Nissan Micra car review
- We like...Keen prices; smooth ride
- We don't...Plasticky dash; narrow seats
Say ‘Nissan’, and the ‘Micra’s’ the car you first think of. It may no longer be the make’s best-seller but it’s the model that defines the brand. So updating isn’t a decision to take lightly.
Particularly when the game-plan long-term is for it to become a global seller, offered in 160 markets. That’s a big step up from now, where the Micra finds owners across Europe and Japan (where it’s called the March).For such a big move, it’s easy goes it: which explains why the 2011 car looks as it does.
Gone are the current car’s so-cute, love-or-hate-me looks. Nissan concedes that while it has a loyal band of fans, most of them were women. Here at motors.co.uk, boys and girls alike we approved of the car’s cheeky character but we also know that some blokes felt driving one offended their manly dignity.
In the way that modern small cars tend to be, it’s longer than before, a touch shorter and also lighter by 35kgs – that’s as much as a couple of full-size holiday suitcases. It’s also new from the ground up: many ‘new’ models re-use the underpinnings and running gear from the outgoing car, but not here.
So while the Micra remains small in the company of classmates such as the Renault Clio and Vauxhall Corsa, it gains cabin space, notably in the rear. The old car is noticeably tight on head and legroom for those in the back: this is now better and is helped because all new Micras have five doors. However, anyone over 6ft tall may find their head brushing the roof lining and, if three are to sit abreast, to stay comfy they need to be skinny. The sliding rear bench that allowed juggling of space between people and baggage in the boot is gone but the rear chairs do still double roll forward to free up a flat load bay. The front seats, meanwhile are narrower than some and it’s too easy to pinch fingers while reaching for the recline lever.
The dash is all-new and while its styling shows more imaginative flair than the exterior, it’ll win no prizes. And while it’s good for storage, housing two lidded storage boxes and a tray, the plastics it is made from are hard and can’t match the quality or precise fit of the best.
Prices for the car look keen though (they’re no dearer than the old car’s) and, once you move above the Visia entry model, the two upper trims are generously quipped, offering climate controlled air conditioning, six airbags and a socket through which to play and charge your iPod.
When sales begin in December, there’ll be just one engine available, a 1.2 three-cylinder petrol that develops 79bhp. You’ll choose between a manual five-speed gearbox or an automatic. Motors.co.uk has driven both. The manually geared feels far the livelier of the two; the auto is happiest pootling around heavily trafficked town centres. Show it a hill or a motorway slip road and it’ll bellow a protest and build speed slowly. Pick the gears yourself using clutch and stick and the car’ll zip along in its lower gears, giving a nice three-cylinder burble as it goes. Fourth and top are tall, meaning that they only come into use once you find an open road or motorway. The steering is light but not strong on feedback, while the car’s quiet and pliant ride is its trump card: it’s notably good at speed, making the Micra good for a long trip. It also feels secure on the road in the way you’d expect of a bigger, heavier car.
Should you buy one? Well, it’s good enough. Totting up what you get for your cash confirms that it is well kitted out and cheaper than most. The cabin is pleasing if bland and the same’s true of its outside. It does more than enough to keep owners loyal. Will it win converts from elsewhere? Nissan says so but we wonder whether if in trying to broaden its appeal, they’ve built as car that’s a little too ‘vanilla’ for some.
- Engines1.2 cylinder petrol
- 0-60 mph13.7sec (man); 14.5sec
- Insurance groups3-6
Motors.co.uk value verdict: