Nissan Kicks walks the walk, torques the talk

Published August 12, 2022, 2:13 AM

by Neil N. Pagulayan

The N-Ovation Kicks e-Power Media Drive

Nissan is no stranger to long drives, having put their vehicles to the test many times in the past. One of their longest was a drive to Boracay, by land and RORO ferry. Looking to outdo that, they invited us on a longer drive, this time to Misibis Bay, in Albay, Bicol.

The vehicle this time around is their new electrified subcompact crossover SUV, the Kicks e-Power. If a typical road trip lets you get a good feel for a vehicle’s dynamics and quirks, 16 hours lets you know the vehicle in and out. We find out how an electrified vehicle like the Kicks e-Power performs on the open road.

What is e-Power?

e-Power is Nissan’s answer to the electric vehicle range issue. It’s an EV with an engine; a hybrid that’s not exactly a hybrid. Have I thoroughly confused you? Simply put, e-Power uses an electric motor, powered by a battery, just like any EV. It doesn’t need charging via a charging station. Instead, it has a gasoline engine which acts as a generator. The engine is not physically connected to the drivetrain. The front wheels are turned solely by the electric motor. So it’s more EV than hybrid. This lets the e-Power drive more like an EV but isn’t limited by battery range thanks to its generator engine.

e-Power-train

In the case of the Kicks, it gets a 349 Volt AC Synchronus motor that puts out 136Ps of power with 280Nm of torque that’s almost instantly-available. It’s powered by a 96 cell, 2.13KW/h Lithium-ion battery. When this “power pack” needs to be recharged, the Kicks does this in two ways. One way is via a 1.2L three-cylinder, 12-valve DOHC gasoline engine, which acts as a generator to charge the battery. The other way is via regenerative braking, which recharges the battery whenever you lift off the accelerator pedal or step on the brake pedal. The energy generated from slowing down the car is routed back to the battery.

To help manage power, the Kicks also has four drive modes: Eco, Normal, Sport and an EV mode (where the engine doesn’t switch on until the battery really needs a charge). One of its features, e-Pedal Step, gently applies the brakes whenever you lift off the accelerator, to charge the battery as much as you can. With conscientious driving, you can actually drive with just the accelerator pedal.

Intelligent Mobility

Besides the EV features, the Kicks is equipped just like any other Nissan, with the Intelligent Mobility suite which includes the intelligent around view monitor with moving object monitor, intelligent forward collision warning, intelligent emergency braking, driver attention alert, and hill start assist.

Drive to Albay

The drive to Albay involved a 15-car convoy as we made our way through SLEX, to Star tollway, and exited at Ibaan. We were two drivers to a car and we decided that I’d drive the first stint. As this was going to be a roughly 600-km drive, we’d both have many chances to drive.

The cabin noise in the Kicks was noticeably lower than that of a car with a gas or diesel engine, allowing us to enjoy our road trip playlist and naps even more so between stints behind the wheel.

After the highways, we found ourselves on open country roads, and got to experience more of the instant power and torque immediately the EV drivetrain provides. The twisting mountain pass roads past Tigaon to Tiwi properly showcased the Kick’s torque and handling as we sped past slower vehicles you’d find on provincial highways.

Overtaking more than one vehicle at a time was easy, with the electric motor giving all its power in an almost instant. Moving the drive selector from D to B means that every time you release the accelerator, deceleration is felt more while it recharges the battery. With all the uphill parts and corresponding downhill portions, we were also recharging the battery system quite a bit.

We noticed that the gas engine turned on when we drove aggressively. During spirited driving, the e-Power system routes that generated power straight to the car’s inverter and on to the electric motor to answer the vehicle’s need for immediate power. The Kicks’ batteries would drain much faster on an overtake or a climb, or an uphill overtake if the gas engine didn’t supplement the battery power.

Handling

The weather was wet to say the least and we expected the some wheel spin due to the demands we put on vehicle on climbs, overtakes and tight turns on the mountain roads. Even on slippery roads and the Kicks was surefooted even on the tightest turns. We also encountered uneven surfaces, poor patchwork, very rough spots which would often throw off a regular vehicle’s balance and grip. But even those couldn’t shake the Kicks’ grip on the road.

It was dusk as we made our way to the final 17-km stretch to Misibis Bay resort. This had more winding mountain roads, but was smoother and well-maintained. Our convoy had slowed considerably and this was where we saw how an EV’s torque worked so well on moderately steep uphill slopes. The Kicks had an easy time with little or no run-up. There were also enough downhill portions to fully charge the battery with the regenerative braking. After about 16 hours and roughly 600+kms on the road, we made it to Misibis Bay resort.

Impressions

Though long, the Kicks drive was surprisingly enjoyable. As expected, a subcompact crossover SUV is better than a sedan on a long road trip, thanks to the higher ground clearance and better field of view of the roads and surroundings. What sets the Kicks apart from its class is its drivetrain. It showcased the capability of an EV on the open road, without the “range anxiety”.

On paper, its power and torque figures are just about right for its class. Because it’s an EV, power is immediately available; no lag, no spin-up needed. You get all the torque on demand, when you need it, exactly where you need it.

Our assigned vehicle started with a full tank (41 liters) of gas at our start point in Mamplasan. By the time we arrived at Misibis Bay resort, we had consumed about half a tank to generate power to charge the batteries. That was very impressive for a 500+ km road trip. It was a very fun vehicle to drive and definitely economical.

The Kicks e-Power is priced at ₱1,209,000 for the EL (A/T); ₱1,309,000 for the VE (A/T), and ₱1,509,000.00 for the VL (A/T). Whether you choose the base variant or top-of-the-line, all trim levels get the e-Power electrified powertrain. Best of all, whether you’re an earth-friendly hero or simply want a car that’s not so thirsty, the Nissan Kicks might just be for you.

 
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