Error parsing XSLT file: \xslt\FacebookOpenGraph.xslt New Nissan Micra - Test Drive Review
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New Nissan Micra - Test Drive Review

Date: 05 May 2010   |   Author: Richard Yarrow

Category: Supermini
P11D price: £11,000 (est)
Key rival: Suzuki Swift

Conservative, dull, a missed opportunity - some of the phrases used to describe the design of the all-new Nissan Micra. But bosses say they've deliberately played it safe because this car has to appeal to buyers in 160 countries. The maturity of the Western European supermini segment means big growth will come in South America, Russia, China and India, where tastes are more straightforward. The latter country is where UK cars will be built. Another factory is in Thailand, where the Micra is already on sale badged the Nissan March, and is tested here.

Like the exterior, the cabin is very simple with a 'double-bubble' dashboard and traditional instrument layout. For British buyers the Micra's appeal will be two-fold. First will its space; the cabin is very roomy, particularly for rear seat passengers where it's among the class leaders. Secondly, while it's pretty basic for the Thai market, it will be well-specced for the UK. Keyless entry, touch-screen infotainment, push-button start, and a parking space measuring system that's unique to the segment will all be available.

Only the fourth fresh Micra in 27 years, the newcomer is 61mm longer than the MkIII but up to 80kg lighter, depending on spec. It's powered by an all-new1.2-litre 80hp three-cylinder petrol engine that we get from launch in November. Its efficiency mean Nissan has decided against launching a diesel version, fuel economy is a very respectable 58.8mpg with CO2 emissions of 115g/km, down from 139g/km in the outgoing car. A 98hp supercharged version is due in the spring. With stop/start technology as standard, it will offer 95g/km and more than 70mpg. A five-speed manual gearbox is standard, with a CVT auto on the options list.

The Micra is extremely quiet on tickover, and the familiar three-cylinder thrum is only noticeable when the car is accelerating. It rides and handles well, and has an extremely tight turning circle.

The biggest flaw is its steering which is very vague, though bosses say this will be retuned for European launch towards the end of this year, where there will be a host of other modifications. These include softer tyres and revised suspension damping for better ride comfort, plus anti-roll bars front and rear for improved dynamics. The brittle and shiny dashboard plastics will also be upgraded.

If engineers get it all right, the Micra should more than hold its own. It's not really a Fiesta or Corsa rival anymore, more Hyundai i20 and Suzuki Swift. There's no official line on pricing, but expect an entry point of around £9,500.