Nissan’s Micra has been with us for almost 30 years and in that time has gone from a boxy Japanese import to UK-built mainstay and then a blobby “global” car shipped in from India.
It’s fair to say the fourth generation car didn’t meet the expectations of Nissan or the car-buying public in Europe which is why this fifth-gen model has been designed and built in Europe for us fussy Europeans.
So different is the car from the one that came before that Nissan considered launching it under a new name but the Micra identity is so strong they opted to stick with it.
The name, however, is about the only continuation from previous versions.
Nissan Micra 0.9 Tekna
Engine: 898cc, threelcylinder, turbocharged petrol
Transmission: Five-speed manual driving front wheels
Top speed: 109mph
0-62mph: 12.1 seconds
Economy: 61.4mpg combined
CO2 emissions: 104g/km
The first and most obvious change is the look of the car. The styling is everything the old one wasn’t. Sharp, dynamic and youthful rather than blobby, half-baked and ungainly. The Micra has long been the mainstay of driving schools and retirees but Nissan are clearly targeting a new, younger market with the fifth generation.
The interior, too, is a world away from the cheap, nasty shiny plastics of the fourth generation car. Our test car was a high-spec Tekna, which boasted “leather” dash panels and metallic inserts around the cabin. In that guise I’d rate the interior better than the Seat Ibiza, which has long impressed with its big-car quality. The overall quality of the materials, layout and equipment in the Micra is high. Even lower spec models get the soft-touch materials around the cabin, even if they do miss out on the fancy dashboard finishes and leather seats of the test car.
Adding to the quality feel of the interior is impressive refinement. There’s very little evidence or wind or road noise and the 0.9-litre petrol engine is only noticeable under very heavy throttle.
Ford have had the ride and handling of their Fiesta supermini sorted for years but not every competitor has. Early in the development of the new Micra, Nissan identified this as an area they wanted to focus on and, thankfully, the hard work has paid off.
It still can’t match the peerless Fiesta but the Micra is a strong on-road performer. First off, the ride is excellent. Even on the 17-inch alloys of the Tekna model it was smooth and composed, coping with uneven roads, drain covers and so on like a far larger car would. It is impressively nimble too, the sharper steering and chassis control systems working to give a lively but confident and secure drive.
The adept drive is helped by a new 898cc petrol engine. Part of a range of three downsized powerplants, the turbocharged three-cylinder produces a respectable 89bhp. It’s no performance motor but has enough shove to move the Micra along swiftly and feels like a great match for the car. Under hard acceleration it makes itself known but in normal driving it’s impressively smooth and quiet.
Alternative engines are a 90bhp 1.5-litre diesel and a 75bhp 1.0-litre. For outright frugality the diesel comes tops with up to a claimed 76.3mpg. The turbocharged petrol manages just over 64mpg on smaller wheels but loses almost 4mpg on the 17-inchers. On a fairly mountainous test route our car showed an actual average of 41mpg.
Away from the mechanical bits, the Micra offers a large, 300-litre boot. It’s a good amount of space but there’s a deep lip to overcome to drop items in. Rear passenger space is tight, even behind an average-height driver. The good news is that there’s loads of space up front for driver and passenger and the seats are supportive and comfortable, even for long stints at the wheel.
The Micra will come in four trim levels – Visia, Visia+, Acenta, N-Connecta, and Tekna, starting at £11,995.
Even the most basic Visia comes with Nissan’s Safety+ pack as standard. This offers lane keep assist – a first in the segment – along with automatic emergency braking featuring pedestrian detection, traffic sign recognition and high beam assist.
Entry-level Visia cars also come with 15-inch steel wheels, LED daytime running lights, electric mirrors and front windows, Hill Start Assist and the entry-level media system. Visia+ adds
air con and an engine stop-start system.
Acenta piles on 16-inch alloys cruise control, and a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system. From N-Connecta the seven-inch touchscreen houses the full NissanConnect system with sat nav, DAB radio and Apple CarPlay, plus there’s auto air con and rear privacy glass.
Tekna tops out the range with 17-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry and start, rear view camera with rear parking sensors, and the BOSE Personal audio system.
This sound system features twin speakers in the headrest, designed to give a 360-degree listening experience. Nissan claim it gives you a soundscape ranging from forward-projecting theatre-style to all-encompassing arena. To me it sounds like playing around with the front/rear fader of any car. Still, it’s a good-sounding system and adds to the more youthful appeal Nissan are looking for.
People talk about some small cars having a big-car feel – the Seat Ibiza, for example. Up until now it’s never been a description levelled at the Micra but this latest generation changes that.
It feels solid and assured on the road. The interior, too, has a quality sorely lacking from its predecessor and the new 898cc engine is a strong performer. Chuck in a wealth of comfort and safety equipment and it looks like Nissan are onto a winner.