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First drive: Nissan Micra 1.0 IG-T Xtronic. Image by Nissan UK.

First drive: Nissan Micra 1.0 IG-T Xtronic
Nissan brings in new turbocharged petrol triples for the 2019MY and itís a move that works well.


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2019 Nissan Micra 1.0 IG-T Xtronic

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Nissan isn't face-lifting the fifth-generation Micra for 2019, but it has made significant changes to the motive power on the petrol side of its range, while also adding a new gearbox option and a fresh trim grade. Question is, are these alterations enough to propel the Nissan to class honours?

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Nissan Micra 1.0 IG-T Xtronic N-Connecta
Pricing: Micra 2019MY from £12,875; 1.0 IG-T N-Connecta from £17,210
Engine: 1.0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol
Transmission: front-wheel drive, Xtronic Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) automatic
Body style: five-door hatchback
CO2 emissions: 142g/km* (VED Band 131-150: £205 first 12 months, then £140 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 44.9mpg*
Top speed: 110mph
0-62mph: 13.0 seconds
Power: 100hp at 5,000rpm
Torque: 144Nm at 2,000rpm
Boot space: 300-1,004 litres
* figures are quoted in WLTP

What's this?

The Nissan Micra, with some changes for the 2019MY, but don't worry about straining your eyes to see them - nothing, visually, has been altered. This is actually a tech update pertaining to the turbocharged petrol engine(s) offered for the Japanese B-segment contender, so we'll focus on those in this review.

In the fifth-generation Micra, launched in early 2017, there have previously been three engines - two 1.0-litre, three-cylinder petrol units, one without a turbocharger and known as the 'IG', and then the 0.9-litre, turbo'd mill, which gained 'IG-T' nomenclature. You might recognise these engines from the Renault Twingo and the Smart Forfour, two branches of the massive Renault Nissan Mitsubishi Alliance that also colludes with Daimler (aka Mercedes-Benz). In the Micra Mk5, these delivered, respectively, 71- and 90hp, while there was also a solitary diesel offering - the 1.5-litre dCi with 90hp, a unit used widely in Renault and Nissan products.

For 2019 and beyond, the 71hp IG petrol and the 90hp dCi turbodiesel continue in the Micra, but the 0.9-litre motor is gone. And good riddance, some might say. Not everyone gets along well with the 898cc lump's two-stage throttle response and odd boost characteristics, although we must confess, we thought it wasn't a bad little companion for the Micra when we first drove it two years ago. However, consigned to the scrapheap of history it must be, although that leads us onto the good news: we get not one, but two new turbocharged 1.0-litre triples for our money, serving as replacements for the solitary 0.9.

The more potent of these newcomers is called the 'DIG-T' (we really do hope you're keeping up with the IG/IG-T/DIG-T hierarchy these days...) and delivers 117hp with a nominal 180Nm, which rises to 200Nm on overboost. It features a new cylinder head and direct fuel injection, and shares much in common with the new Alliance/Mercedes 1.33-litre unit that is found in, among other things, the latest A-Class.

We'll talk about the 117hp motor in a separate review, in which we'll also address the sporty new trim line for the 2019MY - N-Sport, it's called - but for now, we want to focus on the 1.0-litre engine. It doesn't feature the new head nor direct fuel injection, which means Nissan is making two 1.0-litre, three-pot, turbocharged petrol engines with different cylinder heads (which seems to us to be a needlessly costly exercise, but there we are), but it does feature the bore-spray-coated cylinders of the aforementioned 1.33-litre engine, a technology first deployed in no less a vehicle than the R35 GT-R. Peak power is up 10hp to 100hp, compared to the old 0.9, while torque goes up to 160Nm - a 20Nm increase on the superseded motor's regular output and 10Nm higher than the 0.9 operating on its time-limited overboost function.

And last, but by no means least, there's the introduction of a new automatic option on the Micra Mk5, the first time this generation of Nissan's B-segment hatch has been available with a self-shifter. First of all, it reduces the IG-T's peak torque figure to 144Nm. And secondly, this gearbox is called Xtronic. Which, if you know your stuff, means it's a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). Cue rolling of the eyes. However! Wait! There's more! Xtronic is a CVT that mimics the shift patterns of an automatic gearbox, with a 'rise and fall and rise' of revs when accelerating hard. This sounds very promising indeed, but can the Micra's gearbox - and its new engine - convince us to crown it class king?

How does it drive?

There's a whole school of thought that seems to run along this tenet: the Micra nameplate was so badly damaged by years of cutesy, inoffensive, bubble-shaped, teen-and-OAP-friendly predecessors, culminating in the abject effort that was the mark four, that Nissan should have cut its losses and named this Mk5 variant as something else entirely. A new start. Fresh beginnings, and all that jazz.

