What is it? The latest Nissan Micra is an all-new fifth generation of the core supermini.
Key features: Total revamp, mainstream styling, quality interior, more tech.
Our view: The revival that was needed, the new Nissan Micra is an impressive package that will be a strong contender in a crowded market.
Type of review: First UK drive.
For years the Nissan Micra was established as a distinctive contender in the supermini market, with its curvy, instantly recognisable if somewhat Marmite exterior.
Times have changed for the car, however. Nowadays it lives in the shadow of the massively successful Qashqai and Juke SUVs. And the last version of the supermini was a global car that really did not offer any attractive headlines for discerning UK buyers.
Now with the new, fifth-generation Micra, Nissan is fighting back. We are told that this car will re-establish itself as a top-10 seller on the UK market, and “at the heart” of the supermini segment. “Only the name is the same,” Nissan personnel insist, though that is not quite correct as the car uses an existing platform, albeit one that has undergone major development.
While the new Micra is a lot more agreeable to look at than its dull direct predecessor, the distinctive curvy styling of the early generations has also been abandoned for something more mainstream, while competing squarely with its rivals in the traditional areas of equipment and technology.
Only offered as a five-door, the new car is substantially longer than the Mark 4, by some 174mm. It’s 78mm wider, but also 55mm lower. As a result the car looks distinctly more athletic.
There are strong design elements – the front end is bold, with the Nissan signature ‘V-motion’ grille design, merging into narrow headlamps. These can be LED as an option, but the daytime running lights are LED on every model.
From the headlamps flow distinct shoulder lines along the flanks, dipping at the front doors and then rising towards the rear. And the increasingly popular ‘floating roof’ look is created by black door and rear screen pillars, the latter housing the rear door handles, just like the Suzuki Swift we reviewed recently.
Those who have driven a fourth-generation Micra will notice the biggest differences on slipping inside. Style was not a phrase one used with the old car, but the new one is a revelation.
According to Nissan “the cabin is based around a T-shaped ‘gliding wing’ dashboard, with simple and harmonious structures that create excellent space for the driver and front passenger.” Not sure what that means, but it certainly looks good. Finished in a two-tone shade, it is well laid out with, admittedly in the upper spec cars we are driving on the launch, a lot of soft-to-the-touch quality trim on show.
The tech includes an infotainment system controlled by a touchscreen mounted high on the centre console. Again, our upper spec models get the top NissanConnect system, with a seven-inch full colour screen, DAB radio, satellite navigation and smartphone-style apps.
It’s a spacious car too, no surprise with the extra length perhaps. The 300-litre boot outstretches the biggest-selling rivals, while still leaving plenty of rear-seat kneeroom. Drop those seats and the space jumps to 1004 litres. Taller occupants might consider the roof a little close, but overall this is a roomy supermini.
Three engine options will be available for the Micra – not as many as some rivals offer but Nissan does say that this is the launch line-up so perhaps more are on the way.
All three are downsized versions of existing engines, consisting of a 1-litre three-cylinder petrol with 71hp, a turbo version of 0.9 litres with 90hp, and a 90hp diesel of 1.5 litres and four cylinders.
The very first cars in the UK are not available with the 1-litre petrol, which we are told will be here “soon”. On the launch event we drove with the turbo petrol unit, likely to be the major seller, and it proved most capable.
This is an engine we know – also found in the Twingo of sister brand Renault and Mercedes-Benz smart models. It is not exactly fast, cresting 62mph from rest in 12.1 seconds, but it is enthusiastic enough to suit this environment while producing the economy and emissions figures – 64mpg and 99g/km – to make the Micra competitive.
Standard transmission is a five-speed manual unit and this is an excellent unit, with slick, swift changes.
On the road
Nissan insists that the Micra has been engineered specifically to suit European and particularly UK roads. As well as lower in height, the shell is also stiffer while new suspension has been added.
Technology also aids the on-the-road dynamics. Intelligent Ride Control uses the engine and brakes to try and dial out the fore/aft pitching motion felt when going over large bumps such as traffic humps.
Then there is Intelligent Trace Control, which when cornering, automatically applies and adjusts the inside brakes and outside wheels to keep the car pointing where intended.
They all work very well – the car feels a little more engaged than does the general supermini pack. It’s not quite as cossettingly comfortable as some, and not quite as excellent in its handling as is the Ford Fiesta (but then what rival to the Ford is?). But the Micra does a very good job of being a competent all-rounder.
Five trim levels will be on offer with the new Micra range. The entry Visia grade includes 15-inch steel wheels, front fog lights, a two-speaker audio system and Bluetooth compatible audio.
The safety package is notable too, ranging across six airbags, Lane Departure Warning and Intelligent Lane Intervention, and Intelligent Emergency Braking with Pedestrian detection. Nissan is describing the safety package available for the Micra as the most comprehensive ever offered on one of its small cars – other tech available includes traffic sign recognition and the well-known around-view monitor giving a 360-degree view of the car’s surroundings.
Top of the grades is the Tekna, notable elments including 17-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry and start, a rear view camera with rear parking sensors through the NissanConnect touchscreen, and a BOSE audio system with six speakers, two of them in the driver’s headrest.
And of course as is the way with today’s small cars, personalisation reigns. Starting with a choice of 10 exterior colours there are also exterior and interior colour packs and a range of body decals.
Nissan has done an impressive job on the new Micra, rescuing a car that was rapidly descending into obscurity and thrusting it right back into the mainstream. In looks and performance the Micra now contends squarely with its competitors and in some elements, notably the interior, it leaves many rivals in its wake.
Nissan Micra – key specifications
Model tested: Nissan Micra 0.9t N-Connecta
On Sale: March 2017
Range price: £11,995-£1,765
Insurance groups: 1E-8E
Engines: Petrol 1.0, 0.9T. Diesel 1.5.
Power (hp): 71, 90. 90.
Torque (Nm): 95, 140. 220.
0-62mph (sec): tba, 12.1. 11.9.
Top speed (mph): tba, 109. 111.
Fuel economy (combined, mpg): TBC, 64.2. 88.3.
CO2 emissions (g/km): TBC, 99. 85.
Key rivals: Vauxhall Corsa, Honda Jazz, Ford Fiesta
Test Date: March 2017
All figures with 15/16in wheels, manual gearbox, intelligent start-stop.