East­ern prom­ise loses its ap­peal

Nis­san’s Mi­cra has moved from Sun­der­land to the sub-con­ti­nent. Fred­eric Manby tries the Chen­nai va­ri­ety.

Yorkshire Post - Motoring - - FEATURES -

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.

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