First Drive: Nissan Micra
Nissan has redefined the Micra so much that it almost deserves a new name, reckons Alex Grant.
SECTOR: Supermini PRICE £11,995-£18,645 FUEL: 61.4-88.3mpg CO2: 85-104g/km
Over the course of the last decade, Nissan has shown it’s rather good at not only launching new nameplates, but new segments for them. The Qashqai created a lucrative new segment in 2007, and the Juke pulled a similar trick four years later; both becoming, and remaining, the benchmark products.
Which, when you take in the radical reinvention of the Micra, might make you wonder why Nissan didn’t give it a different name to match. Granted, there’s equity in the name, an identity forged over 34 years, 3.5 million models and strong customer loyalty. But, with its big wheels, bright colours and aggressive styling, the fifth generation is a massive departure from the Micra norm.
That’s perhaps a quiet admission that its predecessor missed the mark. Built in India and seemingly drawn from a line of best fit through the scatter graph of global market demands, it arrived to a lukewarm reception and slow sales. Its replacement, focused on European tastes and built alongside the Renault Clio and ZOE in France, won’t follow suit.
The overhaul goes beyond its rakish new styling. Lower, wider and significantly longer in wheelbase and overall than the old car, it’s grown from a city car to a supermini, and Nissan is aiming to be one of the segment’s biggest-selling products, attracting a younger customer base. Rival superminis were the benchmark it was developed from, not its predecessor.
It shows. The cabin is spacious, soft to the touch and can be brightened further with coloured option packs. There’s loads of head and leg room in both rows, a good sized boot and low, sporty driving position. It’s not quite up to the Ford Fiesta’s standards as a driver’s car, but it’s exceptionally quiet and well-mannered on the road, even with the 1.5-litre diesel engine on board. Some models in the class above aren’t this comfortable over a long distance.
Nor are they this technology rich. Nissan has equipped all UK cars with traffic sign recognition, autonomous emergency braking and active lane-keeping functions, plus two chassis-related features from the Qashqai. Both use gentle braking, either to stop the front end pushing wide while cornering, or to keep the body level over undulating road surfaces.
However, UK sales are expected to be weighted towards the mid-spec Acenta trim. At this level, the Micra bundles adaptive cruise control and Apple CarPlay – which includes a navigation function – as standard equipment. The downside is Android users will have to wait a few months for the same functionality, as launch cars won’t feature Android Auto. Colourful styling packs and an impressive Bose audio system with speakers in the headrests are also optional, while Acenta versions can add satellite navigation with parking sensors and the birds-eye view camera system for £700.
What’s striking, though, is that even on hubcapped steel wheels and flat colours, it’s so different that it’s hard to picture as part of the Micra lineage. Nissan might not have brought a new name to the world here, but it’s almost as big a departure as Qashqai from Almera.
What we think
An accomplished supermini contender capable of challenging the best in its class, but its biggest challenge might be getting customers to see past the Micra badge
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