posted 6 years ago

Nissan Micra Review

Nissan’s Micra city car once had the market cornered, but with more upmarket rivals muscling in on its turf over recent years, the Micra is losing ground to its rivals.

Pros: efficiency, technology, improved safety

Cons: low-rent interior, poor ride quality, not much cabin space

Model range

Trim range: Visia, Acenta, Tekna

Petrol engines: 1.2 (80), 1.2 SC (98)

Diesel engines: n/a

Gearboxes: Five-speed manual, CVT automatic

What is the Nissan Micra?

The Nissan Micra is a small Japanese city car supermini that’s been around for decades. Now in its fourth incarnation and featuring a mid-life update with this 2013 version, where the Micra once ruled the roost (it was European Car of the Year back in 1993, being the first Japanese car to claim the award) it now faces stiff competition from arguably more able rivals.

Road test

Performance

Two engines are available in the 2013 Nissan Micra, both displacing 1.2 litres. The entry-level naturally aspirated three-cylinder unit produces a modest 80hp and delivers adequate performance. The 98hp supercharged three-cylinder petrol is the better bet, though.

It feels more muscular and willing, and gives you that extra bit of performance to zip in and out of gaps in urban traffic. It helps for overtaking on the motorway, too. 0-62mph officially takes 13.7 seconds, but around town is where the forced-induction Micra is strongest. We’d recommend the five-speed manual over the CVT automatic gearbox – although it’s not the sweetest unit, it’s much more likeable.

Ride and handling

Simply put, the Micra is eclipsed by its European competitors when it comes to ride and handling. The chassis feels bouncy and busy on the road and not as composed as, say, a VW Up! or SEAT Mii, while the steering feels lifeless and vague.

It does have plenty of lock, however, and its compact dimensions mean the Micra is highly manoeuvrable. Made for city centre driving, then. Meaning it’s a shame the suspension doesn’t work better to deliver a smoother driving experience in town.

Behind the wheel

Dashboard and driving position

The Micra’s driving position is fundamentally OK, but nothing to write home about. Nissan has redesigned the dashboard as part of the package of updates for the Micra, borrowing from the Note supermini’s modern-finish centre console.

It’s a success, too. The big buttons are easy to locate and use, with a robust feel. The ventilation controls look much more premium as a result. There’s also the option of a new 5.8-inch infotainment screen, which lifts the cabin when fitted. It’s a shame, then, that quality still feels questionable, with scratchy, hard plastics covering the dash and doors.

Visibility

Visibility in the Micra is good and contributes towards its excellent manoeuvrability. Parallel parking is simple – although the C pillars are quite chunky – but you can see more than you might think out of the rear. The windscreen pillars don’t unduly impede forward vision, either.

Gadgets and technology

Gadgets

There’s plenty of technology on offer in the new Micra to help improve day-to-day driving, such as that colour sat-nav system, a parking slot measurement function and rear parking sensors, Bluetooth, iPod connectivity, remote central locking, multi-function steering wheel, automatic headlights and wipers and cruise control with speed limiter. However, much of this equipment is only available on the top-spec Tekna trim level.

Tech guide

- Smartphone connectivity: Bluetooth is fitted as standard across the range, while you can also charge your device using the USB socket

- Navigation: Full colour touchscreen satellite navigation is available as an option

- Personalisation: Don’t expect the Micra to rival a MINI or Fiat’s 500 for customisation options

- Audio: CD player and iPod connectivity mated to a four-speaker stereo system. Top-spec cars benefit from a six-speaker audio setup

- Internet: Google Send-To-Car technology allows users to forward sat-nav instructions planned on an Internet-enabled device to their Micra. Google Point of Interest searches for information on areas near your destination

- Can it Tweet or Facebook: No

- What is the standout gadget on the Nissan Micra: The NissanConnect system takes in-car connectivity to another level in this sector. Many city cars have sat-nav, but not many have the functionality of the Micra.

Passenger space and practicality

Passenger space

The 2013 Nissan Micra comes in five-door guise only, meaning access to the rear seats is relatively easy. However, once sat back there, you’ll find there isn’t much room. Legroom is limited, and although the Micra will technically seat five, you wouldn’t want to spend much time in the third seat. It is relatively spacious in the front, though.

Boot space

One possible reason for the lack of space in the rear may come from the Micra’s impressive luggage capacity. Boot space stands at 265 litres with the rear seats in place – that’s not far shy of the Ford Fiesta supermini’s 276-litre load bay, and that car is technically in a class above the Micra.

Refinement

The budget nature of the plastics inside the Nissan’s cabin mean noise does reverberate. There’s a fair bit of wind and engine noise that filters through to the passenger compartment, and combined with the harsh ride it can become tiresome on longer journeys.

Safety

The 2010 Nissan Micra receives a four out of five Euro NCAP crash safety rating. With no structural changes to the revised 2013 model, expect that level to remain as a minimum. If Euro NCAP does test the vehicle again, it could be elevated to a five-star car, thanks to an improved number of airbags (front, side and curtain airbags all now feature), and a host of electronic safety aids, including standard-fit stability control.

Running costs/Value for money/Pricing

Fuel economy

The lower-powered 1.2-litre three-cylinder engine returns a claimed 56.5mpg combined with 115g/km CO2 emissions – OK efficiency for a petrol car. However, the supercharged 1.2 unit will return 68.9mpg combined with 95g/km CO2, according to Nissan.

This puts it ahead of its European rivals, with the more powerful 75hp versions of the VW Up!, SEAT Mii and Skoda Citigo all returning a claimed 60.1mpg combined with 108g/km CO2 emissions – although there are 98g/km variants of the Volkswagen and the Skoda.

Quality

As we’ve mentioned, quality inside the Micra’s cabin is less than convincing. It’s constructed well and every surface feels robust and hardwearing, it’s just that when compared with similarly priced rivals from VW, SEAT and Skoda, the Micra lacks soft-touch areas and that feeling of tactility many modern small cars have.

Pricing and equipment

The Micra range opens at £9,950 for the entry-level Visia grade. We’d suggest at least opting for the £12,050 Acenta Connect trim level though, as equipment specification is much improved. At the top of the tree sits the £14,050 Tekna specification, complete with all the trimmings.

Value for money

Compared to its rivals the Micra seems a little overpriced. A SEAT Mii five-door returning a claimed 62.8mpg and specified with sat-nav, Bluetooth, cruise control and rear parking sensors costs £10,575 – that’s nearly £1,500 cheaper than the mid-grade Micra with equipment levels to match the range-topping model. The story is the same with the VW and the Skoda – all three feel more premium inside, too.

Key rivals

It’s these three cars from the VW Group that make up the 2013 Nissan Micra’s main rivals. Apart from the VW Up!, SEAT Mii and Skoda Citigo, the Micra also has to compete against the more style-focused Fiat 500, the Ford Ka and the MINI Hatch – all tough acts to follow.

VERDICT

Nissan’s revisions to the Micra have improved its appeal. The car now offers decent around-town performance with impressive efficiency. The styling won’t be to everyone’s tastes, but it is at least unique. Extra safety is welcome, too.

However, it’s the cabin that lets the Micra down at this price point. Next to its rivals material quality seems cheap, and comfort, space and refinement aren’t on a par with the best in class. There is something to be said for Nissan’s traditional reliability though, so if you’re looking for a dependable, durable and efficient city car, it’s worth considering.