Toyota has long dominated the electrified vehicle market in the Philippines with its diverse range of hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs). From the Corolla Altis to the posh Toyota Camry and even the rugged RAV4, there’s pretty much a Toyota HEV to meet various consumer needs. Nissan is one of the pioneers of the electric vehicle with the Leaf, but long absent in their lineup is an HEV–until now. Enter the 2023 Nissan Kicks e-Power VE variant that we have here.
From a design perspective, the 2023 Nissan Kicks e-Power doesn’t look too radical. In fact, its design blends in with most of the crossover crowd. It’s not to say that the Kicks looks boring, but it doesn’t exactly stand out either. There’s a large V-Motion grille that has been a Nissan hallmark for a while now, along with standard-fit LED headlights and 17-inch wheels. The Riptid Blue paint that’s unique to this mid-spec VE variant is enough for me to prefer this over the top-of-the-range VL, but you miss out on the latter’s available two-tone paint, roof rails, and satin silver body cladding trim.
Everywhere else, all three variants of the Kicks look pretty much the same, which means from an aesthetics standpoint, you don’t really feel compelled to purchase the top-of-the-range model if its exterior looks are what matters to you. Oh, and while this is classified as a subcompact crossover, its height is more akin to a hatchback when I stand next to it.
Whereas the interior looks alright, the interior is somewhat lacking in terms of style or premium feel. It doesn’t feel cheap, but with the exception of the leatherette-padded dashboard on the front passenger’s side and the center console, everything else is done in hard, scratchy plastics. Nevertheless, it’s at least an ergonomic interior with a nice feel to the buttons, switches, and stalks. Since this isn’t the top-of-the-range VL variant, it uses fabric upholstery for the seats, but at least I appreciate the use of blue stitching that complements this specific unit’s Riptide Blue paint.
Features and Infotainment
Despite being a mid-spec VE model, there’s a decent amount of tech inside the Kicks e-Power. All variants come with a 7-inch partly-digital gauge cluster and automatic climate control, but it’s only when you at least step up to this VE variant that an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto comes as standard. There’s also another quirk when opting for the VE. Usually, automakers leave a blank button for a missing feature, but here in the Kicks e-Power, pressing the ‘Camera’ button will give you a pop-up that reminds you that you couldn’t afford the VL and its 360-degree camera system (non-verbatim, of course).
Other goodies that you get in the 2023 Nissan Kicks e-Power VE include an electronic parking brake, an electronic gear shifter, as well as automatic emergency braking for its advanced driver-assistance features.
Space and Practicality
Compared to the Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid, the Kicks e-Power doesn’t feel as perched up when you sit in it, but it’s still higher than usual hatchbacks. That ‘tweener’ size gives the Kicks a very natural seat height that’s perfect for most body types. In addition, the ‘Zero Gravity’ seats, as per usual in a Nissan, are very comfortable for long-distance travel.
Those seated at the back will be treated to good amounts of space. In fact, it’s not too different from the Corolla Cross, even if the Kicks is smaller on the outside. Where the Kicks lacks is in rear seat amenities. You only get two USB ports and nothing else–not even a center armrest.
Moving towards the trunk, you get 480 liters with the seats up and 853 liters with the seats down. Again, this is a smaller car externally compared to the Corolla Cross, but Nissan managed to carve out a good amount of space for its interior.
This is where things get interesting. The 2023 Nissan Kicks e-Power is not the typical hybrid you’ve come to know. However, their concept isn’t new, either. We first have to talk about the three types of hybrids that’s classified based on how it’s arranged: series, parallel, and series-parallel. Nissan’s e-Power technology is a series hybrid, wherein the gasoline engine–in this case, a 1.2-liter three-cylinder unit, is not connected to the wheels. Instead, it only acts as a generator to charge its 2.06 kWh lithium-ion battery to power the electric motor that produces 136 horsepower and 280 Nm of torque.
The hybrid system you’re probably familiar with is Toyota’s and Lexus’s, which is a series-parallel system. That’s because the engine in their hybrid system can act both as a generator (series hybrid) as well as be able to power the wheels (parallel hybrid). And you now probably know where we’re headed. Yes, there’s also a parallel hybrid–wherein the engine is always powering the vehicle alongside the electric motor. This is what Honda used before in their IMA system for the CR-Z and a host of earlier Honda hybrids.
Now that you know the various hybrid systems, how does Nissan’s 100 percent electric-driven system perform? From a driving dynamics perspective, the 2023 Nissan Kicks e-Power VE delivers taut and instantaneous acceleration–pretty much as you would expect when driving something like a Nissan Leaf. The Kicks operates very smoothly since there’s no downshift to anticipate as it comes with a single-speed gearbox. At higher speeds, though, the electric motors lose steam dramatically at triple-digit speeds, but a highway-legal speeds, the Kicks e-Power still manages to provide instantaneous overtaking power.
Indeed it’s like driving an EV, but with a three-cylinder gasoline engine that kicks (pun intended) into life when you mash the throttle. When doing so, you wouldn’t feel any vibrations as it isn’t connected to the drivetrain, but the engine will rev linearly with how aggressive you are with the throttle as a way to make the driving experience linear.
The Kicks e-Power also inherits a derivative of the Leaf’s e-Pedal system–in this case, it’s called e-Pedal Step. It’s basically having the regenerative braking that charges the battery in its max setting, but unlike in the Leaf, e-Pedal Step can only bring the car to a crawl but not to a full stop. Still, once you’ve gotten used to e-Pedal Step, driving with just one foot suddenly becomes second nature and highly efficient.
Speaking of efficiency, this is where I was expecting more out of the Kicks. At an average of 16 to 17 km/l, this isn’t thirsty by any means, but next to the Corolla Cross Hybrid’s 18-20 km/l, you’re much better off with the Toyota if outright fuel efficiency is your main goal.
Other than that, the 2023 Nissan Kicks e-Power VE performs well in terms of handling and ride comfort. The steering has a degree of precision and response, but its lightness and lack of road feel don’t provide a lot of driver connection. However, the chassis itself feels nimble, making the Kicks e-Power a fun car to toss around the city. Its suspension also is tuned for comfort, which means there’s more body roll than I’d like but it’s nothing too dramatic. Lastly, refinement is also great, except for a certain amount of wind noise permeating through the windows.
The 2023 Nissan Kicks e-Power VE, in my opinion, serves as a great entry point into the world of hybrid motoring. The 100 percent electric-driven system is very well engineered from a driving dynamics perspective but somehow falls short in terms of what I was expecting in terms of efficiency compared to the Corolla Cross. But then, the Corolla Cross Hybrid costs about P300,000 more compared to this particular Kicks variant, which means that its fuel economy advantage isn’t enough to offset its price premium over Nissan’s offering.
We wouldn’t recommend splurging for the range-topping VL variant. Instead, this VE model we tested already comes with most of the bells and whistles you need–probably except for the lack of a reverse camera. But other than that, this 2023 Nissan Kicks e-Power VE is the most affordable, no-frills way to own an HEV.
Pricing and Rating
Exterior Design: ★★★★☆
Interior Design: ★★★★☆
Space and Practicality: ★★★★☆
Safety and Driver Assistance: ★★★★★
Fuel Efficiency: ★★★★☆
Value For Money: ★★★★★
Overall: 4.3 out of 5
*Pricing is correct and accurate as of this article’s time of writing.