India is set to play their first match of the 2019 World Cup tomorrow. This will be ODI number 8th and our team will battle it out with South Africa who lost a close game to Bangladesh two days back. But before you raise your eyebrows on why an automobile website is talking about cricket, well, hear me out! Cars and cricket are closely related in India and this time around, the limelight is on the Nissan Kicks, the official car of the 2019 World Cup.
We have driven the Kicks before but given the solid packaging, were more than glad to be handed over the keys of the vehicle again for a quick spin to Chail and back last month. Why Chail? For that, you will have to either read through this article till the end or click on the play button below.
Our Bronze Grey Kicks came with a contrasting Amber Orange roof and looked brilliant from the word go! Four of us board along with our luggage and shoot equipment, the initial 240km till the base of the hills were dismissed off with ease. North Indian highways are fast becoming a nesting place for interceptors that are fitted with speed cameras and this is where the Kicks’s clever speed limited function came handy. I had set it at an indicated 95 km/h so that no matter how hard I went down hard on the right pedal, we never exceeded the legal (and true) speed limit of 90 km/h!
The uphill drive to Chail starts from the Himalayan Expressway at Kalka. This four-lane stretch is fast flowing and even with the air-con working hard to beat the Summer chill, the 1.5-litre dCi motor did not feel stressed at all. Infact, the Kicks has a lot of grunt in its mid-range, allowing us to chew up miles rapidly. Summer rush had set in and I was looking forward to the relatively lesser taken state highway from Kandaghat to Chail. That said, thanks to four-lane work that’s more than half complete, the drive from Parwanoo to Kandaghat has becoming so much better now.
The route from Kandaghat to Chail is a driver’s delight. Narrow but empty, the fine tarmac and tight curves allowed to me explore the dynamics of the Kicks. Now this was something I had missed on the official media drive a few months back but here, was grinning from ear to ear as both my team members, one capturing video and other pictures, asked me to repeat the shots again and again. What makes this an even better drive is the tree cover that keeps sunrays away and the pine thorns that get lined up by the side of the road. Ofcourse, being a narrow road, one has to be careful and honking around corners is recommended here.
Post this, it was time to do trails with the Kicks. Rains had not set in which meant the water levels were low and the Kicks helped me explore the lesser known areas of Sadhupul. The Ashwani river flows into numerous streams here and thanks to the 210mm of ground clearance, I didn’t have to worry about damaging the underbelly as I went around crossing the semi-dry river bed again and again.
A trip to Chail isn’t complete without visiting the Chail Palace. Set amidst pine trees, this was one the summer palace for the Maharaja of Patiala and is now open to the public. A huge lush green lawn is the best place to unwind, soak in the views and breathe fresh air. Love this place. We had a fair amount of tourist rush here and the Kicks did draw a lot of attention. I was happy to reply, like an enthusiastic salesman, answering all questions with a smile on my face!
With evening setting in, we decided to head to the highest place you and I can drive to in Chail, the Kali Tibba or the Kali Mata Mandir. The drive to this place is challenging, with a steep incline that takes you from 6000 feet to 7200 feet in a matter of a few kilometers. By the time we got here, winds started playing tricks with us, the sky became overcast and suddenly, showers welcomed us as we parked the Kicks around the fort inspired walls of the temple. And as luck would have had it, we captured a perfect streak of light in the sky – is visible in the video shared above.
But day two was what we were looking forward to. The official car of the 2019 World Cup would be driving to what used to be the highest cricket ground in the world. The place is now under the Rashtriya Military School but holds an important place in the history of cricket in India. The road to this place is guarded and you need to provide identity proof to drive ahead to the ground. In the Army Cantonment area, the entire place is well kept, peaceful and home to both a school and a hostel.
We ended our trip here and recollected the memories of the last two days. Our companion, the Nissan Kicks Pre-Option version stood proudly outside the cricket ground and once again proved its packaging. The muscular stance, torquey motor, feature loaded interiors and the spacious boot, how can someone go wrong with this SUV? And then the clever bits – LED headlights for example that lit the road the previous night or the around view monitor that helped me negotiate u-turns and even lovely audio set-up that kept us engaged.
Starting from Rs 9.55 lakh (ex-showroom), even the so-called base version comes feature equipped. Add in the great dynamics and a solid built and the Nissan Kicks makes for a promising purchase in the compact SUV market. It is priced just over smaller sub-4m meter SUVs but offers the benefit of a larger size, space, performance and much. Tempting enough? You know where to head to next!