New Micra hits a high note after previous incarnation went flat
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.