Crossover SUVs are a hot commodity, and not just in the United States where they’ve been seizing a larger portion of the consumer market. Beyond our borders, SUVs are also finding wider acceptance in various markets, including Latin America and especially in Brazil, where the Nissan Kicks concept made its debut at the 2014 Sao Paulo Motor Show.
This concept SUV slots between the subcompact Nissan Juke and the compact Rogue, and is the collaboration of design teams located on three continents. Notably, the design was inspired by the country and culture of Brazil where the Kicks will now become a production reality. And yes, the Nissan Kicks name is also a go.
Nissan Kicks Launch
The manufacturing approval and distribution, however, is for the Latin American market exclusively. At least initially. In a press release issued in early January, Nissan said it “continues to study the business case for launching Kicks in other regions … .” A North American debut is certainly possible, but Brazil gets the model first, perhaps as early as year’s end.
The Nissan Kicks makes for an interesting transition from the polarizing Juke to the more mainstream Rogue. It combines Brazilian design verve with Nissan’s current design language to create an energetic presence on a compact platform.
Energetic Design Language
The Kicks front fascia offers an aggressive nose with a gaping maw that’s punctuated by what could pass for a nose ring. Deeply creased recesses house the headlamp assemblies, which are accented by wing-shaped LED lights. The front bumper features a long chrome bar with deep embrasures housing the available fog lights. A skid plate and a broad hood complete the Kicks’ front-end look.
Along the sides, the designers liberally added multiple character lines, creating a confluence of falling, rising and active lines. A rising beltline and a falling roofline give the Nissan Kicks a look of constant motion. Its high wheel wells project strength; the contrasting orange roof raises visual appeal and syncs well with the other orange highlights on the Kicks’ silver body.
The rear fascia is marked by a clamshell liftgate with a spoiler, sharply angular wraparound combination lamps and a pair of exhaust ports. Chrome embellishments and a rear skid plate are also present. Certainly, this model will offer some level of off-road fun.
The Nissan Kicks’ interior design remains a mystery. The few photos published online are for other vehicles, such as the Juke and the Murano. At this point, any suggestion of what the cabin might look like is pure speculation. However, knowing Nissan’s design history, the interior should be evocative, if not a bit provocative.
Nissan fans should pay close attention to the Geneva International Motor Show this time next month as the next-generation Juke is expected to debut. If it is held back from Geneva, a New York introduction a few weeks later is more likely.
Although the Juke and Kicks may be distinctly different, interior elements from the smaller model may be applied to the new vehicle. Expect the designers to up the color amplification for the Kicks no matter what its final layout represents.
The powertrain choices are yet another subject of intense speculation. The Nissan Juke is powered by a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine, but a 1.8-liter four-cylinder (as found in the compact Nissan Sentra) is another possibility. The next step up in the Nissan line is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that is found in the Rogue and Altima.
Whatever engine is utilized, there is little doubt a continuously variable transmission (CVT) would be offered. For enthusiasts, nothing less than a six-speed manual will do, at least with the standard front-wheel drive model. All-wheel drive will be available.
A Look Toward Mexico
As for its U.S. debut, we believe a case for this model has already been made. Indeed, recently published WardsAuto product-cycle data shows Nissan will begin building a small SUV in Mexico later this year.
Given that the Juke is presently made in Japan, the Kicks could very well be built in Mexico to serve North America, while Brazil covers the rest of the Latin American market with additional exports to global markets seemingly likely.