Nissan Micra driven
* New supermini reviewed * Prices start at £8995 * On sale December...
What is it?
With its cute, bubbly styling, the last Micra injected some much-needed funkiness into Nissan's small car line-up. Now, however, Nissan has cars like the Juke and the Cube to cover that particular base. That means the fourth-generation car can go back to doing what the Micra has done best during its 27-year lifespan providing basic and affordable transport.
That partly explains the new Micra's more conservative styling. So does the fact that the car will be sold in more than 160 markets around the world, so it has to appeal to a very wide range of tastes.
Don't expect the usual procession of fancy bodystyles, either. There won't be a three-door or a C+C in the pipeline, just the five-door version you see here.
Still, that's no bad thing. The Micra is smaller than most superminis these days, but there's still a decent amount of room inside, enough for four adults to sit in reasonable comfort. Big windows give everyone a good view out, and the 265-litre boot isn't too tiny, either.
However, you might have more of a problem with the quality of the interior. The hard plastics don't appeal to either the eyes or the fingertips, and they give the Micra a very low-rent feel, even for a budget supermini.
What is it like to drive?
For the time, being, there's just one choice of engine, a 79bhp 1.2-litre, three-cylinder petrol engine (a 97bhp supercharged version will come along next spring). OK, it's no ball of fire, but because all the torque is at the low end of the rev range, it helps make the Micra very easy to drive. So does the light steering, tight turning circle and good visibility.
The engine is characteristically thrummy when you put rev it, but it settles down surprisingly well on the motorway. However, there's lots of wind- and road noise to be heard at the national limit.
The suspension isn't great, either. It's good at taking the sting out of really nasty bumps, but it feels decidedly jittery over the smaller ones that come at you thick and fast in this country. It's particularly unsettled on the motorway.
The light steering gets heavier as you go faster, but it never quite gets heavy enough to reassure you in bends, and there's virtually no feel. The slack body control means corners cause too much lean in bends, too.
So, should I buy one?
Well, the starting price of £8995 looks very tempting, but although stability control, six airbags and Bluetooth are provided as standard, you don't get essentials like air-con and a height-adjustable driver's seat.
That means most people will step up to Acenta trim, which provides those items plus cruise control, alloys, and a split-folding rear seat. Trouble is, that takes the price tag up to £10,595. That's about the same as you pay for similarly specced versions of the Suzuki Swift and Hyundai i20, and both are better to drive and better on quality.
Tekna models get all sorts of luxury goodies like sat-nav, parking sensors and automatic lights and wipers, but 12,095 is far too much to pay for a Micra.
Still, with an average fuel consumption of 56.5mpg and CO2 emissions of 115g/km, it'll cost you pocket money to run. It's cheap to insure, too.
What Car? says
So, if you're after no-frills transport that'll be affordable to buy and run, the Micra might well be worth a look. However, we can't help feeling that there are more capable budget superminis out there for similar money.