As much as we want electric vehicles (EVs) to be more popular in the country, we still lack the infrastructure to actually make them more mainstream. There's also the matter of making it more affordable to buyers by offering more tax breaks or incentives to interested customers.
Nissan is no stranger to this as they have the Leaf EV in their lineup. Despite producing zero emissions and providing a more quiet and comfortable ride, the lack of charging stations on public roads means you can only charge it at dealerships or at home. There's also the fact that it's not competitively priced unless you're in the market for a compact hatchback that costs as much as a seven-seat SUV. And by that, we mean something closer to a Ford Explorer or Kia Sorento.
So Nissan had to pivot and brought something different. It's the Nissan Kicks e-Power, and it's not your usual hybrid electric vehicle (HEV).
Will this actually make more sense in the country? Does it need to be recharged at home or via a public charging station? And is it actually a hybrid or an all-electric vehicle as some have already presumed? Let's answer some of these questions on a 500+ kilometer drive from Metro Manila to Bicol.
1. Is it an EV?
The short answer is no, it's not an electric vehicle. It is an electrified vehicle.
The long answer is that it runs and feels like an EV when you're driving it. That's because it has an electric motor that actually drives the wheels. Yes, it has an engine under the hood but its only purpose is to recharge the battery pack.
Think of the Kicks e-Power as an EV that has its own onboard charging system. That means you won't need to charge it at home or via a public charging station when you're out and about.
2. Do I need to recharge it?
Don't expect to find a charging port on the Kicks e-Power. Since the gasoline engine already serves as a generator, it already provides the necessary charging capability for the electric motor’s battery pack. This makes the Kicks a self-charging vehicle that doesn't need to be plugged in. This means drivers no longer need to visit a charging station and check what type of charging port they have to use.
Since it runs and feels like an EV, we wish Nissan actually gave customers the option to charge the Kicks via a home charging system so you can recharge while you’re at home. As mentioned earlier, the only way for the system to recharge the batteries is when the car is turned on.
However, Nissan might have deliberately removed this option due to added complexity and cost. Moreover, having a charging port might give customers the wrong idea of having to charge it up as well as filling it up with gasoline.
3. Will I have to worry about range anxiety?
It may deliver an EV-like driving experience, but it doesn't come with the dreaded range anxiety that is associated with typical EVs. Like what we said earlier, the 1.2-liter gasoline engine serves as the Kicks’ generator for the battery pack. This means that you don’t need to plot out a route in case the battery becomes depleted.
Throughout our 500+ km drive from Manila to Misibis Bay (and back), we didn’t have to worry about how much range we have left. That’s because we can just go to any filling station and fill up on 91 octane gasoline should we need to. You're not tethered to the nearest charging station because there are gasoline stations all around.
4. Is it fuel-efficient?
With the engine’s sole duty being to charge and supply power to the battery, it doesn’t need to be turned on all the time. In fact, the system automatically turns it on and off. More importantly, the Kicks e-Power benefits from Eco Mode.
In the city, we were able to achieve 16.1 km/l which frankly even surprised us. It was able to do this thanks to regenerative braking which allows the system to gather lost energy while coasting or slowing down. The system even comes with the innovative ‘e-Step Pedal’ which works similarly to the Leaf’s e-Pedal function.
This nifty feature gives drivers the ability to drive just on one pedal instead of having to switch between the accelerator pedal and the brake pedal. Once you put your foot off the accelerator, the electric motor starts to slow the vehicle down and recharge the battery like a dynamo, meaning you don’t always have to use the brakes and extend the life of your pads.
For those worried drivers behind you might not be able to see the vehicle slowing down by itself, the system actually works with the LED taillights. This lets everyone know that the Kicks is in fact slowing down. But unlike the Leaf's e-Pedal which can completely stop the vehicle, the one on the Kicks will only slow the Kicks to a crawl.
At highway speeds, we were able to average around 20.1 km/l at best complete with overtaking on provincial roads. In fact, we filled up the Kicks on a full tank of gas from Tabaco City, Albay and we still had half a tank when we reached STAR Tollway at Ibaan, Batangas.
Impressive, but didn’t Nissan claim the Kicks e-Power can do 22 to 25 km/l? Our best guess is those figures are achievable only under certain sets of conditions, but we're not exactly complaining at 20.1. In the future, we’ll try to replicate those exact fuel consumption figures once we get our hands on the Kicks e-Power for a proper review.
5. Is it fun to drive?
As much as it's hard to believe, the Kicks e-Power is probably one of the most fun vehicles I've had the pleasure of driving. While the electric motor is only rated to produce 136 PS and 280 Nm of torque, it’s how it delivered the power (actually the torque) that surprised us.
