Nissan Micra DIG-S driven
The new range-topping version of the Nissan Micra, powered by an innovative new three-cylinder 1.2-litre petrol engine that – according to the company – combines the performance of a 1.5-litre unit with the economy of a 1.0-litre.
The result is a car that will hit 62mph in 11.3 seconds, average 68.9mpg and emit just 95g/km of CO2 - vital statistics that come courtesy of a whole host of tweaks to the existing car.
Its direct-injection engine is supercharged and includes plenty of low-friction components, as well as variable valve timing, while the standard kit includes a stop-start system and revised aerodynamics.
What's it like to drive?
The first thing you notice about the car is its engine note – a sort of thrummy whirring that’s unique to three-cylinder units.
That supercharged unit gives the car very decent performance around town, and here the car feels quicker than its official performance figures suggest. Combined with the good turning circle, light steering and good visibility, it makes the Micra a fine city car.
Out of town, the DIG-S isn't out of its depth. It will keep up with traffic on the open road or motorway, and overtaking manoeuvres aren’t entirely out of the question.
If there is a complaint, it's that (in the interests of economy) the gearbox has long gearing. That means it's running at relatively low rpm at high speeds, which hobbles its flexibility because its peak pull arrives only at 4000rpm.
Rather than rely on the engine’s torque to haul you along, you often need to drop down a gear instead, which is very frustrating.
Otherwise, the new Micra drives much like the existing cars. The ride is only okay at low speeds, and develops a firmer edge at higher velocity, while the obvious body lean in corners soon pushes you into a more relaxed driving style.
What's it like inside?
In terms of its layout, the DIG-S is identical to the existing models. That means you get a decent amount of room front and rear, and the driver has a good view out.
The driving position is okay, but the steering wheel has tilt adjustment only, which is irritating. At the same time, the interior plastics - which we find disappointing even on the cheaper models – are harder to bear on this dearer car.
Should I buy one?
The real attraction of this Micra is its excellent fuel economy – more than 10mpg better than the already impressive 1.2-litre model.
What's more, the sub-100g/km CO2 emissions mean it's exempt from road tax.
Trouble is, the DIG-S is expected to cost from £11,000 – about £1000 more than the equivalent regular 1.2-litre model with the same specification. The basic Visia-trimmed DIG-S is expected to have standard air-conditioning, accounting for it being more than £1500 dearer than the 1.2 Visia.
That pushes the Micra into competition with some fine superminis, such as the Ford Fiesta and VW Polo, and it's nowhere near those cars for driving appeal and quality. True, it will be much easier on fuel, but unless you do a lot of miles each year, its excellent fuel economy won’t be enough to sway you.
As such, we think the cheaper versions of the Micra make much better buys, because they provide basic transport at an affordable price.
What Car? says…