New Mi­cra hits a high note after pre­vi­ous in­car­na­tion went flat

Yorkshire Post - Motoring - - MOTORING NEWS - Fred­eric Manby Road test RE­GIONAL AU­TO­MO­TIVE JOUR­NAL­IST OF THE YEAR

YOU MUST have seen it, a TV ta­lent show called The Voice where four as­ses­sors sit with their backs to the hope­ful star be­ing au­di­tioned.

Of­ten, the quar­tet are un­moved but oc­ca­sion­ally they’ll look at each other and grin daftly – sensing some­one spe­cial – swivel in their chairs and greet the singer, who will burst into a quiver of de­light at the six-inch smile from Sir Tom.

Some­thing sim­i­lar hap­pened on the me­dia launch of the new Nis­san Mi­cra. The last Mi­cra sold well in markets ac­cus­tomed to the cheap ‘n’ cheer­less stuff you of­ten get from In­dia – where that Mi­cra was pro­duced. It made this critic re­alise there were still poorer cars.

The ride was clat­tery, the in­te­rior tacky, the face quite cute. I wrote as much.

So, to the Croa­t­ian Riviera, cold but sunny, in this new Mi­cra and it’s a rev­e­la­tion, a lovely thing, quiet, well-made, smooth run­ning, sharply styled. Back at the ho­tel base we all say so, at least ev­ery­one I heard. I feel a Sir Tom warmth but can’t match that smile.

The In­di­ans are kept well away from it. This time it is built near Paris by the peo­ple who build the Re­nault Clio (Nis­san and Re­nault are part­ners). It has Re­nault en­gines and gear­boxes but is on a Nis­san chas­sis, a much bet­ter ver­sion of the last Mi­cra plat­form.

Don’t panic, you’d never guess. It is stronger and stiffer. The steer­ing is off the big­ger Nis­san Qashqai from Sun­der­land and the rear axle is from a tough Mex­i­can Nis­san.

Show­room de­liv­er­ies be­gan this month. There is a choice of two petrol en­gines and a diesel, spread across five trim lev­els.

Prices open at £11,995 for the one-litre three cylin­der 74bhp petrol Mi­cra Visia – yes, an odd name. The Visia with a 1.5 diesel and 89bhp costs from £14,195. I wasn’t able to try ei­ther of th­ese en­gines but the choice is prob­a­bly the one

I did try, the three-cylin­der

0.9 litre petrol turbo (from the Re­nault Twingo). Prices start at £13,795 in Visia+ spec. Gear­boxes are all five speed man­ual. Au­to­matic gears? Maybe later.

Stan­dard kit brings lane­keep­ing guid­ance, au­to­matic emer­gency brak­ing when a crash is an­tic­i­pated – with pedes­trian recog­ni­tion. There is a speed lim­iter, height ad­just­ment on front and rear seat belt mounts, au­to­matic head­lamps and tyre pres­sure

BIG­GER AND BET­TER: mon­i­tor­ing. A 360 de­gree cam­era to help with po­si­tion­ing and de­tect nearby haz­ards is in­cluded in a £550 Vi­sion+ pack. A 5 star EuroN­cap crash safety rat­ing is likely.

All Mi­cras have a com­put­erised ride and cor­ner­ing sys­tem which en­riches the driv­ing plea­sure. The Mi­cra was short­listed for the Eu­ro­pean Car of the

Year Ti­tle, an­nounced this week in Geneva.

It came seventh, be­hind the win­ning Peu­geot 3008, then the Alfa Gi­u­lia, Mercedes E-Class, Volvo 90 se­ries, Citroen C3 and Toy­ota C-HR. A strong field and I would have not put them in that or­der. The self-steer­ing Mercedes, for ex­am­ple, has the only ma­jor tech­nol­ogy ad­vance but it was 122 marks be­hind the Peu­geot, which left me luke­warm.

Mi­cra life started with a wedge-nose in 1983. The rounder Mi­cra which re­placed it in 1992 was the first Ja­panese car to win the COTY ti­tle.

Another cud­dly Mi­cra fol­lowed in 2002, made at Sun­der­land un­til 2010 when it was re­placed by the In­dian model.

This was a global suc­cess but Nis­san knew it wasn’t right for Europe and def­i­nitely not for the UK which takes a third of Mi­cra sales. This In­dian Mi­cra re­mains in pro­duc­tion for other markets.

It did the Mi­cra im­age no favours in Bri­tain. Nat­u­ral ri­vals to­day in­clude the Toy­ota Yaris, Ford Fi­esta,

Peu­geot 208, Hyundai 120i and the eter­nal Volk­swa­gen Polo – usu­ally my de­fault, safe choice. The Mi­cra now changes my mind.

It seems good enough, on this first trial, to get lots of new cus­tomers. It’s a wake-up call to the op­po­si­tion.

The re­fine­ment work was pol­ished by Nis­san’s renowned team at Cran­field.

The in­te­rior has plenty of soft-touch pan­els with twotone schem­ing and on some ver­sions the op­tion of blue, or­ange or red de­tail­ing.

The out­side can be vamped with bon­net de­cals. There are vi­brant ex­te­rior colours but the only no-cost paint is ivory – for some rea­son not of­fered with the stick­ers.

Bose au­dio at £500 on some mod­els (stan­dard on oth­ers) makes its first en­try into the class. Two speak­ers are in the driver’s head­rest.

In Paris Nis­san is pi­lot­ing a car share sys­tem with the Mi­cra called Get & Go. You ar­range your own car pool or four driv­ers or Nis­san can find co-users.

There is small print but the out­line is that each sharer pays 89 eu­ros a month which in­cludes in­surance and ser­vic­ing.

This al­lows 3,000km a year each. Fuel and any re­pair costs and in­surance hikes are paid by the in­di­vid­ual user.

The new Nis­san Mi­cra is now built in France rather than In­dia, us­ing Re­nault en­gines and gear­boxes.

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