Pros – decent handling, EV mode, reasonable price
Cons – uninspiring engine noise, small seats, no rear air vents
Despite the rising popularity of Chinese EVs at the recent Motor Expo, Nissan was able to secure almost 2,500 orders with much help coming from the Kicks e-POWER hybrid that is still able to maintain its attractiveness in the market with a variety of packaging options and reasonable pricing.
While the Kicks e-POWER may not be classified as an EV, it does operate like one, with the electric motor driving the front wheels while the internal combustion engine is not connected to the wheels — its only duty is to drive the generator.
This means that owners of the Kicks e:POWER get to enjoy EV-like acceleration from the electric motor, while not having to suffer from “range anxiety” when having to drive long distances or in day-to-day traffic.
At the recent Nissan ASEAN Media Drive event held in the northern provinces of Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai, journalists from Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand got their hands on a large fleet of the latest version of the Nissan Kicks e:POWER cars.
The test drive route was mapped out nicely, stopping by places if interest and included various driving situations ranging from city traffic to country roads and highways, allowing participants to experience the car in a lot of different ways.
While the visiting journalists were assigned the upper variants, the Thai media were offered the V variant, which features a midrange trim minus the intelligent safety package, except for intelligent collision warning and emergency braking that comes as standard across the range.
The current line-up of the 2023-2024 Kicks e:POWER consists of four variants — E (Bt779,000), V (Bt849,900), VL (Bt919,900) and the AUTECH (Bt979,900).
The AUTECH comes with exclusive styling upgrades including silver-themed aero kit and mirror caps, stylish foglamp housing, glossy black 17-inch alloy wheels and black interior with dark blue garnish.
Priced at a notch below is the VL with highlights being its ADAS package featuring intelligent forward collision warning, intelligent emergency braking, cruise control, lane departure warning, rear cross traffic alert, high beam assist and intelligent rearview mirror.
While the V that I drove lacks the ADAS, it’s in no way under-equipped, coming with 360-degree camera, moving object detection and NISSAN CONNECT.
Positioned right at the bottom is the E variant that still comes with intelligent collision warning and emergency braking plus six airbags which is pretty remarkable for an entry-level model.
The current-gen Kicks has been around for a while, having been first introduced in late 2019. In 2021 it received a needed upgrade that was accompanied by retail price reduction that made it more attractive in the Bt1-million-and-below neighborhood. The original electric motor was also replaced, with the new one offering a bit more power and torque.
While the front-end garnish can differ slightly from variant to variant, the V trim came with a right amount of styling elements. The large V-Motion grille and foglamp housings get glossy black treatment that are contrasted by chrome accents.
The dynamic-looking auto-switching LED headlights are paired up with Signature Light indicators. Tail lights are also LEDs, although the V variant doesn’t get a rear finisher strip across the tailgate like the upper variants.
The side profile portrays a pretty dynamic stance, with 5-spoke 17-inch wheels, floating roof design on the C-pillar and black protector strip for the lower body preventing scratches on the paintwork. There are roof rails and shark-fin antenna.
The tailgate isn’t powered but does come with a smooth and effortless mechanism, making it easy to open and close. Luggage area is average at 423 liters but the rear seats can be easily folded to increase the capacity or store long objects.
The interior quality of the Kicks e:POWER had been upgraded in 2021 and comes with a satisfying amount of soft-touch materials whether it’s on the front and center console, or door panel.
The seats are pretty sporty offering good lateral support, although large persons may feel a little tight. Nevertheless, there’s enough headroom and legroom both front and rear for a 6-footer like me. There are two USB ports for the rear passengers but there aren’t any rear air vents, which isn’t a good thing for hot and humid countries like Thailand.
The driver display consists of an analog speedometer on the right and a 7-inch TFT screen on the left that displays various information and graphics, such as hybrid system energy flow, trip computer, car settings menu, etc.
The D-shaped steering wheel comes with plenty of control buttons for various systems, and there’s a an 8-inch center touchscreen with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connection (via USB) that also serves as the monitor screen for the 360-degree camera system.
The air-conditioning system is digital but isn’t dual-zone, although the control knobs for the temperature and offer high-quality feel.
There’s just one USB port in front but the wireless phone charger kind of makes up for it. On the right of the charging pad are the electric parking brake and brake hold switches, and apart from the Drive Mode button there’s also an EV button and start button located right above the electronic gear shifter, finished in piano black.
The two cupholders on the center tunnel is adjustable for cups of different sizes. There’s not much space in the center storage compartment nor the glove box though, a reminder that this isn’t a big car.
As mentioned the Kicks e:POWER is a hybrid, in this case between a 1.2-liter three-cylinder gasoline engine and an electric motor that churns out 136 horsepower and 280Nm of torque.
Being fitted with a small lithium-ion battery, it provides an all-electric range of up to 2kms during our highway drive (perhaps more than 2kms could be achieved at lower speeds). In EV mode the engine is shut off and the 1.35-ton car operates in silent mode via the electric motor, which is good for short trips to the grocery store while not disturbing the neighbors.
The electronic gear shifter features a B mode and single pedal operation that is convenient to use and also helps maximize energy recuperation.
The large amount of torque from the electric motor is adequate in giving the Kicks e:POWER decent performance, as all of the 280Nm is available instantly. This provides for nimbleness in zipping through traffic as well as overtaking performance on the highway. The only setback seems to be the boring engine noise during hard acceleration that will irritate both EV and motorheads alike. Fortunately during normal driving the engine sound is well-kept and does not interfere with driving pleasure.
In normal driving conditions the hybrid system switches into EV mode whenever possible, for example when driving at low speeds in city traffic, switching back to hybrid mode once the battery is depleted.
Sportier drivers will also enjoy the Kicks e:POWER in terms of handling. The steering, adjustable for both reach and rake, generally provides precise turn-ins while the front strut (with stabilizer) and rear torsion beam suspension has been nicely tuned for winding roads. There weren’t much body roll during cornering adding to the fun-to-drive character of the car.
The 205/55 tires are grippy and driving along the mountain roads from Chaing Rai to Chiang Mai turned out to be an entertaining experience, with stopping power being provided by discs all-round.
The official fuel consumption figure of the Kicks e:POWER according to the Thai ECO Sticker label is 23.8km/l while average CO2 is rated at 100g/km.
The Nissan Kicks e:POWER represents an interesting choice for those who aren’t into EVs but want a compact, reasonably-priced hatchback that is fun to drive and offers decent fuel economy (while enjoying some EV performance).
Nissan Kicks e-POWER V Specifications
Price: Bt849,900 (US$23,967)
Electric Motor (for driving)
Type: AC3 Synchronous Motor
Max Power: 136hp/3,410-9697rpm
Max Torque: 280Nm/0-3,410rpm
Engine (for generating electricity)
Engine system: 3-Cylinder DOHC (Double Overhead Camshaft) 12V CVT (Continuously Variable Valve Timing Control)
Ignition System: Electronic Injection Multi-point (ECCS) 32 bit
Bore and Stroke (mm): 78.0 x 83.6
Displacement (cc): 1,198
Max Power: 82hp/6,000rpm
Max Torque: 103Nm/4,800rpm
Compression Ratio: 12.0:1
Fuel Tank: 41 liters
Front: Independent MacPherson Struts with Stabilizer
Rear: Torsion Beam with Stabilizer
Steering: Electric Power Steering (EPS)
Brakes (f/r): ventilated discs/discs
Overall length: 4,290
Overall width: 1,760
Overall height: 1,610
Track (f/r): 1,520/1,535
Wheels: 17 x 6.5 J
Tires: 205/55 R17