The new Micra brings good style, good tech and good driving characteristics to a tainted name
Let’s face it: the last Micra was not a great moment in automotive history. It was a poor car to drive, it lacked charisma and it didn’t look very nice.
So let’s say a cheery hello to the sharp-looking hatchback that’s come along to replace it. Built on an updated version of the old fourth-gen Micra, it shares very few of that car’s mechanicals. The engines and transmissions come from Nissan’s partner Renault, the most powerful being the turbocharged 94bhp/111lb ft 0.9-litre three-cylinder petrol that also appears in the Renault Clio and Twingo.
Nissan Micra IG-T 90 Tekna
Engine: 898cc, three-cylinder, turbocharged petrol
Gearbox: Five-speed manual
Top speed: 109mph
Fuel economy: 61.4mpg
CO2 emissions: 104g/km
Developed to a large part in Cranfield, UK, but built in a French Renault factory, the new Micra has a chassis that’s been completely revamped to create a lower centre of gravity, which is never a bad thing for handling. It’s been benchmarked against the best cars in the class (Polo, Fiesta, and Mazda 2), which is another point in its favour.
And to keep up with the Joneses on technology, for the first time in the sub-compact segment the Micra offers a camera-based active lane keeping system, plus ‘around-view’ parking cameras and a clever new audio system from BOSE featuring near-field speakers in the driver’s head restraint.
In theory, it all looks good – but what’s it like in reality?
Your first impressions on climbing aboard are of high-quality plastics, a soft-touch rolltop dashboard and neat chrome accents. The instrumentation will be familiar to Qashqai owners, as will the five-inch colour ‘drive assist’ trip computer screen. Both have eye appeal in a cabin that ranks alongside the best in class.
Only slightly mean back seat space blots the positive overall impression. Even so, it’s easy to wrangle child seats in and out.
Both the 898cc turbo petrol and the £1350 dearer 1.5-litre turbo diesel generate 89bhp. The non-turbo entry-level 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol that’s due to arrive a little later produces 72bhp.
Both turbo units feature a noise-reducing ‘acoustic’ windscreen, enhancing the already good mechanical refinement. The petrol triple is especially smooth and quiet, contributing to its sweetness relative to the diesel. Because it’s lighter than the diesel, the petrol engine allows for softer suspension and a cushier ride. It doesn’t feel quite as punchy as some other small turbo petrols though. Still, it operates nicely enough in partnership with a slick five-speed manual gearchange.
In terms of handling, Nissan has tried to combine the Fiesta’s dancing delicacy with the Polo’s solidity. That’s a tough ask, and it’s no real surprise to find that the Micra can’t match either in their own areas of specialty, but the compromise reached by Nissan is more than agreeable.
Compared to the Fiesta, the Micra’s steering is lighter but also slower. Compared to the Polo, its ride isn’t quite as settled. However, the overall feel is quite Fordish and the Micra’s ability to absorb lumps and bumps trumps that of most of its rivals. Grip is strong and responses sharp, with little lurching. It’s not what you’d immediately describe as special, but it is quietly capable. For many if not all of its buyers, that will be more than enough.
This is a well-executed little car that embraces high European standards in just about every important way. Welcome back, Micra.