Since the Kicks runs like an EV, torque comes in instantaneously even if the car is on Eco Mode. This meant overtaking other cars was easy as the torque comes in so quickly. Combined with its smoother and more linear power delivery, this crossover can go toe-to-toe with more powerful SUVs and perhaps even sports cars when it comes to sheer acceleration. If that wasn't enough, the Kicks also comes with Sport Mode which enhances acceleration while also making the vehicle's regenerative braking more aggressive which allowed us to have plenty of fun (and battery power) while on the open road.
Also worth mentioning about the Kicks is its handling. While the vehicle wasn't exactly designed for a sporty drive, we have to hand it to Nissan for actually making it an agile crossover. Through the many twisties and corners we encountered through our 500 km drive, the Kicks e-Power gave us confidence in tackling the many twists and turns. Sure, the electronic power steering (EPS) may feel too numb or light at times, but overall, the vehicle impressed us with its precise steering.
6. Is it quiet and comfortable?
EVs are known for being both quiet and comfortable. With fewer moving parts and no engine running under the hood, it’s quieter and more refined compared to ICE-powered vehicles. The Kicks may not be a fully-electric vehicle, but thanks to its unique setup, it's about as quiet as your regular EV.
Despite the Kicks still having an engine under the hood, the fact that it doesn't actually power the drivetrain means it's not as noisy. A very subtle whir of the engine is all that you'll hear whenever it has to recharge the batteries. With the engine turned off at certain times, you'll have a more quiet ride which will allow you to enjoy your favorite tunes even more.
It's actually so quiet that I sometimes have to honk the horn in order to let other vehicles (and pedestrians) I'm in the area. This is more prominent when I have to park the vehicle as most will only hear a subtle tire noise whenever the Kicks is approaching. I have even received some odd looks from passers-by due to the quiet nature of the Kicks e-Power.
Did we mention the Kicks also comes with the Zero Gravity front seats? Throughout my entire time with the Kicks going to Misibis Bay and back, not once did I feel any fatigue or soreness. We're not exaggerating.
7. What's the price?
By now, you already know that there will be three variants in total for the Kicks e-Power. But just how affordable is Nissan's latest electrified B-segment crossover? You'll be happy to know that it's priced less than what Toyota is asking for the Corolla Cross HEV.
With a starting price of PHP 1.209 million, the Kicks e-Power EL undercuts the Corolla Cross HEV by PHP 456,000. If you want more creature comforts, there's the VE variant which serves as the mid-grade variant and is selling for PHP 1.309 million. But if you want the fully-loaded version, the VL is available for PHP 1.509 million.
At these prices, the Kicks is putting every B-segment crossover on notice.
8. Is it expensive to maintain?
This is perhaps one of the biggest concerns interested buyers want to know. Since it has an engine and electric motor, will it actually cost more to maintain over regular ICE-powered vehicles?
While Nissan has yet to disclose the Kicks' maintenance costs, we estimate that it could be (slightly) more expensive to run. Remember, owners will have to maintain two separate systems on the Kicks, the engine itself and the e-Power system. There's also the matter of the brake pads, tires, exhausts, and filters which is typical for any vehicle.
As for the battery itself, not only do you have a 12V battery to power your auxiliaries, but the vehicle also has a separate battery pack for the e-Power system which is located below the front seats. Nissan claims that the battery is guaranteed to run indefinitely despite the many charging cycles it will have to face. However, we won't be surprised if owners will also have to replace them every 10 years or more in order for the vehicle to be efficient.
Yes, this makes sense
After getting familiar with the car for several days on the road, I have to say that Nissan was smart in bringing the all-new Kicks e-Power to the country. With the market shifting towards electrification, bringing the Kicks will give customers the choice to experience EV-like driving without the hassle of range anxiety and looking for a charging station.
And with a starting price of PHP 1.209 million, it's bound to attract customers that wish to experience EV-like ownership without the premium price tag. Yes, it's not a fully-electric vehicle, but it's close to what drivers will experience when they make the switch to EVs. And that's where Nissan is banking on that notion.
Going back to our previous question if the Kicks e-Power will make sense here in the Philippines, I have to say that it does make sense in the country. Since we still lack a national charging infrastructure, the Kicks e-Power with its self-charging system could serve as an alternative choice as the country is still finding its way into making EVs more mainstream.
If you're in the market for a small crossover that is efficient, fun-to-drive, and delivers an EV-like experience without having to deal with range anxiety, the Kicks e-Power should be on your shortlist of vehicles to consider.