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Nissan Kicks E-Power review: Nissan's Kicks is an electric car in disguise

A new sport utility vehicle from Nissan pairs electric drive with petrol convenience.

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The real benefit is that even though the Kicks is a small SUV, its electric motor helps deliver a performance that is almost big car-like.

BT_20200807_NISSAN2_4196826.jpg
The real benefit is that even though the Kicks is a small SUV, its electric motor helps deliver a performance that is almost big car-like.

Singapore

YOU might not be anywhere near Route 66 at the moment, but you can still get your Kicks, for that is the quirky name that Nissan has given its latest car here. On casual inspection it's a small sport utility vehicle (SUV), but prod deeper and you'll find it's an electric car in disguise.

Your first clue is the "E-Power" badge on its tailgate. That signifies Nissan's take on how to make a car drive like an electric vehicle (EV) without giving it all the attendant headaches that come with owning one, like needing a place to charge it.

There's still an engine under the bonnet, but it's not there to propel the Kicks E-Power. It couldn't even if it wanted to, since it's not connected to the wheels in any mechanical way. Instead, the engine burns petrol solely to generate electricity. Effectively, that makes the Kicks an EV that carries its own little power station around with it.

That in turn solves another problem, which is that batteries are wincingly expensive, accounting for almost a third of an entire electric car's price.

There's only one other car on the market with a similar petrol-electric mash-up (you might even call it a "hybrid"), and that's another Nissan, the Serena, which is a small apartment on wheels.

Personally championed by local importer Tan Chong Intl Ltd's deputy chairman and managing director Glenn Tan, who is something of an EV convert, the Serena has been enough of a sales success to pave the way for the Kicks. If anything, putting the E-Power hardware into a red hot segment like SUVs is bound to give the technology a wider audience than ever.

Not that you could really tell that the Kicks is an EV from the outside, though. Its styling doesn't deviate from the SUV norm, with some chiselled lines and a generally rugged stance, although the test car's Sunrise Orange and Super Black two-tone paint scheme is certainly eye-catching.

The interior is similarly nondescript, although there's at least an attempt to give it some flair. The orange upholstery that matches the car's exterior comes with the higher-spec Premium Plus trim level of the Kicks, which costs S$106,888 with a Certificate of Entitlement (COE) included.

There's a Premium model that costs S$3,000 less, but frankly it's well worth springing for the higher spec version, because it not only nets you a brightly-coloured interior, but also throws in handy driver assistance features such as blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, and adaptive cruise control. Those aren't features you usually find in cars at this price, so their inclusion makes the Kicks good value for money.

Yet, it's the EV experience that sets the Kicks apart from rivals. Like any car that uses an electrified powertrain, the Kicks is completely silent when you start it up. It can feel like a normal car to drive if you select the Normal driving mode, funnily enough, but the Eco and S settings activate the car's regenerative braking function, and let you drive the car using just one pedal.

That might sound bizarre, but lots of electric cars pull the same trick. The idea is to encourage the driver to roll smoothly through traffic using lots of anticipation, and recover as much energy as possible. It does take getting some used to, but driving a car without touching the brake pedal actually feels less stressful in stop-start traffic.

The real benefit is that even though the Kicks is a small SUV, its electric motor helps deliver a performance that is almost big car-like. There's 129hp and 260Nm of torque to play with, but the way it is delivered is so smooth, linear and brisk that you'll hit triple digit speeds before you know it. It's quite a surreal sensation, and it is rather pleasantly surprising.

The petrol motor fires up whenever the Kicks wants electricity, but you don't really notice unless you're really stretching the car hard, such is the seamlessness of the E-Power setup. It drives fairly well too, with neat and tidy handling that's slightly marred by numb steering. The ride quality on the whole is mostly acceptable, the suspension absorbing road imperfections well, and the Kicks only really gets unsettled if you go over bumps too quickly.

While the Kicks E-Power still needs to stop at petrol stations for sustenance, at least it shouldn't need to often. The car averages 4.6L/100km, which makes it admirably efficient. That reliance on petrol means it isn't exactly the sort of electric car that Elon Musk would lose sleep over. Instead, Nissan is hoping that by offering a taste of motor propulsion at a mass market price, the Kicks has what it takes to knock out rival SUVs.


Nissan Kicks E-Power Premium Plus

Engine 1,198cc, inline three
Power 79hp (estimated)
Torque 103Nm (estimated)
Gearbox Single Speed Reduction Gear
Electric Motor 129hp/260Nm
Battery Lithium ion, 1.57kWh
System Power 129hp
System Torque 360Nm
0-100km/h 9.7 seconds
Top Speed 145km/h
Fuel Efficiency 4.6L/100km
Agent Tan Chong Motor Sales
Price S$106,888 with COE
Available Now

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