Firstly, this review is of the latest Nissan Micra 1.4
It's an anniversary probably no one knew much about, 25 years is a long time & a milestone worth celebrating. However, this anniversary in the middle of a recession was only probably celebrated by a handful of marketing people & the odd factory worker. What am I on about?
Well the 25th anniversary of the humble Nissan Micra recently happened; did it have much effect on you? No I thought not, much the same with me.
The Mini will celebrate 50 years of motoring with a big national party but I doubt if there will be street parties for the Micra, life is like that I suppose!
When it first came to the UK it hardly became a household name, Datsun as they were called then released it as a three door hatchback with a 1000cc engine. It was a bit tinny & non descript to look at it but as time would prove it would make a big impact on the UK buying public.
It was cheap to run, easy to drive & thus became popular with motoring schools & best of all it was extremely reliable & built in Japan.
Ten years later a new Micra emerged, this time built in the UK & this time it was so far ahead of the competition that it won the Car of the Year award in 1993. It's cutey looks did wonders for sales & best of all it remained cheap to run, reliable & kept British workers in a job.
Ten years later the third version came along & the subject of this review. Even cuteier looking this time & still ahead of some of the competition the British built Micra still sells in big numbers & is still cheap to run & reliable.
If there is one single thing that may put you off buying the new Micra it will probably be its looks. Although a subjective matter looks are important & the new Micra is certainly different against normal small cars.
It's the 'bug eyed' headlamps that do it for most, those lamps are not fitted like most cars at the very front of the car but they are placed back into the bonnet line close to the windscreen. It does give the Micra a cuddly look, fine if you're a woman but us men like our cars to be.................well, butch & manly!!
The roof line is rounded as is the rear making the Micra tall, wide & a little short, its profile looks quite good despite those 'bug eyed' lamps. It does mean that room inside despite its short dimensions is actually quite good with decent leg room, loads of headroom & shoulder room.
Life is made easy thanks to the engineers placing the rear seats on runners giving the owner a choice between a decent sized boot with little leg room, or decent rear leg room & a smaller boot.
The front seats are raised to allow rear passengers to place their feet under the front seats where there is ample room.
Stepping into the Micra for the first time I was quite impressed with the amount of space up front & how it is utilised. Despite having a conventional dash arrangement Nissan have made good use of the space available.
The passenger's front seat base (where your bum goes) hinges forward & underneath is a nice sized plastic box that would hold dirty trainers or a pair of 'killer' heels if necessary. The box can easily be removed & cleaned if required & it's a nice attention to detail. The glove box is of a generous size & there are loads of cubby holes all over the car so you can hide away odd & ends that we all carry around these days.
This 1.4 Micra I drove had a decent level of equipment including, alloy wheels, front spot lamps, climate control, a decent radio CD with ipod connector & lead & electric mirrors, electric tinted windows & parking sensors.
Five people will fit into a Micra at a squeeze & the boot is of a decent size for such a small car which incidentally is much shorter than a Fiesta, Corsa or Clio.
DRIVING THE MICRA
It's easy to get a comfy driving position, the seat has a decent level of adjustment & steering column also adjusts. The chunky steering wheel feels good in your hands; the pedals are perfectly placed as is the gear lever, so far so good.
The view from the front is a bit strange at first, like most modern cars you cannot see the end of the bonnet, however what you do see form the drivers seat are those 'two bug eyed' headlamps.
They make positioning the car on the road just that little easier & doesn't look as bad as it sounds.
The engine is smooth at idle but as drive the car the engine noise increases more than you would expect at higher speeds. Performance is brisk as you would imagine for such a small lightweight car with a 1.4 engine under the bonnet.
The cable gear change is very smooth & a pleasure to use as is the light & smooth clutch pedal. It is easy to drive the Micra in a spirited way as it's so much fun driving it even in congested city streets. It is a doddle to park thanks in part to its short body, parking sensors & those 'bug eyed' headlamps that guide your every move.
The Micra is not just a city car, it's a real blast to drive on the open road & keeps up with motorway traffic without much effort. Handling is safe & secure & steering effort at all speeds is just perfect thanks in part to the chunky looking steering wheel which is just the right size. Despite its short wheelbase the Micra can soak up rough road surfaces in its stride. Brakes are safe & secure with a progressive pedal feel no matter how many people are in the car.
Driven over rough services didn't create any squeaks or rattles from inside the Micra, it gives you the impression that this little car is well & truly bolted down properly & not likely to cause you any concerns.
The information screen in the instrument panel recorded 44mpg during a spirited drive through a busy city centre & some country driving. Ease off the throttle & I would confidentially say the Micra would record nearly 50mpg. Added to that the Micra has low emissions so road fund licence costs will be low & reliability is among the best on the market so running a Micra would cost very little.
MICRA VERSUS YARIS
The Toyota Yaris is the Micra's main competitor, as a Yaris owner it gave me a good chance to compare them. On looks alone there isn't much between them. The Yaris is more boxed shaped & thus gets the space advantage inside. Both make good use of space, both have sliding rear seats, the Yaris has more air bags & both have equipment levels that are very similar.
The Yaris engine is more refined & the gear change just that little more slick but the Micra is quicker & slightly more economical. Both are ultra reliable, both hold their value well & it would be a real headache trying to figure which one is best for you, they are both very good but I'll stick to my Yaris as it looks less cutey.
The Micra has always been a winner in the small car market, cheap to run, easy to drive, easy to park & ultra reliable. If you can live with its odd looks I would highly recommend one.