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First drive: Nissan Micra 1.0 DIG-T N-Sport. Image by Nissan UK.

First drive: Nissan Micra 1.0 DIG-T N-Sport
Is the most powerful, sportiest-looking Nissan Micra Mk5 yet a bona fide ‘warm’ hatchback...?


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Nissan Micra 1.0 DIG-T N-Sport

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Nissan is targeting the 120-140hp bracket as the core of 'warm hatchback-dom' and feels that its new, sportiest variant of the Micra Mk5 can take the fight to the likes of the Ford Fiesta ST-Line, the SEAT Ibiza FR and maybe, even, the Suzuki Swift Sport. So the question is: can it?

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Nissan Micra 1.0 DIG-T N-Sport
Pricing: Micra 2019MY from £12,875, N-Sport from £17,935
Engine: 1.0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol
Transmission: front-wheel drive, six-speed manual
Body style: five-door hatchback
CO2 emissions: 133g/km* (VED Band 131-150: £205 first 12 months, then £140 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 47.9mpg*
Top speed: 121mph
0-62mph: 9.9 seconds
Power: 117hp at 5,250rpm
Torque: 180Nm at 1,750-4,000rpm (overboost: 200Nm from 1,750-3,750rpm)
Boot space: 300-1,004 litres

* figures are quoted in WLTP

What's this?

It's a sporty Nissan Micra. And don't go getting all po-faced about such a thing: we've already had a (kind of) performance Honda Jazz, after all. To be fair, we should also set your expectations of this new Micra accordingly, because Nissan UK is adamant it is only a warm hatch, and not some road-scorching, 200hp hot supermini. The car we're driving actually coalesces two new, 2019MY developments for the Micra Mk5 into one angular package. First of all, it's an N-Sport. This freshly introduced trim grade fits in roughly between top-selling Acenta (from £15,095) and high-spec N-Connecta (from £17,210) and starts from £17,935. It's essentially one of those styling packs you'll see on any other manufacturer's products - like an Audi S line or BMW M Sport or Volvo R-Design, for instance - and brings in external signifiers like a carbon-style finish for the alloys and door mirror caps, gloss-black detailing on the side mouldings and both bumpers, an N-Sport badge on the bootlid, rear privacy glass and halogen front fog lamps. Inside, Alcantara and faux-leather seats are augmented by a standard-fit rear-view camera with parking sensors, iKey (keyless entry and go, basically), white surrounds for the air vents, a black roof headlining, sports floor mats with twin white stripes on them and the luxury of a front-seat armrest. Choose from a quartet of (N-)sporty body colours, too, which are Passion Red, Solid White, Echo Grey and Enigma Black.

You can have N-Sport with either the standard 100 IG-T engine we've already tried, which can be fitted with the five-speed manual or Xtronic CVT transmissions, and then with the particular motor of our test car. This is the DIG-T 117. Like the 100 IG-T, it's a three-cylinder, 1.0-litre, turbocharged petrol motor but, as we alluded to in our recent review of its 100hp stablemate, this DIG-T is not the same engine with the wick turned up. Nissan says it is a 'completely different' unit (although the tech data for the bore/stroke suggests it is, at the very least, the same block...), citing its Delta-shaped head, its central fuel injector system, variable valve timing (VVT) on both intake and exhaust (the 100 IG-T has VVT on the exhaust only) and a turbocharger with an electronically controlled wastegate as the main alterations. It's fitted with a six-speed manual gearbox only and the net result of all this is 117hp at 5,750rpm plays 100hp at 5,000rpm, and 180Nm spread across 1,750-4,000rpm, as opposed to 160Nm at 2,750rpm (manual, 144Nm at 2,000rpm for the CVT) with the 100 IG-T. Further, the DIG-T 117 has 200Nm available on an overboost function, between 1,750-3,750rpm, which means it does the 0-62mph sprint a second quicker than the 100 IG-T manual, at 9.9 seconds all in. Top speed is 121mph.

Interestingly, it's not just extra power and some boring engine-tech facts that the DIG-T 117 brings, but also some chassis changes too. Yup, a 10mm lower right height with revised suspension settings teams to a sharper steering system, in order to make the 117hp Micra 'more agile and fun to drive'. All variants with this engine, which is available on Acenta, N-Sport and range-topping Tekna (from £18,760) - but, you'll note, not the aforementioned N-Connecta - also gain 17-inch alloys and a chrome exhaust finisher, so it becomes a weird overlap with the new N-Sport grade. One brings in sportier looks and a cabin, the other actually makes some difference to the way the Micra rides and handles, but they're mutually exclusive: for example, you can have a 100hp N-Sport (no chassis or steering changes, all the visual chutzpah), or you can have a 117hp Tekna (chassis and steering changes, normal Nissan Micra looks).

