Nissan Micra review: ‘Packs a punch of fun and flair’
Price: from £11,995
Top speed: 109mph
0-62mph: 12.2 seconds
Do you remember the car you passed your test in? Mine was a Nissan Micra. It was in Glasgow, in August 1983. The peach air freshener dangling from the mirror did little to cover up the smell of my driving instructor. Gary seemed well on his way to a coronary and spent every lesson eating sweets and smoking. But, bless him, he helped me pass first time. And bless Nissan’s Micra, too. Its simple layout, biddable engine and large windows all played their part in getting me through.
A lifetime later, here I am once again sitting at the wheel of a Micra – and it’s a world away from that basic 80s model. Micra always used to rely on its rep as a cheap, dependable and dull runaround (which, of course, is just what you want when learning to drive). This tech-friendly model, however, makes a clean break from the previous approach, with miles of clear blue water between it and the under-equipped outgoing version.
Despite the Japanese tag, the new Micra is actually made in France in a Renault factory. The same plant also makes the excellent Renault Clio, so expectations are high that some of its magic will rub off on the new Micra.
First impressions are so crucial – and this little Nissan doesn’t put a foot wrong. It’s petite, but the designers have used every inch of its small frame to create a big impression – the most striking of which is a long, flowing crease which swoops up across the bonnet before ducking under the wing mirrors and heading towards the back doors with their invisible handles. The rear corners feature a high peak which creates the impression of a floating roof. Considering the early Micras were so boxy they made biscuit tins look curvy, this one is a revelation.
Step inside and you’ll be amazed: small cars are so often a masterclass in plodding tedium. It’s as if the very fact you’ve managed to get a dashboard and steering wheel into the right place is enough. But the Micra proves there is another way. It packs in so much flair, fun and space – the headroom is amazing. There’s a great choice of clever aids, including pedestrian-detection auto-brake, blind-spot warning, surround-view cameras, radar cruise control and active lane-keeping – all usually big-car goodies.
There’s a choice of three engines: two petrols and a diesel. The big seller will be the 0.9-litre 90bhp turbo triple. The performance you get out of an engine that’s less than 1-litre is awesome. There is no automatic available, it only comes as a five-speed manual, but being smooth and quick you’ll get plenty of enjoyment from ducking and weaving down busy town roads. On the motorway it holds its own, but a blustery and rainy day was a bit hair raising in such a light car.
I think Gary would definitely have passed it with flying colours.
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