Nissan wants the new Micra to be the best supermini on the market. On the evidence of our first drive, it might just get its wish
The old Nissan Micra was a bit of an aberration from a company that knows how to make good cars. A major improvement was necessary – and in March next year, that’s what the new one will bring.
Nissan wants to go from zero to hero with this new model. The company says it has built the Micra to be the best supermini you can buy – which means vaulting past the Fiesta, Polo, Fabia and the rest. Just a little ambitious, then…
To do so, it’s moved production to Europe and started again from scratch. The platform isn’t quite all-new, but the engineering and design revisions are so comprehensive that it might as well be.
Tested here is the 0.9-litre petrol model, though we’ve also driven the 1.5 dCi diesel. Both produce 89bhp, though obviously they do it in very different ways – the 0.9 wants revving but responds well to it, aided by a slick manual box, while the diesel is far stronger low down but puts an extra 80kg over the front axle.
Nissan Micra 0.9T
On sale: March 2017
Price: £15,000 (est)
Engine: 898cc, three-cylinder, turbo, petrol
Gearbox: Five-speed manual
Top speed: 109mph
Economy: 64.2mpg (est, combined)
CO2 emissions: 99g/km (est)
This does take the edge off the Micra’s handling, which is otherwise very agile, stable and confidence inspiring. Our instinct is that it’s not quite as entertaining as a Fiesta, but with sharp, accurate steering and a ride that takes the harshness out of even properly bumpy roads, our first impression is that it probably delivers the best all-round dynamic package in the supermini segment.
So that’s all pretty good, and not many of the Micra’s competitors are going to be able to match its interior either. Nissan says all models will get the same treatment in terms of touchy-feely dash materials, which is good, and the wantable toys cascade a long way down the model range too. Our test car was a high-spec job, and a late prototype at that, but an excellent driving position and an impressive new infotainment offering is augmented by an optional Bose stereo which sounds better than anything we’ve ever experienced in such a small car.
Behind you, there’s a cheaper feel to the luggage area. But it’s a good size – and a cover that’s held down by gravity is at least quick and easy to move.
So yes, there’s a bit of evidence that Nissan has controlled the costs while developing this car. But that crops up only in a few details – and over the piece, what we’re seeing is a Micra that puts the bad old model firmly in the past.
Rather than making us snort with derision at Nissan’s stated aim of building Europe’s best supermini, our first experience of the Micra has us nodding in agreement. Its handling is so close to matching the Fiesta’s, its interior to matching the Polo’s – and that really is a combination to reckon with.
Its pricing will play a crucial role in deciding whether the Micra goes to the top of the market, or merely into the top group. We’ll learn that in January, but either way for a verdict we can finish where we began: Sorted.