And, before you ask, no, there is not going to be a Nismo version of the Micra, as there was with the Juke Nismo RS. You might be thinking that all this talk of 'warm hatches' and 'N-Sport' (the N has to stand for Nismo, right?!) would indicate there's a proper, bona fide hot Micra scuttling down the product-development pipeline, but Nissan is staunchly adamant this is not the case. So fans of the Ford Fiesta ST and Peugeot 208 GTi by Peugeot Sport, who might be having cold-sweats nightmares of being beaten off the line of a traffic-lights grand prix by a Nissan bloody Micra, can perhaps sleep easier in their beds tonight.

How does it drive?

Hmmm. It's not bad, per se, the Micra 117hp N-Sport, but it's also not as sweet or as enjoyable as a regular 100hp model with none of the fancy chassis trickery. You see, Nissan has gone for the warm hatch thing with a very strong emphasis on the 'warm'. As in, 'lukewarm'. You're nowhere near the punchiness of a 140hp Fiesta ST-Line nor the Suzuki Swift Sport, even if you're paying pretty much the same money, and while we know there are possibly poorer efforts at this formula (say, putting your sportiest model's accoutrements on a 99hp hybrid hatch with overly firm suspension... you know who you are...), the Nissan doesn't present a convincing, dynamic case for itself that would justify the price tag. You're still going to think the 115hp SEAT Ibiza FR is the better vehicle.

For instance, this Nissan's steering is notably keener and more direct than it is on the 100hp models, that's for sure, but there's a slightly hyperactive nature about it that makes it harder to build rapport with the Micra 117. Body control is also suitably improved, yet that's to the detriment of ride quality. The 117hp variant is crashier when driving around in towns and when its suspension has to deal with large vertical-load inputs, which means it feels more skittish in low-grip circumstances; never more aptly summed up than when we got a load of unheralded push-on understeer in one corner, followed by snappy oversteer when we lifted to try and correct this. Indeed, the understeer sensation is weird in the Micra 117. It kind of transitions from front-end grip to slip without any warning whatsoever, like you're driving on black ice, which makes you feel more nervous about what it's going to do in any given corner - we will at least concede that we drove the sporty Nissan in abject, rainy conditions that would have challenged many a performance motor, though, so perhaps it's better to drive in the dry.

However, the drivetrain is no great shakes. It sounds really gruff at low revs and never becomes enticing in the acoustics department as it revs right out. Again, we think the 100hp mill sounds better, with a purer, gargling-triple noise. For all the claims about this DIG-T being a whole second quicker for 0-62mph, the strangely long gearing - the Micra's six-speed 'box seems to be one of those eco-friendly derivatives, with the lower three cogs all having far too much reach and 'gapping' between ratios - only serves to make the 117hp feel slower than it probably is. There's quite a bit of engine lag off-boost, which is to be expected on a small-capacity turbo motor, but a snappier, shorter transmission would eradicate much of the problems this long-leggedness is bringing to the party. Perhaps we should defend the six-speed transmission, here, and say it has a much nicer, more positive shift action than the baggy five-speeder on the IG-T, but we were hoping for more punchiness from this sportier variant, absolutely. In short, the Micra 117 drove in a reasonably interesting fashion but in a few key areas, it felt like an unresolved product.


The 2019MY Nissan Micra range has definitely been enhanced by the four new additions to the fold, these being the 100hp IG-T engine, the 117hp DIG-T motor, the Xtronic CVT and the N-Sport trim grade. However, you need to pick carefully from the ordering list to get the best Micra experience. Weirdly, after driving both manual and CVT versions of the 100hp model, and this warm 117hp N-Sport, we came to the most bizarre conclusion: the most fun we had in the corners, the most likeable ride quality, the most pleasant drivetrain and, therefore, the best Micra of the lot... is the 100hp IG-T with CVT. No, really. Honestly, we never saw that coming.

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

3 3 3 3 3 Comfort

3 3 3 3 3 Driving Dynamics

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Powertrain

Matt Robinson - 30 Jan 2019    - Nissan road tests
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- Micra images

2019 Nissan Micra 1.0 DIG-T N-Sport. Image by Nissan UK.2019 Nissan Micra 1.0 DIG-T N-Sport. Image by Nissan UK.2019 Nissan Micra 1.0 DIG-T N-Sport. Image by Nissan UK.2019 Nissan Micra 1.0 DIG-T N-Sport. Image by Nissan UK.2019 Nissan Micra 1.0 DIG-T N-Sport. Image by Nissan UK.

2019 Nissan Micra 1.0 DIG-T N-Sport. Image by Nissan UK.2019 Nissan Micra 1.0 DIG-T N-Sport. Image by Nissan UK.2019 Nissan Micra 1.0 DIG-T N-Sport. Image by Nissan UK.2019 Nissan Micra 1.0 DIG-T N-Sport. Image by Nissan UK.2019 Nissan Micra 1.0 DIG-T N-Sport. Image by Nissan UK.


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