MAK­ING WAVES AGAIN

Nis­san’s Mi­cra is back to win­ning ways, writes Steven Chisholm

The Scotsman - - Motoring/Road Test -

The his­tory of the Nis­san Mi­cra in Europe stretches back more than three decades. First launched in 1983, Nis­san have sold more than seven mil­lion of their B-seg­ment hatch.

Dur­ing that time they built a rep­u­ta­tion for re­li­a­bil­ity – but of those seven mil­lion cars, it’s un­likely many were sold on the strength of their sex ap­peal.

The all-new fifth gen­er­a­tion Mi­cra how­ever, is a re­ally great-look­ing car. Built on a mod­i­fied ver­sion of Nis­san’s V-plat­form, it’s all sharp an­gles, colour ac­cents and it’s longer, lower and wider than the pre­vi­ous model. Some man­u­fac­tur­ers es­pouse the ‘evo­lu­tion, not revo­lu­tion’ school of de­sign with new mod­els but, frankly, revo­lu­tion was needed – the old Mi­cra lag­ging miles off the pace com­pared with the com­pe­ti­tion.

And a revo­lu­tion is what the de­sign­ers have de­liv­ered – the only thing the fifth gen­er­a­tion car shares vis­ually with the out­go­ing model is the badge.

In­side, it’s a strik­ing con­trast to the old car’s bland plas­tic ex­panse. A soft-touch fab­ric­cov­ered up­per dash can be cus­tomised and colour coded to the ac­cents adorn­ing the car’s ex­te­rior. A leather steer­ing wheel and leather door in­serts dis­tract from some oth­er­wise un­der­whelm­ing plas­tics to give the cabin an over­all pre­mium feel.

De­spite shar­ing much of the ar­chi­tec­ture that un­der­pinned the old car, on the road, the Mi­cra han­dles far bet­ter than its dull pre­de­ces­sor. The five-speed man­ual gear­box in our test model changes smoothly and the 900cc tur­bocharged en­gine to which it’s mated is a bit of a cracker –although the high­pitched whine from the three­cylin­der unit takes a bit of get­ting used to.

The clutch was a lit­tle light for my lik­ing, but with no dis­cern­able turbo lag and 89bhp and 103lb/ft of torque on tap it’s a lively en­gine which is a prime ex­am­ple of how good mod­ern, small ca­pac­ity petrol en­gines can be.

Over the course of the test our demo car av­er­aged just shy of 50mpg across a mix of city driv­ing and a cou­ple of cross-coun­try mo­tor­way jaunts. Pretty good but, as we’ve come to ex­pect, a fair bit off the claimed 64.2mpg claimed av­er­age.

Cabin noise on those longer jour­neys was a lit­tle high but noth­ing crank­ing up the vol­ume on the ex­cel­lent Bose sound sys­tem – com­plete with head­rest-mounted speak­ers – couldn’t off­set.

Those speak­ers are a £500 op­tion, but the list of stan­dard equip­ment in our model is a long one which in­cludes cut­ting-edge safety tech like in­tel­li­gent brak­ing with pedes­trian recog­ni­tion, lane in­ter­ven­tion and in­tel­li­gent ride con­trol.

The op­er­at­ing sys­tem on Nis­san’s seven-inch in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem is a sim­ple one, but one that works just fine even if it does lack some of the de­tail we’ve come to ex­pect from such things.

But per­haps that stripped­back in­ter­face is some­thing to do with Nis­san’s drive to make the Mi­cra one of the safest cars in it’s class. The de­sign­ers re­port­edly used high­def­i­ni­tion cam­eras and the lat­est eye-track­ing soft­ware dur­ing the de­sign of the cabin and con­fig­u­ra­tion of the in­stru­ments to give the Mi­cra what Nis­san say is the low­est ‘eyes off the road’ time in the B seg­ment.

Keep your eyes on the Mi­cra though, the mix of good looks and high-tech equip­ment should be enough to see strong sales in a seg­ment with some stiff com­pe­ti­tion.

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