Nissan’s Juke, Kicks dominate Gulf’s small urban crossover sector 0 64

SINCE pioneering the segment with the Murano back in 2003 before following up with the X-Trail, Qashqai and Juke, Nissan has dominated the global market in crossover vehicles. That dominance has been underscored in the Middle East with Nissan capturing almost 60% of small urban crossover sales in the region. The Juke and newly launched Kicks models are vying for top spot in different markets.

Sales figures for the year to date show that Nissan has captured 59.7% of the B-segment (small car) urban crossover market with the Juke accounting for 44.2% of that share and the recently introduced Kicks taking already taking a healthy 15.5% (figures exclude KSA).

The Kicks has proved an instant hit in Gulf markets. Aimed squarely at urban driving environments it combines a robust exterior and elevated driving position with compact dimensions for agile performance and maneuverability. The body features an advanced aerodynamic design, which optimizes fuel consumption and minimizes noise. Kicks is also one of the first Nissan models to realize the concept of Intelligent Mobility, initially presented at the Geneva Auto Show in 2016.

Intelligent Mobility uses smart, relevant technology to make the driver’s life easier while also making advances towards Nissan’s long-term goal of zero emission and zero fatality motoring. Its qualities have helped the newcomer to eclipse its Juke stablemate in the UAE, making Kicks the top seller in its segment within the country.

“The car-buying public here in the Middle East is known to be a discerning one and it has been heartening to see how they have embraced Kicks and yet continue to buy Juke in considerable numbers,” said Kalyana Sivagnanam, Nissan’s Regional Vice President, Marketing and Sales for the Africa, Middle East, and India region. “We are especially pleased to see how, from a standing start, the Kicks has rapidly established itself as a market leader. The all-new Nissan Kicks has become a popular choice among the compact crossover segment customers due to the advanced Intelligent Mobility technology that it is packed with, a car which sits at the more comfortable end of the market.”

Among the highlights of the Kicks’ technological offerings 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.

The suite of technology available on Kicks also 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 innovations.

Kicks’ rapid success is in many ways reminiscent of Juke, which was first shown as the Nissan Qazana concept car at the 2009 Geneva Motor Show before entering production and going on sale to the public in 2010. Juke’s bold, dynamic styling instantly captured the imagination of the motoring press and public alike, ensuring the order books began to fill up well before the car began to appear, initially on the roads of Japan, Europe and North America before being launched globally. — SG

It is no exaggeration to say that Juke completely shook up the small car segment back then and left other manufacturers scrambling to catch up. Even now, seven years later, Juke’s styling which combines elements of SUV, sports car and hatchback, still looks fresh and exciting, while technologically it remains a real tour de force.

“We are pleased to see a healthy rivalry developing between Kicks and Juke in the ultra-competitive urban crossover B-segment,” added Kalyana Sivagnanam. “While there is some overlap in terms of pricing, the two models are pitched at different buyers, with Kicks being favored more by young professionals and Juke appealing to those with young families. In both cases, customers appreciate the way these models stylishly complement a busy urban lifestyle while offering technology that it both useful and important in real world scenarios.” — SG


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Citroen C3 Aircross review – How does the offbeat Juke rival drive? 0 51

Citroen finally has a challenger in one of the most competitive and fastest-growing segments in the European market. Well, you could consider the C4 Cactus as the French brand’s rival for cars like the Nissan JukeRenault Capturand Ford Ecosport but with the C3 Aircross now on the price lists, Citroen has designs on moving the Cactus upmarket.

It is, of course, yet another SUV-style supermini to hit the market, and features styling cues from the aforementioned Cactus as well as the regular C3 supermini. Is there fun to be found here, or has Citroen simply churned out its own take on a formula which has so far delivered very little to tempt evo readers?

Engine, transmission and 0-60 time

There are six engine and transmission combinations available in the C3 Aircross, based around three core engines – a naturally-aspirated 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol, a turbocharged version of the same (both badged PureTech), and a 1.6-litre “BlueHDi” turbodiesel.

We’re concentrating on two cars here, the PureTech 110 with stop-start and a six-speed automatic, and the BlueHDi 120. The former makes its 108bhp power peak at 5500rpm with 151lb ft of torque from 1500rpm, while the diesel outmuscles it with 118bhp at 3500rpm and a full 221lb ft from 1750rpm.

The on-paper numbers are reflected on the road, where the diesel (0-62mph in 10.7sec) instantly feels the more muscular – with the usual caveat that all is lost once you crest its peak power output. In contrast the petrol hangs on a little longer but urges you forward just a little less and requires more encouragement to do so.

It is the nicer engine to listen to however (the diesel is… well, a diesel), and Citroen wins brownie points for arranging the manual sequential mode on its automatic transmission the ‘correct’ way round, pulling backwards to change up and pushing forwards to change down. On the Corsican launch roads it was almost enough to indulge our WRC fantasies, were it not for a want of extra performance – 11.8sec to 62mph is unlikely to leave you with sweaty palms.

Changes from the auto are relatively swift too, though in normal automatic operation it’s far from being the most responsive or smoothest we’ve used. In contrast, Citroen’s manual ‘box seems to be getting better – the shift action isn’t nearly as baggy as it used to be. Heel and toe gearchanges – it can’t just be us that try this in funky family hatchbacks, can it? – aren’t easy to achieve thanks to a brake pedal that offers too little resistance for fancy footwork.

Technical highlights

You’ll find little remarkable under the skin, but arguably that’s the point – cars like this provide automakers with extra profit-making opportunities for otherwise tried and tested technology.

So what you get are MacPherson struts up front and a torsion beam at the back. It’s two-wheel drive only (the front pair, obviously) and there are no active suspension gubbins. PSA’s “grip control” is present here though, a traction control system that can adapt to the friction requirements of various surfaces, such as sand, snow, rocks, or simply regular paved roads. It also comes with a hill descent control system, and it’s a very reasonable £400 option on Feel and Flair trim levels.

What’s it like to drive?

Whatever its on-road manners, the C3 Aircross scores instant mass-market appeal for its cabin design and materials. In higher trim levels particularly, it’s a far more interesting and cheerful environment than most rivals.

The “metropolitan grey” trim of our test car had a hard-wearing, tweed-like feel and a colourway you might expect to find on an Ikea sofa or on some high-end luggage, and while there’s not a great deal of side support in cornering, the flat surfaces of both the front and back seats are much more comfortable than they initially appear. It feels like an honest approach and, like the regular C3, only serves to highlight how humourless the relentless push for “premium” has become.

There’s also a useful amount of adjustment to the controls, so most body shapes should be able to find something that suits – though the reasonably high driving position may give the tallest drivers a squeeze. Less appealing is Citroen’s touchscreen infotainment system, mostly because that’s your only access to the air conditioning controls. It seems to be improving bit by bit as we try it in different models, but it’s still a flawed system to use once on the move.

On the road, there’s actually some entertainment to be had, with the same kind of lightweight, nimble feel already present in the standard C3 and the C4 Cactus. You’ll not detect much feedback through the steering, but the rack is light and precise. Cars with mud and snow tyres – part of the grip control option – don’t steer quite as accurately (there’s an initial deadness to the steering not present in models on regular tyres), though all versions hang on longer than you’d expect before tyre squeal begins and traction breaks.

Push harder and there’s safe understeer, and a lift of the throttle brings the nose smartly back in line. The ride quality isn’t quite as pillowy as you’d expect given Citroen’s recent focus on comfort – there’s a firmness that suggests Citroen has prioritised body control over pliancy given the car’s taller stature – but there’s enough give that you’re unlikely to curse it on your commute.

Price and rivals

How long have you got? As mentioned at the top, the small crossover class – B-segment SUV, in industry lingo – is growing fast. At the recent Frankfurt motor show alone Kia presented its Stonic SUV, Hyundai has recently launched the Kona, and VW and SEAT all now offer competitors too. Throw in alternatives from Peugeot (2008), Vauxhall (Mokka), Renault (Captur), Nissan (Juke), Honda (HR-V), Mazda (CX-3), Ford (Ecosport) and, currently, Citroen’s own C4 Cactus. And we’ve almost certainly forgotten a couple.

Should you buy the Citroen? Possibly. Having not tried the very latest entrants from Kia, Hyundai, VW and SEAT – all of which are sure to be competitive – there are still unanswered questions in this class, but the C3 Aircross is undoubtedly one of the more interesting choices. For us, the Juke still gets a nod for offering a proper performance version (the Nismo RS), although regular Jukes are feeling pretty creaky by now. Mazda’s CX-3 channels some of the MX-5’s spirit too, and is probably as close as cars in this class get to being drivers’ cars. It’s an attractive car, but perhaps a little po-faced next to the extroverted Citroen.

If you do plump for the Aircross, you’ll need to know that pricing begins at £13,995 on the road, though realistically you’ll want to spend from £16,200 for a PureTech 110 in second-tier Feel trim, with a manual gearbox.

Even better, spend an extra £400 to get an extra 20bhp with the PureTech 130. Or spend less and buy the conventional C3, which – being a conventional car rather than a crossover – ultimately offers a better ride and handling balance than a lofty SUV, and is over 100kg lighter model-for-model. It’s no hot hatch, but it’s the more evo car.


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New Nissan Leaf tipped to get Nismo performance pack 0 66

Design chief Alfonso Albaisa told Autocar that adding a “racier version” with Nismo trim could help the second-gen hatch reach image-conscious buyers — something its predecessor struggled to do.

“The previous Leaf’s design wasn’t popular with the majority of people,
so its look couldn’t contribute to sales,”
 he said. “The new car
 is lower, wider and sportier, with the point
 of this design being to
 get greater accessibility of the market.”

Albaisa said it would be easy to develop Nismo parts for the new Leaf. Such a practice isn’t new to Nissan because it offers Nismo trim on several models, including the Juke.

A hotter Leaf E-Plus is also due in 2019. It will have higher-capacity batteries and a stiffer structure. A Nismo pack could make such a model constitute a performance variant.


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