Eastern promise loses its appeal
Nissan’s Micra has moved from Sunderland to the sub-continent. Frederic Manby tries the Chennai variety.
ON sale now – Nissan’s all-new Micra. The last two Micras were made in Sunderland. This one, slightly larger, comes from Chennai, (once known as Madras), and, for the moment at least, is sold only as a five-door with a three-cylinder, 1.2-litre, 79bhp engine.
It’s all right rather than exciting and feels a bit cheap. The Indians make cars to a price and I was, overall, disappointed with this new Micra.
Diesel? The current thinking at Nissan is that the price premium is too much for a car that already returns an average nudging 60mpg with petrol.
The Micra story started in 1982 with a wedge-shaped box that replaced the fabulous Cherry. In 1992, the next Micra had a rounder, funkier body. It was produced for Europe at Sunderland and became the first Japanesebadged car to be voted European Car of the Year, a title Nissan has just won again with the electric Leaf, oddly, a car hardly anyone has seen and even fewer have driven, and has a real-life range of less than 100 miles. Discuss in the Chunterers’ Bar.
In 2002, the last Sunderland Micra was launched, and since 1992, the factory built 2,368,704 Micras.
Now Micra is an import. The entry model costs £9,250, so it’s not really all that “cheap”. It just feels and looks that way in parts, with a sharp edge to the lip on the lower of the two “gloves” boxes, both with plasticky lids.
It is one of the noisiest
Good points include a remarkably agile turning circle – so a good car for driving schools.
modern cars I have driven, with too much tyre roar and vigorous interaction with anything short of a decent road surface. Nissan developed the car at its technical centre in the south of England. They must have missed the South Bucks roads I tried it on, where it pounded and hammered – and made me wonder how it would feel on the typical Indian country road.
Good points include a remarkably agile turning circle – so a good car for driving schools, big buyers of previous Micras. There is ample access and passenger space in the rear seats – which fold flat in two movements.
You can specify a neat navigation unit – albeit poorly mapped on too many country lane junctions. It introduces parallel parking gap measurement to this small-car sector – surely a sign that the typical Micra driver is judged to lack confidence and skill?
Nissan’s Micra expert, Kieran McMenamin, notes that it is a “concern” for buyers. No shame in that.
The parking guidance parameters are go-ahead, tough, don’t try it. The unit is coupled with a reversing sensor and rear-view camera. The previous Micra was the first small car to be available with parking sensors.
What is it about Micra owners and parking?
Micra also reintroduced continuously variable automatic gearboxes to the small-car sector and this excellent system is again offered as an alternative to the five-speed manual gearbox.
I tried both and preferred the CVT. Its official averages are 52.3mpg and 125g/km of CO2. The trip meter gave me 41mpg on mostly rural byways. The system shifts quietly and smoothly.
In contrast, the manual gearbox has some whine in the lower gears but over the same route returned 45mpg – rather shy of the official 58mpg. CO2 is 115g/km.
There are three model grades, all of which look like spell-check misses, to whit Visia, Acenta and Tekna. There are also 10 body colours.
Ah, the body, far from small being beautiful, it is global goo, somewhere between bland and butch. I cannot imagine many people waking up in the morning, yearning to get into their Micra.
It is just transport, lacking the cheeky appeal of the rival Hyundai 120 or the grace of a Fiesta or love-hate personality of previous Micras.
This summer, it will be offered with a supercharged version of the 1.2 motor, rated at 95g/km CO2, which is exempt from annual road tax and the London congestion zone charge.
OUT OF INDIA: Nissan’s latest Micra.