New Nissan Micra - First Drive

IT MAY not appear so at first glance, but the Nissan Micra is something of an automotive dynasty. Unlike most Japanese cars, the Micra in all its previous guises had proper longevity: the first and second generation stuck around for a decade apiece whil

IT MAY not appear so at first glance, but the Nissan Micra is something of an automotive dynasty.

Unlike most Japanese cars, the Micra in all its previous guises had proper longevity: the first and second generation stuck around for a decade apiece while the outgoing one is still selling well in its seventh year.

The new model is as neatly styled as ever although less radical than before - it sports a non-threatening look that many drivers will find appealing.

Compared to the rest of the supermini crowd, the Micra stands out by virtue of its simplicity.


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You can count on the same approach on the inside too. This approach doesn't make it dull to look at either - the heating and ventilation controls are grouped in a circular manner in the centre of the dashboard, while the chunky steering wheel and clear instruments show some flair. Unlike some rivals, the Micra can also be specified with a different trim colour, and in this guise the dash of contrast brightens up the view.

Nissan has gone heavy with the technology too, even if the Micra doesn't shout about it. Just like the old car it can be specified with keyless entry and start, still a rarity in this class. There's also a parking guidance system which will check the spaces between cars parked at the side of the road and tell you whether the car will fit or not - useful for those moments of indecisiveness.

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Every model comes with ESP too, which is an option costing several hundreds on many rivals but is worth 10 times as much when it does its job.

Fire up the Micra and the first thing you notice is the distinctive thrum of the new engine. The 1.2-litre petrol unit has three rather than four cylinders, and to these ears at least, this is a welcome change. Less cylinders means less weight and a keenness to rev, both of which help in a city car, but despite the size it has 79bhp

and a thrifty 115g/km. Nissan claims

over 56mpg over a mixture of motorways and town roads. Next year there will be a supercharged version with almost 100bhp but with even better emission and economy figures - hence Nissan's decision that a diesel version isn't required.

The 1.2 litre is brisk enough and, as you'd expect, a cinch to drive, with the kind of accuracy and good-weighting that has become something of a Japanese trademark.

Refinement is right up there too, with the suspension being tuned to deal with urban scars rather than hairpin turns and rightly so: it can handle the bends but in truth almost all buyers will spend their time on tougher streets.

There's good space in the Micra too, with tweaks to the body shape designed to increase rear headroom, and the simple dashboard design leaves more room for legs. The boot is respectable considering the compact exterior, but dropping the seats brings not only tons of space but a flat floor too.

Understandably Nissan has stuck with a successful recipe: the latest Micra is a very honest car and doesn't pretend to be something it's not.

But the quality of the engineering underneath makes it a quality car to own, and the supercharged version coming next year might just be the car that leaves its supermini rivals way behind. - MATT JOY

NISSAN MICRA 1.2 Tekna - from �12,095

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