Steve Sharpe drives Nissan’s facelifted Micra
Nissan’s Micra seems to have been with us forever.
It personifies the idea of a small, cheap runaround – probably a newly-qualified driver’s first car – before they move up the ranks.
The Micra has in fact been with us since 1982 – the year of the Falklands, the raising of the Mary Rose and the birth of Prince William – and in the intervening years has, along with the times, changed radically.
The first incarnations were rounded, dinky-looking cars, which could only really been described as functional and, at a push, cute.
Since then the Micra’s design has kept up with current trends, until now we have this new facelifted version – although the company reckons that the changes are too wide-ranging to be considered a mid-term facelift.
This model has been beefed up in appearance, and looks decidedly more masculine than its predecessors.
The new Micra’s most obvious changes are to the exterior.
The entire front end has changed with a new grille, bonnet, wings, headlamps and front bumper.
The rear end also features a redesigned bumper, new LED tail lamps and a panel at the bottom of the tailgate, while the hatchback sits on either new-design 15-inch or 16-inch alloy wheels..
Nissan have made alterations inside too. The instrument graphics in front of the driver have been improved for greater clarity, while there’s a totally new centre console with restyled air vents.
The interior has been enhanced with the use of a glossy black finish on the centre console and a silver look to the gear selector finisher.
Visia and Acenta grades have a mesh woven fabric while top-trim Tekna models have a suede-like fabric with double stitching.
It’s definitely an improvement – there is still the original basis of the Micra but it looks more dynamic and modern.
Inside, the cabin looks simple but smart, but you can’t help being struck by the amount of scratchy plastic used in its construction.
The Micra range, which starts at sub-£10k, is definitely aimed at the budget end of the market but many of its rivals are ahead in this area.
Although it looks fine the plastics are hard to the touch throughout and make a hollow sound when knocked.
The centre console, with its shiny black finish and circular controls, adds a dash of style and the circular door handles look stylish.
The controls are easy to use on the move and straightforward.
Although the Micra is small even as small hatchbacks go, there is a surprising amount of room inside.
Though the dashboard is well forward, and you can reach the passenger door from the driver’s seat with hardly a stretch, there is a decent of legroom in the front and back, easily enough for normal-sized adults.
There is also reasonable head and shoulder room, as the Micra still hangs on to that original rounded shape.
The boot’s a decent size, although smaller than some of its biggest rivals.
The cabin’s roominess is helped by a lot of light coming through the generous windows all around. This also enables great visibility and helps to make the Micra feel right at home in the city.
The tight turning circle and light steering make this little hatchback easy and great fun to manoeuvre in and out of tight spaces and city streets.
The Micra is only available with two versions of a 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol engine (one supercharged and one naturally aspirated).
Buyers have the option of a five-speed manual or a CVT automatic gearbox.
The top trim supercharged engine (DIG-S) proved to be right at home on the urban run.
There’s some fun to be had from this supercharged version of the Micra – the steering is well-weighted and grip is good, so combined with well- controlled body roll, the little hatchback will corner well and accelerate out.
But the Micra’s not meant for regular long journeys up and down the motorway, merely the odd visit.
The engine gets raspy as speed increases and there’s a fair bit of wind and road noise coming through.
The ride gets choppy at speeds as well, and you can feel rough surfaces coming through the wheels.
But the Micra is meant for life in the city, a small car that’s affordable and cheap to run and maintain.
It’s certainly got some impressive economy figures. The DIG-S version averages 65.7mpg and emissions are below the magical 100g/km mark, meaning that the government will be losing out on its road tax contribution from Micra drivers.
There are three models in line-up. Entry-level Visia gets you remote central locking, front power windows, 14-inch wheels, radio and CD player with Aux and USB plus a full complement of safety equipment including driver and front passenger airbags, side airbags and curtain bags, ABS and ESP.
Mid-range Acenta adds chrome accents, body colour door mirrors and handles, 15-inch wheels, roof spoiler, automatic climate control, front fog lamps, driver’s armrest, leather covered steering wheel, Bluetooth connectivity plus automatic control for the headlamps and wipers.
Top Tekna versions add automatic air conditioning, NissanConnect, rear parking sensors, Parking Slot Measurement, 16-inch alloy wheels, automatic folding door mirrors and Intelligent Key with engine start button.
A panoramic glass roof is available as on option on Tekna grade and you can also personalise your car with loads of bits and bobs.
Upgraded navigation now features eco-routing, which automatically calculates the route likely to use the least fuel.
The larger colour touchscreen not only means maps and directions are easier to read, but also that album cover art linked to the owner’s music library can be displayed. The new system also incorporates advanced features such as Google Send -To-Car technology, which allows an owner to plan a journey on their PC or iPad at home or in the office and then send the instructions to the car ahead of the journey.
It’s all going to improve this car’s appeal to the younger driver. And a large number of Micras will find themselves in the hands of the younger generation of drivers.
This Micra looks better, provides a decent drive and is perfect for the city.
But there are a lot of small hatchback / city cars out there now, and the bar is definitely being raised as far as performance, practicality, build quality and economy is concerned.
Nissan’s little stalwart is keeping up but it will have to keep a watchful eye on the opposition.
Nissan Micra Tekna
Engine: 1.2litre petrol.
Transmission: Five-speed manual.
0-62: 11.4 seconds
Top Speed: 112mph.
Economy: Avg 65.7mpg