Thai-market Nissan Kicks E-Power Could Be a Design Omen

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
thai market nissan kicks e power could be a design omen

Almost every day I go for a walk that takes me up the hill behind my apartment. And on that route, I pass by a black, base model Nissan Kicks parked in my neighbor’s driveway. A value special, for sure, and one with a decent amount of attributes — its starting price being topmost among them.

In a country far, far away, Nissan just introduced an altogether different Kicks, and at least one part of it should make its way stateside.

No, not the innovative powertrain, but the styling. The Nissan Kicks e-Power that debuted in Thailand a few days ago wears updated styling more in keeping with the brand’s current design language. Slimmer headlamps flow into a significantly taller grille bordered by a far thicker piece of trim, fooling the eye into seeing an even larger grille. Down below, the almost uniform lower air opening splits into two separate vents surrounded by body color fascia.

It would be difficult to see Nissan not opting to bestow these changes on the U.S.-market Kicks when refresh time comes around (which shouldn’t be too long a wait).

Of course, to Thai consumers, the big news with the Kicks e-Power is not its updated styling, but the appearance of a technology that once tempted Japanese buyers of the (Versa) Note.

Essentially, e-Power sees a small gasoline engine running continuously to charge a small battery that, in turn, feeds an electric drive motor. While the ICE in this novel take on a hybrid powertrain never shuts off, all the power sent to the front wheels emerge from an electric motor. The gas burner in this case is a 1.2-liter three-cylinder making 79 horsepower on its own. The miracle of energy conversion means that, as a generator, this little three-pot sees its output become 127 hp and 192 lb-ft of instant torque. Big fuel savings can be achieved by having a small gas engine urging a more potent electric motor do the heavy lifting, and in this application it’s helped further by engine shutoff during deceleration.

In the U.S. all Kicks come standard with a 1.6-liter four-cylinder making a very modest 125 hp and 115 lb-ft. Don’t expect to find such a powertrain in any future Kicks sold here, however.

Nissan made no mention of other markets for the Thai-built Kicks e-Power, nor has it talked up the possibility of the technology making it stateside in a value leader small car. Here, e-Power seems reserved for larger, more prestigious vehicles. Last we heard, the automaker was running into difficulties making the concept work on larger, heavier vehicles.

Current economic turmoil means a growing need to save pennies while playing up certain strengths in certain markets, causing one to further doubt e-Power’s boat trip. Time will tell where it ultimately lands.

Arriving in mid-2018, the Kicks provided buyers with a new, more affordable stepping stone to the brand’s CUV family. Offered only in front-drive guise, the Kicks sold 58,193 examples in the U.S. last year.

[Images: Nissan]

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  • Art Vandelay Art Vandelay on May 18, 2020

    Little bit more power on the electric side and this will set up will get output all the way up to the power levels of an SR-20DE one could get in Nissan's economy offerings from the mid 90's. Progress!

  • Varezhka Varezhka on May 18, 2020

    While the whole e-Power system started as a way to recoup some of the development costs of their EV program, it ended up being quite a sales and marketing success for Nissan in Japan. It didn't hurt that the e-Power Note was the about only newish Nissan vehicle in Japan in a long time (or one that had this market in mind in development). It's actually a pretty neat system for city driving but much less so at higher speed so it makes sense that it's not coming here anytime soon. Apparently the gas engine needs to run full steam at above 60mph in the Note e-Power because it cannot replenish the battery faster than it depletes at that speed.

  • Jim Bonham Thanks.
  • Luke42 I just bought a 3-row Tesla Model Y.If Toyota made a similar vehicle, I would have bought that instead. I'm former Prius owner, and would have bought a Prius-like EV if it were available.Toyota hasn't tried to compete with the Model Y. GM made the Bolt EUV, and Ford made the Mach-E. Tesla beat them all fair and square, but Toyota didn't even try.[Shrug]
  • RHD Toyota is trying to hedge their bets, and have something for everyone. They also may be farther behind in developing electric vehicles than they care to admit. Japanese corporations sometimes come up with cutting-edge products, such as the Sony Walkman. Large corporations (and not just Japanese corporations) tend to be like GM, though - too many voices just don't get heard, to the long-term detriment of the entity.
  • Randy in rocklin The Japanese can be so smart and yet so dumb. I'm America-Japanese and they really can be dumb sometimes like their masking paranoia.
  • Bunkie The Flying Flea has a fascinating story and served, inadvertently, to broaden the understanding of aircraft design. The crash described in the article is only part of the tale.