coil springs, though that will have an effect on the drive that we enjoy. No free lunch here.
Now we come to what is perhaps the most important question, the fuel economy. Since the engine is only there to charge the battery (as well as provide additional power during overtaking), the 1.2-liter three-cylinder remains off for most of the time. It’s so efficient that in city driving, the Kicks e-Power was able to average between 19 - 20 km/l and this was during weekday traffic going to and from the office.
On the highway, I was expecting the fuel economy to slightly dip since the engine would have to charge the engine most of the time. But thanks to the wonders of regenerative braking of the electric motor (dubbed e-Pedal Step), it was able to feed energy back to the battery which helped keep the battery charged up.
The result is a slightly better fuel consumption that averaged between 22 to 23 km/l. In the week that I had the Kicks e-Power VE with me, it still had more than half in the tank which speaks to the fuel efficiency of the system.
Aside from keeping the battery recharged, the e-Pedal Step we previously mentioned allows for some form of one-pedal driving. In Eco and Sport drive modes, the e-Pedal Step helps decelerate the vehicle while simultaneously feeding energy back into the battery. This means you can just put your foot off the accelerator and it will slow down by itself. This also means don’t have to step on the brakes all the time which can extend the life of your brake pads.
But will the drivers behind you know when the e-Pedal Step system is working? Actually, the system lights up the taillights to let drivers in the back know you’re slowing down. However, unlike the e-Pedal Step found in the Nissan Leaf which can actually slow down the vehicle to a complete stop, the system in the Kicks e-Power will only slow the vehicle down to a crawl so you still need to have your right foot ready to hit the brakes.
Like most crossovers today, the Kicks e-Power is packed to the brim with safety features. But since this is the VE, the mid-grade variant loses some features that are only available in the VL. It still comes with smart driver aids as part of the Nissan Intelligent Mobility which include; intelligent forward collision warning, intelligent emergency braking, driver attention alert, and hill-start assist.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t come with the 360-degree intelligent around-view monitor as that is exclusive to the VL. What you’re left with are just the parking sensors which are fine but drivers used to having a reverse camera or 360-degree camera may look for that particular feature.
At PHP 1.339 million, the Kicks e-Power VE is packed to the brim with features despite losing some amenities that are reserved only for the top-of-the-line VL variant. But with a PHP 200,000 price difference between the VE and VL, those looking at something slightly more affordable but feature-packed will find the VE model as a sound compromise. You still get value for money and an efficient e-Power system at a more affordable price. Sure, the lack of the 360-degree camera system may sour the deal but it’s a feature we can live without.
For those looking at an EV-like driving experience but without the dreaded range anxiety associated with battery electric vehicles, the Kicks e-Power serves as a bridge between a hybrid and a full EV. It may have a battery pack underneath the seats, but at least you’re not tethered to the nearest charging station should you go for a long drive. Heck, we drove the Nissan Kicks all the way to Bicol and back and we didn’t have any trouble whatsoever.