What is it?
It’s not for you. It’s the Nissan Kicks, a small crossover developed initially for Central and South American markets but which will be on sale in more than 80 countries before long. The UK, though, won’t be one of ’em. Just when most car makers are becoming ever more global in their product offerings, Nissan is sticking to making things that are developed specifically for different regions. (Mostly, anyway; let’s gloss over the most recent Micra, designed for Asia and converted, rather badly, for Europe.)
Think of the Kicks as another of Nissan’s many crossovers, sitting in size between a Juke and a Qashqai. It's 4295mm long, compared with a Juke's 4111mm and a Qashqai's 4377mm, so it’s more or less square between the two and, to my eyes, is quite a nice-looking thing. Nicer than a Ford Ecosport, anyway, which is a small SUV out of a similar mould and with which the Kicks competes. Other rivals include the Honda HR-V and Jeep Renegade. In Brazil the Kicks costs the equivalent of £21,000, which is a lot, but only because all new cars in Brazil cost a lot because of local taxes. They’re even higher on most imported cars, so production of the Kicks starts in Brazil next year for that very reason.
The Kicks – quite a good name, too, no? – is based on Renault-Nissan’s V-platform. I said we’d gloss over the Micra but, in fact, it’s the same platform as that, plus the Note, although there are developments unique from those, such as the newly designed rear twist beam, for example.
The Kicks is powered, to the front wheels only, by a naturally aspirated 1.6-litre petrol engine, making 118bhp in most markets or 113bhp in Brazil, where it’ll usually be part-ethanol fuelled because that’s so commonly available. The gearbox is a five-speed manual or a conventional CVT.
Which all sounds pretty straightforward at the moment, but there are one or two technical novelties despite it being designed for markets perceived to be less sophisticated than Europe’s. The most notable is called Active Ride Control, which tries to do the same thing as adaptive dampers, only without the adaptive dampers. Instead, it applies individual brakes (most likely the rears, if I get my head around the concept) to prevent body pitch off the back of large bumps and crests, allowing softer spring rates but while still retaining body control.