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First drive: Nissan Micra. Image by Nissan.

First drive: Nissan Micra
A bold change of direction for Nissan's Micra supermini, but is it daring enough for class honours?

   



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Nissan Micra

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Nissan abandons the cutesy bubble-car look that its Micra supermini has worn since the MkII 'K11' of 1992 and instead gives its B-segment contender real visual attitude, plus a cabin that is ramped up on the quality front. The aim is to attract a wholly different buying demographic (i.e. one that's younger and not so fond of blue-rinse hairstyles) and, judging by the predicted best-selling 0.9-litre turbocharged petrol model, Nissan appears to have executed its Micra task brilliantly.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Nissan Micra IG-T 90 Tekna
Pricing: Micra from 11,995; 0.9 TCe Tekna from 17,295; car as tested 20,190
Engine: 0.9-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol
Transmission: front-wheel drive, five-speed manual
Body style: five-door hatchback
CO2 emissions: 104g/km (VED Band B, 0 first 12 months, 20 annually thereafter if registered before April 1, 2017; 140 annually post-April 1, 2017)
Combined economy: 61.4mpg
Top speed: 109mph
0-62mph: 12.1 seconds
Power: 90hp at 5,500rpm
Torque: 140Nm (150Nm on time-limited overboost) at 2,250rpm

What's this?

The all-new, fifth-generation Nissan Micra. And isn't it rather smashing? Gone is the 'smooth pebble' two-box look of Micras marks two, three and four, replaced instead by something extremely angular, not in the least bit shy and retiring, and - crucially - a whole lot more appealing to a younger clientele. Heck, Nissan will even offer a range of decals and graphics to go with the vibrant body colours for this B-segment machine, which shows you just how different a proposition the Micra is in 2017 to that which has gone before.

OK, we're not about to say the body of the Micra is exactly beautiful, but it is at least distinctive and it looks really good when you're up close and personal. Those bold swage lines, the aggressive face, that distinctive rear with its blacked-out C-pillars, kicked-up rear windows and the light clusters that edge into the body panels... actually, that bit's a little too reminiscent of a MkIII Ford Focus, but apart from that detail, we wholeheartedly approve of the new car's appearance, which couldn't be more dramatic if it tried.

Good news on the interior front as well, where there's been a healthy injection of quality. Soft-touch two-tone materials are used range-wide, higher-spec models get even nattier finishes and, on cars fitted with the seven-inch touchscreen display for the NissanConnect infotainment, there's a really nice focus to the dash design. Everything's neatly laid out, the new three-spoke steering wheel is particularly alluring and there are lots of lovely little details, with only a few plastics (the upper sections of the door cards, particularly) drawing any sharp exhalations as to their perceived lower standards.

On a connected note (sorry for the pun), Nissan has again played up the youth appeal here by offering the Bose Personal Sound system as standard on the range-topping Tekna (it's an option elsewhere), which builds two speakers into the driver's headrest for an optimised audio experience. Nissan very kindly asked us for our favourite albums ahead of the event (difficult call, but we opted for Kasabian's self-titled first album when put under pressure) and then provided them for us to test the Bose kit - verdict: epic, epic levels of sound, but the variation between driver-focused and car-focused music is quite hard to discern. Still, thumbs-up for the clarity of the system at higher volume levels.

It's not quite universal praise for Nissan's packaging job. The boot, for example, is a decent 300 litres with all seats in place (1,004 litres with the rear chairs folded away), but there's a big loading lip over which you've got to heft bulky items and if you fold the 60:40 split rear seats down, they don't lie flat with the boot floor. Furthermore, as the MkV Micra is much longer than the MkIV it replaces (it's just 1mm short of being precisely four metres from tip to tail, meaning it has grown in length by 174mm compared to its predecessor), passenger room is said to be increased, but with a tallish driver behind the wheel, there aren't exactly acres of space to be found in the rear row. And as the stylish exterior is 55mm lower than the old Micra, headroom feels tight in the back for those of merely average height.

