The FINANCIAL — Nissan is ready to compete in the fast-growing Brazilian and Latin-American compact crossover segments.
Its weapon to compete in this segment is the all-new Nissan Kicks, a striking vehicle that is well-equipped with advanced technology. And the success of its new contender will be built on Nissan’s position as a pioneer in the global crossover market, with other successful crossovers such as Qashqai, Murano, X-Trail and Juke.
Expected to be in all Nissan dealerships in Brazil from August 5, the Nissan Kicks will deliver an agile, but fuel-efficient driving experience. Brazil is the first country to launch the new model, which will then be introduced by the end of the year in several countries in Latin America and, ultimately, more than 80 countries.
With bold lines, which include Nissan’s signature design cues found on all global models, such as the “V-Motion” grille, the “floating roof” and “boomerang shape lights,” the styling of Kicks also benefits from advanced aerodynamic engineering to optimize fuel efficiency and minimize wind noise, according to Nissan.
It is a true crossover in the best Nissan tradition, combining the bold, daring and dynamic design and higher seating position favored by customers in the city – but with a compact footprint and agile performance.
Among the highlights of the new Nissan Kicks equipment list are the Around View Monitor and Moving Object Detection systems, which use four integrated cameras to show an overall view of the car and warn the driver in case of any unseen dangers.
And the suite of technology available on Nissan Kicks extends to dynamic innovations to maximize safety and comfort. Among them are Chassis Dynamic Control, Active Trace Control, Active Ride Control, and Active Engine Braking. These innovations work discreetly to provide key interventions to ensure the Kicks remains stable and comfortable for occupants at all times; Kicks is the first vehicle in its segment to offer these key innovations.
The Nissan Kicks is also one of the first models of the Japanese brand to apply the concept of “Intelligent Mobility,” first presented at the Geneva Motor Show this year. Intelligent Mobility is Nissan’s philosophy of ensuring that all its vehicles are designed and engineered to offer the most modern, innovative and efficient mobility solution to its customers. In the case of the Kicks, this translates into stress-reducing technology and class-leading fuel efficiency thanks to its advanced 1.6-liter engine and lightweight platform. In Brazilian specification, power is rated at 84kW (114PS), with torque of 152Nm. For Latin America markets, power is rated at 88kW (119PS) and torque of 149Nm.
The Nissan Kicks will be produced in the industrial complex of Nissan in Resende (RJ) from the first quarter of 2017. Nissan has invested R $ 750 million (US$ 262.5 million) the factory, which completed two years of operation in April, to adapt it for Kicks production.
Styled collaboratively by design teams based at Nissan’s design headquarters in Atsugi, Japan, Nissan Design America (NDA) in San Diego, California, and Nissan Design America – Rio in Rio de Janeiro, Nissan Kicks is aimed at urban-dwelling families. It combines a number of familiar design cues to link it with Nissan’s successful crossovers like Qashqai and Juke, but adds unique twists that give it a style all of its own.
The front is dominated by Nissan’s signature V-motion grille, which is flanked by distinctive slanting headlights that extend deep into the front fenders. Another familiar styling cue is the “floating” coupé-style roof sitting on top of the glasshouse, which in profile resembles a wrap-around visor – a deep windscreen and side windows that taper towards the rear of the car, like a crash helmet visor. The rear is decorated with so-called boomerang lights, which follow the shape of the rear window as they stretch halfway across the tail of the car.
These themes are augmented by a number of new dynamic styling features that include bold matte black wheel arch finishers blending into sill finishers between the wheels and then into the rear bumper, and which are also given the matte black treatment.
Exaggerated fenders give the profile a muscular appearance, while a sharp rising character line on the body side gives Kicks a high waistline that contributes to sense of security and wellbeing for passengers.
The “hidden” C-pillar is another feature that can be found on another Nissan crossover models, but which has been emphasised on Nissan Kicks.
Formed by the “kick” in the rear door quarter-light and emphasised by the use of a contrasting colour for the floating roof, the center of the C-pillar is given a dark matte finish that blends into the tailgate glass. The complex tailgate pressing also adds character to the design.
Underlining the car’s crossover stance and inherent strength is its generous ground clearance (200mm), which helps provide a commanding driving position and a high eye point for excellent all round visibility.
At the same time, the ground clearance in combination, with 16-inch or optional 17-inch wheels, plus short front and rear overhangs ensures the car can cope with speed humps, poor road surfaces and other obstacles typically found in the city environment.
