Nissan's introduction of the Kicks e-Power to our local market is a tough one to describe. Before they did, we could have relegated it to a case of too little, too late.
The Kicks e-Power just made its PH debut this year. But in Thailand, they already have the crossover for a little over two years now. In the automotive world, that is considered an eternity.
Under normal circumstances, introducing a two-year-old vehicle might be perceived as a questionable move and a huge gamble considering how fast technology evolves. But we all know this still isn't the “normal” we've become accustomed to before the pandemic struck, and that's where Nissan played their cards right.
Faced with excessively high fuel prices since the start of the year, most people now look for alternatives that can better maximize each drop of fuel; a perfect storm for electrified vehicles to go mainstream, and the Kicks e-Power is right in the thick of it.
The unique mode of propulsion definitely couldn't have come at a better time. But as a whole package, was the Nissan Kicks e-Power able to deliver the goods?
To kick things off (pun not intended), let's start in the looks department. The Kicks e-Power essentially replaced the Juke as Nissan's subcompact crossover for the ASEAN market, and this one's the top-spec VL variant with a two-tone color scheme. Whereas the previous-generation Juke had a love-it-or-hate-it styling, the Kicks e-Power's design has been dialed down for a more conservative look. There's nothing too striking about its exterior, and it's not boring either.
Nissan's signature V-motion grille is proudly displayed with the new corporate logo in front, plus it gets a pair of sleek LED headlights instead of the Juke's split design. It's no longer a funky-looking crossover, but nevertheless, it gets its own unique touches like the kink in the rear windows, plus the rear faux light bars.
It's all well and good on the exterior, and the same can be said when you enter the Kicks e-Power's cabin. I've been familiarized with the crossover's interior way before Nissan launched the Kicks, as they held an event where we got to experience e-Power technology with a camouflaged unit.
Since it's the top-spec VL, it gets leather seats plus the around-view monitor that the VE does not have. And because it's a B-segment crossover, expect to still find hard plastics around the cabin, although soft padded materials have been used in touch points namely in the door cards, armrest, and dashboard. It's also worth noting though that it doesn't have rear A/C vents – but yeah I get it; it's a Nissan after all, the front vents are good enough to cool the rest of the cabin.
In the months between the e-Power event and my lend-out period, I have driven a lot of crossovers, and most were the Kicks' competitors in the segment. Most of them indeed feel like high-riders, but my impression is that the Kicks somehow make you think you're in a hatchback with the low seating position. Of course, with that said, expect plenty of headroom inside.
However, what I've noticed is that the Kicks is still set back by the shortcomings of the Juke it replaced, particularly in terms of legroom and the general feel of being cramped inside, especially in the second row where there's a kink in the window. It's a contrast to its rival, the HR-V, which had limited headroom but made up for it with good cabin space for your legs.
By now, people are already familiar with the Kicks e-Power's unique powertrain technology, so let's get right down to how it drives. With 136 PS and 280 Nm of torque in the electric motor, the Kicks e-Power definitely delivers swift acceleration off the line. Max torque is accessible at 0 rpm, so overtaking slow-moving vehicles on provincial roads is not a problem.
I enjoyed switching through the three driving modes which suited road conditions very well. When I was using the Kicks from home to the office, I kept the car on Eco mode and let the e-Pedal do its job. And indeed, I barely heard the three-cylinder engine turn on to recharge the batteries, as I was using regenerative braking every time I passed through intersections and traffic lights.
Meanwhile, I tried to use Sport mode on the expressways which sharpen the throttle response. But with the e-Pedal activated, it can somehow make you rock back and forth when you don't have a steady right foot, which can be nauseating. I found the Normal mode better suited for highway driving, as it basically lessens the engine braking function of the electric motor for a smoother cruise.
Interestingly, the fuel economy of the Kicks e-Power is very close when driving in the city and on the highway, unlike most ICE vehicles where highway numbers are generally double that of the city. In the Kicks, I was doing 19 km/l and 22 km/l, respectively. So yes, it's more or less in hybrid vehicle numbers fuel consumption-wise in an urban setting, but we've seen non-hybrids do 22 km/l on the highway. The reason behind this is that the electric motor is in its element at slow speeds with its torque and low consumption. When cruising at around 90-100 km/h, I noticed the Kicks e-Power's three-cylinder engine was almost constantly on idle to compensate for the electric motor's power consumption.
Moving on from the powertrain to its handling, I would say that the extra weight of the battery has its pros and cons. Because it is placed underneath, it gives the Kicks e-Power a low center of gravity, so it's planted on the turns. But the drawback, of course, it's a bit stiffer. It's not jarring, but I've seen its other rivals, albeit in non-hybrid form, deliver a better ride.
With a price tag of PHP 1.509-million, it's a bit difficult to look for other added equipment that justifies the PHP 200,000 price difference of the VL compared to the VE variant, and I consider the latter to have better value despite losing leather seats, front foglights and the 360-degree around view monitor. Plus, the lack of a spare tire is a questionable omission, as I believe most people will still prefer to just change a flat on the side of the road than wait for the patching kit to do its job. In addition, not everyone knows how a tire repair kit works. A donut tire could have sufficed in my opinion.
Overall, the Nissan Kicks e-Power VL is one step ahead in terms of its unique powertrain, but it has room for improvement in terms of packaging. Perhaps an update in the future would help Nissan iron those things and keep the crossover competitive, especially with a lot of new models coming out.
- Make: Nissan
- Model: Kicks e-Power VL
- Engine: Electric Motor with 2.13 kWh Battery + 1.2L Generator
- Max Power: 136 PS
- Max Torque: 280 Nm
- Transmission: Automatic Single-Speed Gear Reduction
- Price as Tested: ₱PHP 1,509,000