The good bits
Comfortable and refined
Refreshing to see lots of safety features as standard
Diesel engine especially has legitimate efficiency claims and provides a solid, revvy driving experience
BOSE speakers are fantastic and a lovely idea
Comfortable seats, good driving positon and lots of space in the front
The bad bits
Plasticy ancillary trim around the doors a bit disappointing
Cramped and tight on headroom in the back
Windy windows in the back – with the addition of dead switches on top spec
Petrol engines can be less setted.
Prices – the top spec tops out at more than £20k.
The new Ford Fiesta. There’s ultra-tough competition on the way
It’s clear from the first look at the new Nissan Micra that it has come a long way since the previous versions to grace our shores, all of which, apart from the first two generations, haven’t exactly aged as well as you might expect. With the UK launch of the new Micra however, Nissan have been keen to stress that the only thing the same about this car is the name. ‘It’s truly revolutionary,’ were are promised, and there are some obvious and immediate improvements that means that at first glance, this car bears very little resemblance to the boxy Micra’s of days gone by.
There’s a pretty simple engine line-up, as you would expect from a car that puts relative simplicity and ease of use as a pretty vital brand value. One the UK media launch, I managed to drive both the 1.5 diesel, the same unit that can be found across a range of sectors and brands and the 0.9L turbo petrol. It would have been nice to have driven the 1.0L normally aspirated engine, but chances are that the 0.9L turbo will be a higher performer and a better seller.
All engines were linked to the same 5-speed gearbox, and partly down to cost-saving, there isn’t a 6-speed available on the diesel model, which I would have liked to have seen. Performance across the engines though is generally good, with the diesel car especially producing an adequate 220nm of torque and feeling stable in terms of ride and handling. Despite this, it’s the petrol that’s where the money is for Nissan, and although the lighter engine makes the car feel slightly more skittish, it’s an adequate performer in all gears.
The diesel loved to rev hard – unusually for an oil burner of this size, it keeps going way up till 5000rpm in 5th and was nippy enough to balance economy and driving performance.
Ride comfort and handling
No complaints here, and I think one of the best things about the new Micra is the increased refinement of the driving stability and overall ride comfort. There was no noticeable resonance in the cabin, and no booms, with the heavier diesel car especially providing a suitably reassuring and weightier ride that feels planted and confident. Twinned with the optional, but comfortable, recommended and highly supportive leather seats on the Tekna edition it makes for an impressive and comfortable car on the holey roads of the UK towns and suburbs.
It’s definitely one of the stand out features of the car, and long distance driving in the little Micra would be no problem at all. Sadly we didn’t get the opportunity on the launch day to test lower spec models – I have a supposition that Visia and Visia+ may be a little less comfortable on the inside, but the overall handling remains the same and that’s very good indeed and may make the lesser specs and cheaper options more tempting.
BOSE Surround Sound
A new feature for the latest Micra is a fairly impressive sound system, twinned with a clever feature in the driver’s headrest that provides an immersive and dynamic soundscape. It’s noticeably an improvement over regular car speakers, with the range of tones impressing to such an extent that both music and talking sounds good at almost any volume level. The car is impressively insulated from outside noise, which surprised me for the size, sector and price, and it was refreshing to see something of such quality in a car like the Micra.
The system offers a 360˚personal listening experience thanks to two speakers located in the driver’s seat head rest. The BOSE® Personal system has six speakers – the others are in the front doors and the A-pillars. The system is unique to Micra and has been specially tuned to create the best possible sound inside the cabin. It definitely works – at all volumes!
Tech, Spec and Personalisation
Overall the levels of technology and kit integrated into the car is impressive at this level, but added extras do make the price climb at quite a rate once you’ve bolted a few things on. The way the infotainment, navigation, switches and dials have been integrated into the car is impressive, and Nissan has definitely taken its time over this and made sure they’ve got it right – it’s one of the nicest things about sitting in the cabin. What’s not so nice, however, are the range of rather after-thought plastics attached to the doors and side panels. It’s clear that there hasn’t been anything like an unlimited budget on this new car, and Nissan have done a good job to make sure that most of the nasty plastics are out of the line of sight, but carried over tacky feeling window switches, for example, were a disappointment on the higher-level specs. It was also a surprise, at this price point, to see keep fit windows in the back, however it emphasises the point that Nissan have put their efforts here towards a more modern and dynamic driving style.
Personalisation also features heavily in the new Micra, and from the mid-range Acenta level up, there are three exterior personalisation options – Exterior Pack, Exterior Pack Plus (adding 17” wheels) and Exterior Pack Ultimate, offering everything in addition to a choice of seven durable body decals. The new Micra doesn’t shout about personalisation to the extent of some other cars in the segment, but it’s a nice touch that Nissan couldn’t get away with not including now that potential customers have a taste for it.
There is a modern and fresh touch to the new Micra that is appealing. It’s a good-looking car, with a style that goes above and beyond what many would expect in this sector. Inside the story is the same, and the amount of tech and kit on all trim levels is impressive. I would have liked to have seen a slightly more premium feel on the highest spec ‘Tekno’ levels, as I feel some of the switches and plastics have been carried over from previous generations, but that doesn’t stop the whole feel of the car being more premium and more well thought out that ever before. On the road, the car is stable and confident with good engines, holding on to grip in the corners and feeling planted, with a good amount of feel through the wheel. The BOSE speakers are a treat and a thoughtful addition, with the comfort of the seats and stability of the ride being the main takeaway points from my day with the car.
Given the price points, I found the diesel engine to be the pick of the two we drove, as it felt more stable and returned an impressive 60+ mpg. That being said, it’s likely that the petrol engines are going to be the ones that sell. My worry is the competition – does the new Micra have the gravitas and quality to beat off some higher-spec rivals, and of course the introduction of the inevitably sector-topping new Ford Fiesta? We’ll find out, but for now, Nissan can be rightly proud of their claim that the new Micra is indeed new from the ground up – it certainly feels like it.