The roomy cabin is notable for its elegant simplicity and especially its clean and uncluttered dashboard, the latest iteration of Nissan’s Gliding Wing design. The driver faces an easy-to-read digital display for the essential functions, with a fully integrated audio system centrally mounted in the soft-touch dashboard, with stitching where the lower and facing surfaces meet.
The use of high quality materials is widespread, with points of interaction, such as the interior door handles, arm rests and gear selector covered in soft-touch polished matt chrome finish. Similarly, the vents and climate controls are finished in the same finish, and the central screen is framed in a chrome surround. The overall impression is an interior of high quality.
Depending on the version, the digital display houses either twin circular dials for the tachometer and speedometer which sandwich a fixed display giving information on distance travelled, fuel economy, cruise control settings or, in top grade versions, a single dial for the speedometer flanked by a full color seven-inch TFT information display.
This can also show a tachometer, but using steering wheel mounted controls, the driver can scroll through a wide variety of displays including the drive computer, audio settings and detailed fuel economy readings. It also gives access to settings for chassis control and driver aids. When satellite navigation is fitted, the display can also show dynamic turn-by-turn instructions or a compass.
These top grade models replace the centrally mounted push button audio with a full color screen housing a comprehensive infotainment system with audio, satellite navigation and full smartphone integration as well as giving on the move access to other features including Facebook, Google Online Search, Twitter and Trip Advisor. The screen is also used by the reversing camera and/or Around View Monitor where fitted.
Below this display are controls for the heating and ventilation system, which features either manual air conditioning or climate control depending on the model.
A great deal of attention to detail has gone into the steering wheel which has a new ergonomically designed grip section allowing the driver’s grasp to be naturally tight. It has a sporting flat bottom with a matt chrome finisher for a quality appearance. The central spokes house controls for the audio and phone systems and driver information displays.
The cabin is tastefully finished with contrasting inserts on the doors and dashboard that match the seat fabric. The seats themselves feature new generation zero gravity frames providing better support the thorax and pelvis areas for enhanced comfort, reduced fatigue and greater safety.
Thanks in part to the generous 2,610mm wheelbase, rear knee and headroom is among the best in class, while the cabin has ample storage space, with a lidded glovebox, deep door pockets, and drinks holders and cubby holes in the center console. Luggage space is also generous, and at 383 liters is almost as large as cars in the class above.
Clever features include a folding parcel shelf with a hinged section with an opening (160m) large enough to allow items to be “posted” into the load area from the back seat or making it possible to access the contents of a cool box or picnic hamper from the cabin rather than from the rear of the car.
Another clever detail is that the parcel shelf can be neatly stowed flush with the rear seat back if greater height is needed in the trunk, rather than having to be stowed on the boot floor or left behind at the start of a journey. The load area is also highly practical with shopping hooks on both sides, capable of holding up to 3.3 kgs each.
“The exterior design positions Kicks as a compact, robust car for demanding urban conditions,” said Shiro Nakamura, corporate vice president, Design and Nissan’s Chief Creative Officer. “With the characteristic V-motion grille, floating roof and boomerang shape light signatures, Kicks joins our global line up of crossovers that combine robust, emotional and dynamic design, with outstanding interior quality, space and functionality to offer customers a refreshing alternative to the norm.”
Nissan Kicks leads its market segment when it comes to advanced technology designed to reduce stress, enhance comfort and boost safety. Nissan’s commitment to offering Intelligent Mobility solutions is reflected in the availability on Nissan Kicks of features such as Around View Monitor (AVM) and Moving Object Detection (MOD).
Using four cameras, placed at the front and rear of the car and in both door mirrors, AVM creates a bird’s eye 360-degree view of the car which can be displayed on the central monitor and used as a parking aid.
When the system detects a moving object – a pedestrian, for example – a warning is sounded to alert the driver to the hazard and prevent a potential accident.
The convenience and simplicity of the suite of systems that are accessible by the central touch-screen include navigation, audio, and Bluetooth phone connections. And ideally located in front of the driver, a screen in the main cluster of dials relays information from the on-board drive computer, audio system and navigation systems, as well as displaying warnings. Vehicle settings can be easily adjusted using the four-way selector on the steering wheel.
Nissan’s Active Trace Control is an innovation on the Kicks that intervenes during driving through corners to ensure the intended trajectory by discreetly applying brakes to wheels individually. This has the effect of preventing sudden loss of grip or stability.
Similarly, Kicks is equipped with Active Ride Control, which applies the brakes for a split-second after the car has been over large undulation in the road, to reduce the “bounce” effect on the suspension. This simple, effective solution is lighter and less complex than expensive and heavy adaptive damping systems.
To counter the “coasting” effect often associated with automatic and CVT gearboxes, Nissan Kicks is equipped with Active Engine Brake. When the accelerator is released, typically approaching a corner, engine braking is applied to stabilise the speed.
“As a Japanese brand, technology is part of our DNA,” said Daniele Schillaci, executive vice president, Global Sales & Marketing, Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. “Our history is rich with technical innovation. For over 20 years, we’ve developed and introduced driver assistance technology. In fact, we have 10 world-first technologies in this area, making us an industry leader. The new Nissan Kicks reflects our commitment to developing and introducing driver assistance technology.”
Engine and drivetrain
The Brazilian version of Nissan Kicks is powered by a revised version of the trusted Nissan 1.6-liter HR16DE petrol engine, which now develops 84kW (114PS) and a maximum torque figure of 152Nm, improvements of 2kW and 4Nm respectively. For Latin American markets, outputs are 88kW (119PS) and 149Nm.
For the Brazilian market, the engine uses a petrol/methanol flex-fuel system, which features a Flex Start System (FSS) with an inbuilt fuel heating system to ensure rapid warm up from a cold start. As well as reducing fuel consumption and lowering emissions, FFS means owners no longer have to add gasoline to the sub tank for cold starts.
A redesigned intake manifold has reduced the overall height of the engine permitting a lower hood line for improved aerodynamics.
The engine delivers performance on a par with that of rivals powered by 2.0-liter engines yet has class leading fuel consumption.
Drive is taken to the front wheels either via the latest Xtronic CVT gearbox, which features adaptive shift control for better performance, smoother acceleration and improved fuel economy. Latin American market Kicks will also be offered with a 5-speed manual transmission.
Nissan Kicks is underpinned by Nissan’s V Platform, an advanced but lightweight architecture that has been uprated specifically for its application in Kicks.
The platform has a newly designed rear beam suspension that delivers high levels of ride comfort and handling without compromising on luggage space.
Wheels and tires are among the largest in the class with 16-inch and 17-inch wheels available depending on the version. Low friction hub bearings have been adopted to reduce rolling resistance for better performance and lower emissions.
Class leading ride and handling levels are aided by a highly rigid bodyshell and securely located suspension systems. The independent front suspension has a new extended subframe for added strength – 300 percent stiffer than without the extension – while an extra locating member has been added to the steering assembly.
Steering effort at city speeds is light, but provides quick responses at speed for fun and agile handling. Straight line stability is among the best in class while body roll is kept well in check despite the car’s high ground clearance.
hassis control also benefits from a suite of advanced electronic chassis systems including Active Trace Control, Active Ride Control and Active Engine Brake.
Nissan Kicks benefits from unusually large dampers for greater body control while Active Body Control uses sensors to detect vehicle pitch and changes in wheel speed as the car goes over bumps to deliver split second brake applications and altering engine torque to smooth the ride.
Active Trace Control, meanwhile, extends the capability of the Vehicle Dynamics Control (VDC) by using the brakes to reduce understeer on the entry and exit to and from a corner, helping to keep the car to the chosen path.
Active Engine Brake, meanwhile, monitors the driver’s steering and braking performance and automatically introduces an element of engine braking to help slow the car smoothly, making driving easier and more comfortable.
Although Nissan Kicks is a crossover with a sporting attitude, its refinement levels are among the best in class. This has been achieved by adopting traditional techniques to reduce levels of noise, vibration and harshness in the cabin, as well as fine tuning its aerodynamic performance.
Traditional methods include the well located suspension assemblies which isolate road noise, while improved dash insulation material, thicker carpets and improved sealing around the doors reduces interior noise.
Further noise reduction – and improvements in economy – are down to the car’s strong aerodynamic performance. An exceptional Cd of 0.345 has been achieved by careful management of the airflow through, round and over the body.
On its own, the slanted back window would be likely to create a strong trailing vortex, which would adversely affect the Cd figure. To overcome this without compromising the car’s styling, Nissan engineers have developed a subtle extended roof spoiler, rear side spoilers with dogleg edges and a kick up bumper to alter the angle of the back of the car and thus prevent turbulence behind the car.
Other aerodynamic additions, all of which combine to ease air flow over the car, include mouldings within the wheel arches, smoothed A-pillars and tire deflectors.
“The attention to detail that has been invested in the powertrain, chassis systems and platform combines to deliver a compact crossover which, thanks to its lightweight architecture, and advanced aerodynamics will deliver segment-leading efficiency, as well as refinement from a class above and the agility of a sporty sedan,” said Keno Kato, Corporate Vice President, Product Planning, Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. “We believe the Nissan Kicks will lead the market in terms of driving quality, refinement and efficiency.”