The Nissan Micra has been on the market for a long time - since 1982 to be exact - but it has always struggled to attract young buyers. Now available in its fifth generation, the latest model has finally taken the looks factor into account and with a range of fuel-efficient engines, the Micra is ready to boost competition in the small car market.
So what is it?
The Micra is the Japanese contribution to the highly competitive small car market. The new model has it all and competes against the brilliant Ford Fiesta and the Volkswagen Polo. The new Micra is truly new, and now stylish and pretty to look at. It becomes most interesting when you look at the purchase price, which starts at around 11,000 euros. There are also a number of personalization options that represent a completely new concept for the Micra. The goal is to make the new model accessible to a much younger audience than before.
What's under the hood?
Three engines are available for the Micra - a 70-hp naturally aspirated 1.0-liter engine, an 89-hp 1.5-liter DCI engine, and the 89-hp 0.9-liter turbodiesel. The three-cylinder engine is a powerful little engine, though not exactly fast. Top speed is 160 km/h and the Micra needs just under 12 seconds to jump from 0 to 100 km/h. The little Nissan is also cheap to run, with the 0.9-liter engine managing just under 25 kilometers per liter of fuel while achieving CO2 emissions of only 104 g/km.
However, the power delivery of the 0.9-liter doesn't feel particularly linear, as there's very little boost until you get to around 2,500 rpm with a sudden increase in torque. This makes driving a bit uncomfortable in certain situations, although it's only a minor annoyance.
What's it like to drive the Micra?
It's hard to describe the feel of a substance, but we'll try. Many small cars feel notoriously thin and light in places; almost as if it would be a miracle if they (the cars) lasted longer than 10,000 km. This Micra, however, is a bit different. It has a reassuringly solid feel to it, as if it was designed to handle the most unforgiving handling its owner can subject it to. It may be simple and affordable, but it feels very commanding.
That feeling carries over into the way the Micra drives. While some (typically thin-tired) small cars feel so light on their wheels that drivers almost want to believe the car is susceptible to crosswinds, the new Micra offers good stability. Its cabin has a reasonable level of noise, and vibration suppression.
At most, the gearshift can be a bit disappointing, as the five-speed manual gearbox seems very vague and the shift travel is too long for a car of this size.
What does the Micra look like?
The previous Micras were rather disappointing visually, to say the least. But thankfully, the new model has a sportier and more stylish design than previous models.
The Micra may be marketed as a vehicle for frugal buyers, but you can have a lot of fun with some visual upgrades like a rear spoiler, 14-inch alloy wheels and metallic paint. Nissan offers plenty of customization, which seems to be in vogue at this end of the market right now. Contrasting color options and decals, as well as interior trim, are available to order. After all, no one is saying that small cars have to be boring. In this segment, you're now spoiled for choice when it comes to new cars with their own visual personality.
And what does it look like inside?
The Micra's interior is typical Nissan - it's well-built, well laid out and easy to use. While the color customization options add some flair to the interior, there are too many rough and scratchy surfaces that found their way inside.
For front passengers, space and room is excellent. However, the same cannot be said for rear passengers, who suffer from poor legroom and headroom. The trunk is impressive, however, as it offers 300 liters of space, surpassing the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo with 292 liters and 280 liters, respectively.
What is less pleasing
The engine does not have enough power. We've already said that the Nissan's engine is adequate for general use.
But when you consider how hard the little car has to work to carry four occupants plus a trunk load, things don't look rosy. Add in a few feet above sea level, and with the air so thin, the little Japanese car might actually run out of breath altogether. (For those who don't know, the higher you go, the less dense the air, causing a drop in performance for naturally aspirated vehicles). Typically, cars without turbochargers lose up to 20% of their engine power in thin ambient air, which for the Micra means it's now only putting out about 50 kW of power. Fortunately, the tried-and-true powertrain should survive this kind of treatment every now and then.
It's a clever trick by Nissan to make a new attempt to tap into the small car segment. If it worked for Ford and VW, then there's no reason why the new Micra shouldn't find its fans as well. If the somewhat quirky exterior doesn't bother you, and you also don't need to carry larger loads in the trunk on a regular basis, then the Micra should be on your shopping list, as its price alone is hard to beat. Also consider adding the radio as an equipment option. You won't regret it.
At this price, there are very few cars that offer as much 'car' as the Micra. Add alloy wheels and the small spoiler and it instantly gains personality compared to the duller offerings in this segment.
The Micra is a stylish, attractively priced and solidly built small car that offers good value for money. However, poor rear legroom and an undersized engine somewhat mar the driving experience. Nevertheless, the Nissan Micra is a compelling option in this crowded market segment.