The natural conclusion of this particular line of thinking would then appear to be: the Nissan Micra Mk5 isn't any good, because it's called a Micra. And we think that's a wholly erroneous belief to cling onto, if we're honest. We said it at launch in 2017 and we'll say it again now - the Nissan Micra, in its current guise, is up there with some of the strongest B-segment superminis in the game. It looks great on the outside, all visual daring and angular edginess. It has a fine cabin, with lots of space, good finishing, plenty of toys and a generally pleasing aesthetic. The boot's not bad; it has a high loading lip, true, which means the floor seems like it's a long way down, but it's 300 litres with all the seats up and you can extend that to more than 1,000 litres if you're not lugging humans about in the back.

Crucially, the Micra drives very sweetly. The steering is light and feel-free, but it's consistent and reasonably accurate. The chassis remains a perky little thing, bereft of too much in the way of speed-sapping understeer and generally quite genial when you start throwing the Nissan about in a fashion Doris is surely never going to, as she makes her way to Gala Bingo (sorry, that's conforming to a stereotype, isn't it?). The ride quality and general refinement of the Nissan is every bit as good as the three main leading lights in this sector (you know the ones we're referring to...), and while its driving dynamics are not exactly perfect, it'd easily have most of the mainstream fodder in this class covered when it comes to handling talent and generally civil comportment.

The new engine only builds on all of this. It's undoubtedly a big step up in terms of its operation when compared to the 0.9-litre, in a way simply staring at the on-paper stats is never going to convey. It revs smoothly and sounds decently throaty, in that way 1.0-litre triples always do, although we will concede it's not what you'd call 'sprightly' in the performance department. Even with the standard-fit five-speed manual, it'll take almost 11 seconds to hit 62mph from rest, but with the CVT, the fastest you'll ever achieve is 13 seconds on the button. However, it feels perfectly fine for town driving, doesn't become hopelessly out of its depth on fast-moving country roads and is more than up to the job on motorways.

Which leads us to the most surprising paragraph we've perhaps ever written in our careers, and it starts with this bombshell - this engine, specifically with the Xtronic, is the drivetrain pick of the new line-up. The five-speed manual's action is too clunky and imprecise, and there's a sharp, high-biting clutch on the 117hp model that makes driving it smoothly something of a chore, but the Xtronic seems to be the perfect fit for the Micra's rather genial character. We're not about to say this CVT is as good as a top-notch torque-converter auto, granted, and there's also a weird, half-a-second delay to the acceleration ceasing when you lift off the throttle, but by the standards of all other CVTs, this thing's in a league all of its own. There's no high-revs screeching, no feeling like the engine isn't connected to the wheels during acceleration, no roughness or real major bugbears. It's a more than acceptable transmission. No, we've not lost our marbles; it's a good gearbox.


If you've got both rampant badge snobbery and also a residual mental image of the Micra slathered in BSM stickers being pogoed along the road by a tremulous learner driver emblazoned in your memory, and they're considerations that you consider too overpowering to ignore, then you are simply not going to give this likeable little Nissan a fair crack of the whip. Your loss; the changes wrought by the company for the 2019MY might not be transformative enough to see the Micra toppling the mighty likes of the SEAT Ibiza and Ford Fiesta from their seat at the top of the class, but aside from the Volkswagen Polo, there's little else in this segment that can demonstrably outperform the Nissan in all departments. Go on, give the Micra 1.0 IG-T Xtronic a try; you might be pleasantly surprised by what you find...

4 4 4 4 4 Exterior Design

4 4 4 4 4 Interior Ambience

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 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 - 29 Jan 2019    - Nissan road tests
- Nissan news
- Micra images

2019 Nissan Micra 1.0 IG-T Xtronic. Image by Nissan UK.2019 Nissan Micra 1.0 IG-T Xtronic. Image by Nissan UK.2019 Nissan Micra 1.0 IG-T Xtronic. Image by Nissan UK.2019 Nissan Micra 1.0 IG-T Xtronic. Image by Nissan UK.2019 Nissan Micra 1.0 IG-T Xtronic. Image by Nissan UK.

2019 Nissan Micra 1.0 IG-T Xtronic. Image by Nissan UK.2019 Nissan Micra 1.0 IG-T Xtronic. Image by Nissan UK.2019 Nissan Micra 1.0 IG-T Xtronic. Image by Nissan UK.2019 Nissan Micra 1.0 IG-T Xtronic. Image by Nissan UK.2019 Nissan Micra 1.0 IG-T Xtronic. Image by Nissan UK.


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