Design and Engineering

Design and Engineering

Good Arriving Down Under in November 2010 the fourth generation Nissan Micra is based on all new platform that is slightly larger (and of course more spacious inside), but impressively both lighter and more fuel efficient than the previous model. This Micra is truly a global car, it is sold in more than 160 countries and manufactured in India, Mexico, China and Thailand (all Aussie bound Micra’s are sourced from the latter country).
Not so good Whilst it is an all new design, the exterior styling is by no means pushing the latest design trends. It misses the wow factor lines of a number of Supermini’s but maybe as a result it will appeal to a broader audience?
Interior and Styling

Interior and Styling

Good The Micra is a practically sized Supermini with plenty of space for both front and second row occupants. It is noticeably wider inside than the half sized smaller city cars such as the Holden Barina Spark and Suzuki Alto. Build quality looks and feels on the money, visibility all round is impressive and there is plenty of storage cubbies scattered around the cabin. From a design perspective we like the funky shaped air-conditioning cluster and all of our testers found the front seats to be comfortable. The second row offers healthy amounts of headroom and legroom (well for a Supermini anyway) and the boot is of a good size. When not in use the rear bench can be folded fully down to create a large flat floored storage area large enough to swallow a mountain bike.
Not so good Like the exterior the overall interior styling isn’t going to worry the competition on the design front. The choice of materials is also a notch below the class best but with Micra pricing kicking-off from well below, say a Ford Fiesta or a Volkswagen Polo, this is probably a mute point. We wish the rear bench seat offered a little more under thigh support and it is also set rather low (our 6 foot plus tester wasn’t so happy spending a long trip in the back) however kiddies are unlikely to complain.
Performance

Performance

Good Two petrol engines on offer, a 1.2L three-cylinder producing 56kW of power and 100Nm of torque in the entry level ST grade and a 1.5L four-cylinder with 75kW and 136Nm in the ST-L and Ti grades. All variants are available with either a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic transmission. The 1.2L engine is all new and we think it’s an impressive one. It’s smooth, quiet at idle (which is uncommon for a three-cylinder engine) and feels faster than the power and torque figures indicate, as long as you’re happy to rev it. It performs best at over 4,500rpm. The 1.5L engine gains a few more kilowatts over the previous model and the automatic grade is virtually as economical as the 1.2L auto (6.6L per 100kms versus 6.5L per 100kms – both official combined figures).
Not so good The 1.2L becomes noisy at its upper rev limit (a common three-cylinder trait) a place you’ll need to be for something resembling swift progress. The fuel economy figures are good; however they are short of a number of similar priced supermini’s. (I.e. the Suzuki Alto is noticeably more frugal, however as we’ve mentioned previously, the Micra is a half size larger vehicle and feels noticeably more substantial).
Ride and Handling

Ride and Handling

Good The Micra rides well over a wide variety of road surfaces – impressively so over corrugations and potholes. It feels almost ‘large-car-like’ stable at highway speeds, more so than a good number of entry level priced Supermini’s. The electrically assisted steering provides a tiny turning circle (perfect for inner city parking) and is nice and light. Overall the Micra is a car you jump in and just drive - it’s an honest uncomplicated Supermini that’s not trying to be something it isn’t.
Not so good Not the sports-car-like player of the Supermini segment so if you’re after class leading handling and dynamic ability you might come away disappointed. The steering also doesn’t offer the greatest level of feedback. We should say though, for the vast, vast majority of buyers looking for an inexpensive Supermini the two former points are unlikely to (and shouldn’t) be a deal breaker.
Buying and Owning

Buying and Owning

Good The Micra ticks the safety box with six airbags (dual front, front side and curtain), anti-lock brakes, electronic brake force distribution, brake assist and electronic stability control standard across the range. All grades also thankfully come with Bluetooth and a multi-function drive computer that includes of all things, a digital anniversary reminder! Super aggressive pricing positions the Micra between the half size smaller city cars (i.e. Holden Barina Spark, Suzuki Alto) and the Micra’s true competitors on size (i.e. Toyota Yaris, Hyundai i20). We think the best buying is with the entry level ST grade – this is a very competitively priced Supermini!
Not so good Whilst still good value for money, the top of the Range Ti grade lines up against a number of high quality Supermini’s that can’t compete on price with the very impressively priced ST grade.