Nissan Micra First Drive: As Good As It Looks?

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I’ll be honest, the Nissan Micra is a car that has never really appealed to me. Sure, they’ve looked cute and inoffensive, but you get a sense that it’s the sort of car that little old Doris would use to pop out and get some cat food. The new one however, looks to change this. It’s far more dynamic in its styling, it’s more vibrant and it’s bound to attract to a younger audience. So it talks the talk, but does it walk the walk?

The model tested here is the range-topping Tekna model, which is priced from £17,435, and includes features such as 17″ alloys, leather steering wheel and gear lever, keyless entry, rear view camera with parking sensors, plus a BOSE Personal sound system. This is all on top of features offered in lesser models such as climate control, 7″ touchscreen with navigation, smartphone connectivity and DAB radio, rear privacy glass and cruise control.

Nissan Micra First Drive

The new Micra is offered with a choice of three engines; a naturally aspirated 1.0 litre petrol (70bhp), a 0.9 litre turbocharged petrol (89bhp) and a turbocharged 1.5 litre diesel that also develops 89bhp. The engine I had at my disposal was 0.9 litre turbocharged petrol, which is mated to a 5-speed manual gearbox and is good for a 0-62 time of 12.1 seconds and a top speed of 109mph. Combined mpg is 61.4 to the gallon and it emits 104g/km, which is not bad, but not quite on par with its rivals.

How Does It Perform?

Small, turbocharged engines aren’t exactly anything new and I’ve had a chance to test a few of them. The small lump underneath the bonnet is not quite as powerful as its rivals, but the performance stats aren’t far off. On the road though, it certainly feels like it’s behind on the competition as it doesn’t have the fizz or the eagerness that one would get from cars such as the Ford Fiesta or the Suzuki Swift.

Although it’s not what I’d call slow, I wouldn’t say I enjoy accelerating in the new Micra, particularly as it makes a whining noise as it climbs in revs. This to me, is a rather unattractive noise and as much as it may sound picky, it’s quite a big turn off for me. The 5-speed manual that’s attached to the engine isn’t marvellous either, the changes feel a bit loose and it’s not as slick as its contemporaries.

Nissan Micra First Drive

The steering is nice and light when at low speeds, which makes the car easy to manoeuvre, and although it gets heavier with speed, it’s still a bit light for my liking. I’ve got a complaint with the pedals too – the clutch pedal feels a bit too high and the bake pedal doesn’t give a lot of feedback. So far, things aren’t looking good for the new Micra.

Ok, How Does It Handle?

Well this is an area where the Micra is able to claw some points back, but again, it’s still not on par with cars such as the new Ford Fiesta or the new SEAT Ibiza. The steering does not provide a great amount of feel, the car corners well with limited body roll. Thanks to extensive testing with Bridgestone and ex-F1 driver Stefano Modena, the car offers decent grip on the blacktop – more grip than you probably anticipate from an everyday supermini.

Nissan Micra First Drive
The profile of the Micra really does look good

It’s a most welcome trait in the new model, but in opinion it’s still not the most dynamic supermini money can buy at the moment and that’s a shame as the exterior styling holds so much promise. I believe Nissan is close to getting it right with its new Micra, but there are too many elements that aren’t quite as good as others in its class. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a bad car, it’s just fighting in a very competitive class where the other cars are simply better.

The ride is pretty decent though and on the roads surrounding the Wetherby Racecourse I found the Micra to be rather smooth. It feels grown up and refined, although there was a fair amount of tire noise coming from the 17″ alloys, so I’d opt for smaller wheels where possible. Mind you, it’s worth reminding you that the range-topping Tekna has 17″ shoes as standard.

So, It’s No Good?

There are definitely things to like about the new Micra, starting with the exterior looks. I simply couldn’t believe this was a Micra when I first saw the launch pictures last year. This car is more than just a pretty face though. It’s a comfortable place to be, even though the 17″ alloys create a fair bit of tyre noise, it has plenty of kit and the inside is a nice place to be. It’s also a safe place to be; thanks to features such as lane departure warning and autonomous emergency braking, the new Micra has a full five-star Euro NCAP rating.

Nissan Micra First Drive

The boot is also of a good size with 300 litres on offer, which is more than the Ford Fiesta and the Volkswagen Polo. It’s not class leading however, but it should be more than enough for everyday family use. Sadly the space for rear passengers isn’t quite as ample though, so if you’re looking for room in the rear, I’d recommend the new SEAT Ibiza.

Final Thoughts

I feel like Nissan was close to getting the new Micra right, but unfortunately there are other superminis that shine brighter in what is a very competitive sector of the market. I commend Nissan for finally making a Micra that looks desirable and is able to stand out from the crowd, especially if you opt for the Energy Orange colour.

Nissan Micra First Drive

It’s not just all about the looks though, the Micra comes with plenty of kit – bar rear electric windows – plus it has a decent sized boot and the inside is a nice place to be.What the Micra represents then, is a step in the right direction, but it’s not quite there . It’s a case of close, but no cigar.

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