The Nissan Micra has been around for three decades now, and it has built a strong reputation for delivering durability, low running costs and a user-friendly driving experience.
Now in its fourth generation, the Japanese machine still sticks closely to these core values, and is designed to rival models such as the Ford Fiesta, Peugeot 208 and Volkswagen Polo. Unlike its competitors, the Micra is limited to a five-door hatchback bodystyle only.
All models come with Bluetooth phone connection, a USB port and electric windows, while the Acenta adds climate and cruise control, and automatic operation of the lights and wipers. Go for the flagship Tekna model and you benefit from big car features such as keyless entry and Nissan’s Connect sat-nav set-up.
Yet while the Micra is reasonably well-equipped, it falls behind class standards when it comes to quality. There’s not a lot wrong with the way it’s screwed together, it’s simply that the car lacks the soft touch materials and attention to detail that marks out cars such as the VW Polo.
Under the skin the Micra uses just one engine – a 1.2-litre three-cylinder unit in either 79bhp naturally aspirated guise or 99bhp supercharged form. Surprisingly, it’s the latter that promises the best fuel returns and lowest CO2 emissions. A five-speed gearbox is fitted as standard, while a CVT automatic is available as an extra cost option.
All versions of the Micra benefit from light controls, excellent visibility and tight turning circle, meaning they’re a doddle to drive around town. However, head out on to the open road and you’ll discover the Nissan is hobbled by lifeless handling, a crashy ride and refinement that’s no match for the class leaders.
Our choice: Micra 1.2 Acenta
The latest Nissan Micra has lost the distinctive looks of its predecessor, but the current car’s more grown-up design is more likely to appeal to a wider audience. Even so, Nissan updated the Micra in 2013, adding all-new front wings, a new bonnet, new headlights and a rear bumper to help create a cleaner look reminiscent of the larger Qashqai.
The Nissan Micra is available in three trim levels: Visia, Acenta and Tekna. The Nissan Micra Visia is fairly basic, and it goes without kit such as alloy wheels and front fog lamps, while air-conditioning costs an extra £500. Even so, it does get body coloured bumpers, USB connectivity and stability control.
The mid-range Nissan Micra Acenta models get 15-inch alloy wheels, body coloured door handles and mirrors as well as chrome finishes in the interior, more safety features and auto headlamps.
The Tekna adds parking sensors, keyless entry unique alloy wheels and a roof-mounted spoiler. The flagship model also gets a touchscreen sat-nav, as well as Google technology that allows you to use your phone and access your music library.
Yet despite this big car kit, the Micra feels a little low rent inside. There’s nothing wrong with the robust fit and finish, but the materials used throughout look and feel cheap. Some of the trim even has sharp edges left over from the moulding process - the glovebox lid and the internal door handles are among the worst offenders.
In spite of its flaws, the Nissan Micra is great as a city runabout as a result of its good visibility, light steering and responsive controls. It also benefits from a tight-turning circle, meaning navigating busy urban areas is a breeze.
The 1.2-litre petrol engines that power the Nissan Micra won't amaze you with their performance and in many respects, the naturally aspirated 79bhp unit is the better bet, as it’s cheaper to buy yet doesn’t feel much slower than the 99bhp supercharged DiG-S unit.
Regardless of engine choice, the Micra feels a little out of its depth through a series of corners. The light steering lacks feedback, there’s plenty of body roll and it can’t match rivals such as the Ford Fiesta for grip. Still, it’s safe and predictable, while the high-set driving position and excellent visibility make it easy to place on the road.
Unfortunately, at higher speeds the Nissan Micra's suspension doesn’t feel up to the job of dealing with rough roads, and it feels crashy and a little unsettled. The engine makes a racket in the cabin and there’s a lot of wind and road noise, too.
In our 2014 Driver Power survey, the Nissan Micra didn't feature in the top 150 cars, but in the previous survey, it managed to achieve a respectable 24th place – a result that can be largely attributed to the car’s reliability and low running costs – although owners also praised the Nissan Micra’s technology. Nissan, however, finished 22nd in the 2014 Driver Power manufacturers' rating - a pretty significant 10-place drop from 2013.
The Nissan Micra also received a disappointing rating in the Euro NCAP crash test. It only managed four stars and this is a severe disadvantage in a class and an industry where five-star ratings are becoming the norm.
Even so, all Nissan Micra models get six airbags, anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control as standard safety kit. What’s missing is the option to add the brand’s award winning Safety Shield kit that includes low speed collision avoidance and blind spot monitoring.
Thanks to its wheel at each corner design, the Nissan Micra is actually quite roomy for such a small car. For starters, there's enough room for relatively tall adults to sit in the back seats, plus there's 265 litres of boot space, which is around what you'd expect from a supermini. You can fold down the rear seats to increase the capacity in the boot of the Nissan Micra to 1,132 litres, but only mid-range Acenta and top-spec Tekna versions come with split-folding seats.
Having said that, the entry-level Nissan Micra Visia still has a bigger boot than the likes of the Mazda 2 or the Hyundai i20. There's also plenty of storage space in the cabin, including a huge, double-decker glovebox, decent-sized door bins and a couple of cup holders.
You'd expect a supermini to be cheap to run, and the Nissan Micra is exactly that. While it doesn't come with a diesel engine, the petrols are frugal and feature reasonably low CO2 emissions
For instance, the standard three-cylinder 79bhp 1.2-litre petrol engine returns fuel economy of 56.5mpg and emits 115g/km of CO2. It doesn't feel excessively slow and it reaches 0-62mph in 13.7 seconds, meaning it feels nippy and responsive, even on the open road.
Those after a mix of performance and economy should opt for the slightly more powerful 97bhp DIG-S supercharged engine, which improves the Nissan Micra both in terms of efficiency and power, as it manages 65.7mpg on a combined cycle and emits 99g/km of CO2. The DIG-S engine can also be specced with stop/start technology.
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