Nissan Micra ups its game in supermini stakes
Worthy, but dull, to dynamic and desirable - motoring editor Andy Russell finds Nissan's fifth-generation Micra has closed the gap on the supermini stars.
For all its success over 34 years in Europe, Nissan’s Micra supermini has always been more reliable than rewarding, worthy, but dull, rather than dynamic.
I was told about an 18-year-old lad who, offered his mother’s Micra as a sensible first car after passing his driving test, decided not own one at all! If she’d had the new, fifth-generation Micra he’d have bitten her hand off to get the keys.
Looks and image
Lower, wider and longer than previous Micras, it’s squat, athletic and bang up to date with real presence - fantastic news in the supermini sector with small cars taking an increasingly larger share as people down-size.
Nissan sees this Micra being a top 10 supermini seller again – light years away from the jelly mould models.
Under the bonnet
The three-cylinder petrol models – 71PS 1.0-litre and 90PS 0.9-litre turbo – and four-cylinder 90PS 1.5-litre turbo diesel are shared with Renault.
The entry petrol model will be most popular but, with more oomph, the turbo petrol unit is a little cracker with 45 to 55mpg overall.
I like small-capacity turbo petrol units’ low-down flexibility, punchy mid-range pick-up and throaty three-cylinder engine note when you wind them up. This one punches above its weight, zipping past slower traffic and cruising at motorway speeds but I would have liked a sixth gear to cut the revs.
Ride and handling
The new Micra is much more entertaining – the dynamic look backed up by the way it drives.
The suspension’s stiffer, the ride’s firmer but it’s more supple as speed builds and has improved handling dramatically, more taut and agile, composed and co-ordinated through corners rather than soft and wallowy.
Space and comfort
Nissan has targeted the new Micra at the heart of the B-segment where small cars are no longer small inside.
There’s plenty of space in the front but, even with average-sized adults in those seats, the Micra is not over-endowed with rear legroom. It’s not uncomfortably tight but six-footers would feel the pinch. Front passengers get the best seats with doorbins, a decent glovebox, cubbyholes for storage and a padded top to the fascia and soft-touch contrasting panel with double stitching across the dashboard.
Wide-opening doors give good access and I like the back door handles ‘hidden’ in the black window surround.
The 300-litre boot is deep, but it means a high sill, and 60/40 split rear seat backs fold almost flat, freeing up 1,004 litres, but are higher than the boot floor. The parcel shelf also rattled on bumpy roads.
At the wheel
The driving position has good adjustment with traditional dials and instruments. Most functions are operated through a high-level touchscreen while heating and ventilation controls are simple buttons and rotary knobs.
It’s well screwed together but doesn’t feel as solid or classy as the sector leaders.
The range-topping Tekna test car’s reversing camera and bird’s-eye Around View Monitor were valuable with a small rear screen, tapering back windows and chunky rear pillars hindering visibility.
Technology, driver aids and even better connectivity have upped the Micra’s game with some firsts for the supermini sector but some of it is available only on high-spec models which, unlikely to be volume sellers, will appeal to those down-sizing and still wanting creature comforts.
Bose speakers in the driver’s head rest immerse you in sound.
The Micra is now a contender in the supermini stakes but there is the danger of it dropping back again with a new Ford Fiesta, SEAT Ibiza and forthcoming Volkswagen Polo.
That said, it’s a huge improvement over the old model with styling to woo and wow new buyers.
SPEC AND TECH
Price: Nissan Micra Tekna 0.9 IG-T £17,435 (range from £11,995)
Engine: 898cc, 90PS, three-cylinder turbo petrol
Performance: 0-62mph 12.1 seconds; top speed 109mph
MPG: Urban 48.7; extra urban 72.4; combined 61.4
CO2 emissions: 104g/km
Benefit-in-kind tax rate: 19%
Insurance group: Four (out of 50)
Warranty: Three years or 60,000 miles
Will it fit in the garage? L 3,999mm; W 1,743mm; H 1,455mm