The first thing you’ll notice is the searing orange interior – this is a unique feature of the higher spec Premium Plus model, which at S$3,000 extra adds the orange upholstery over the normal Premium model, with ‘3D-quilted’ Nappa leather that looks a little like watch links, as it does on the DS 7 Crossback.
The next thing to hit you is the sun: As mentioned, the Kicks has a huge greenhouse, so much so that even in the lowest seating (which is still quite elevated) position the driver’s side window starts at your mid-arm, rather than above or around the shoulder. That lends the car and almost MPV-SUV sort of interior ambience, in contrast to the smaller, more closed-in feel of coupe-ier SUVs, and you won’t miss the lack of a sunroof.
In the centre of the sea of orange is an infotainment system, the latest ‘NissanConnect’ 8.0-inch colour touchscreen. It’s good. In fact, it’s probably the best infotainment system in a Nissan to date. The Serena’s unit is a study in contrasts – it’s also a colour touchscreen, but the graphics aren’t sharp and it’s hard to see in sunlight. The unit on the Kicks looks far more modern, is bright and clear, and even comes with Apple CarPlay (though no Android Auto).
The driver’s instrument panel has a conventional speedometer on the right, and a 7.0-inch display on the left, with the latter showing you everything from fuel efficiency, to energy flow, as well as driving mode and cues. It’s not as sharp as the infotainment screen, but an active instrument panel isn’t common in this segment or at this price point so another goal for the Kicks here.
With those two technology points alone, the Kicks would have already been good value since they’re crucial in a modern car, but Nissan didn’t leave the rest of the equipment list empty.
The Kicks is a car with a good number of features: Auto wipers/lights/mirrors, single zone AC, keyless entry and start, which is decent, but what makes the car stand out is its safety features: forward collision warning/mitigation (Intelligent Emergency Braking), driver alertness monitoring, and seven airbags in total.
As usual it makes sense to upgrade here, since besides the juicy upholstery, the S$3k Premium Plus adds blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alerts, and adaptive cruise control (though it’s not a full stop-n-go system it operates above 40km/h), all of which are a bargain for that money.
The flipside is that while the Kicks isn’t badly-made, Nissan’s interior quality still isn’t the best, and still a notch beneath Honda and Toyota. While the seats are comfortable, and the new infotainment system is great, some of the switchgear looks like it hasn’t been updated in decades (because it hasn’t) and there’s a vast acreage of hard, black plastic – see the interior door side panels.
Another niggle is the reverse camera. That’s always good to have in any car, but it’s mounted inside the rear view mirror and the car’s huge windows mean reflections drown out the image in the daytime.