Nissan's UK launch range comprises three engines and five trim grades to kick things off, with all cars equipped with a five-speed manual transmission for the moment. There's a normally aspirated 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine with 73hp, this turbocharged 0.9-litre unit with 90hp (familiar from the Renault Twingo and Smart Fortwo/Forfour ranges) and then a solitary turbodiesel, the trusty 1.5-litre dCi, also making 90hp. Visia kicks off the specifications, rising through Visia+, Acenta, N-Connecta and then the Tekna flagships, which we've driven here. There are a lot of toys fitted to the Tekna, but even so you can add various goodies like bonnet decals (320), the Perso Burgundy leather interior with heated front seats (1,400), 17-inch alloys (550) and a metallic paint (Passion Red, 575), which pushes a fully loaded Micra beyond the 20 grand mark... yikes!

How does it drive?

The new Micra is very polished in all departments, albeit exceptional in none. Nevertheless, while the outgoing Ford Fiesta might provide more ultimate driving thrills, the Nissan does a lot of things so well that it's already one of the leading lights in the B-segment. As with so many of these non-performance cars in the modern day, it majors on refinement before excitement - and this is no bad thing at all for a city run-around.

If you do decide to drive a bit quicker, the steering is quick to react to inputs and reasonably well-weighted, if not massively feelsome, while the body control is good and understeer is restrained by the simple expedient of the Micra having such a small engine in its nose. That means it's a game handler, if not a vibrant one. It will cling on in the bends at higher speeds than you might imagine for a Nissan Micra and there is even the merest suggestion that lifting the throttle will adjust the car's line with a shift of the tail end, but once you've barrelled in hot to a few bends just for the sheer fun of thrashing what was once a supermarket conveyance for OAPs, the novelty soon wears off and you ease back on the revs.

Whereupon you discover the Nissan has remarkable ride quality for a short wheelbase machine on relatively big alloys. Honestly, we really didn't notice its primary or secondary ride characteristics at all on some pretty poor Croatian roads, which tells you that Nissan has got the damping in the Micra spot on. Adding to the whole car's comfort ethos is a singular lack of tyre roar at all road speeds, class-leading aerodynamics (the hatch has a drag coefficient value of 0.29) allowing the car to cut through the airflow with a minimum of fuss and that peachy little 0.9-litre engine staying vibration-free from idle to the redline. The five-speed manual gearbox is slick of throw and blessed with beautifully spaced ratios, while the driver's seat is adjustable through a wide variety of positions (allowing anybody to get comfortable behind the wheel) and visibility out the front of the car is superb. It's a very charming machine to tool along in and it feels equally at home whether crawling along urban streets or cruising down open roads.

If there are any negatives to the Micra, it's that there's a little bit of a visibility impediment brought about by those rakish rear door frames, but it's not so tragically compromised as to make the driver gnash their teeth in frustration every time they need to glance at the rear three-quarters, while we do think the extra torque of the diesel model is most welcome. But overall, it's a well-executed package and one that deserves to perform strongly in the sales charts. And here's something we never thought we'd say about a Micra, but... we'd really like to see a Nismo version, to take on the Fiesta STs and Renaultsport Clios of this world. That should tell you everything you need to know about the seismic shift in the MkV Micra's philosophy.

Verdict

Striking looks, a fantastic cabin, youthful appeal and urbane driving manners with a decent chassis underneath - what's not to like about the new Nissan Micra? Yes, it can get a little bit expensive in bells-and-whistles specification, and there are a few question marks regarding the overall experience rear-seat passengers would have during a long journey in the back - but such criticisms could be levelled at other cars in this sector; like the Volkswagen Polo, for instance. So Nissan should be heartily commended for taking such a bold new direction with its supermini, because the latest Micra is a car that finally deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as the class elite.

4 4 4 4 4 Exterior Design

4 4 4 4 4 Interior Ambience

4 4 4 4 4 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

4 4 4 4 4 Comfort

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Driving Dynamics

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 10 Jan 2017



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2017 Nissan Micra. Image by Nissan.2017 Nissan Micra. Image by Nissan.2017 Nissan Micra. Image by Nissan.2017 Nissan Micra. Image by Nissan.2017 Nissan Micra. Image by Nissan.

2017 Nissan Micra. Image by Nissan.2017 Nissan Micra. Image by Nissan.2017 Nissan Micra. Image by Nissan.2017 Nissan Micra. Image by Nissan.2017 Nissan Micra. Image by Nissan.








 

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