Wednesday, 18 May 2011


We really liked the old Nissan Micra, quirky and unremarkable as it was. The market didn’t seem to like it much though and so it never quite set the sales charts on fire. Nissan South Africa is now banking on the new car to shift perceptions by welcoming it with open arms. No longer will it be a niche car but is being targeted firmly at other small cars in its price bracket.

Nissan launched the new Micra under the cover of darkness after jokingly saying the reason was not to hide its looks. I can’t recall what the reason ended up being, but I do remember driving for more hours than I can remember in the darkness of night. Yet not even the thick fob of mountain fog could damper my spirits as I tackled twisties in the agile little Japanese rice pudding. Granted Micra buyers aren’t too concerned about how it shapes up against the bends but it will be good for them to know the answer: very well.

A choice of three engines can be ordered, two of which are petrol-based. The third is a 1.5-litre dCi Euro 3 spec (Euro 5 is not possible because cleaner 50 PPM diesel is not widely available countrywide) makes 47kW at 4000rpm and 160Nm in terms of torque. I didn’t get to drive this model but it has the same 5-speed manual gearbox that’s standard across the new Micra range. We are told it returns 4.7 litres per 100km on average, or a tank range of 870 kilometres, and top speed of 150km/h. C02 emissions are 125 g/km.

The petrols consist of a keen 1.2-litre with 56kW at 6000rpm and mean torque of 104Nm at 4400rpm. On average it uses a claimed 5.2 litres per 100km or the equivalent of 788km. Top of the heap is a 1.5-litre petrol doing 73kW at 6000 and maximum torque of 134Nm at 4800rpm. Under Nissan’s test beds it emitted 150g/km of C02s and averaged 6.3 litres of petrol per 100km. Despite measures taken to reduce noise and vibration levels, the petrol is a little high-pitched when on song.

Micra is by its very nature, a small car, therefore no expectations of estate-like space were envisaged. From front to rear it measures 3.78 metres, 1.66m wide, 1.5m high and has a wheelbase of 2.45m. In all but one dimension – height – the Micra has grown over its predecessor. Because I personally like to sit as low as possible when driving, I couldn’t find a really comfortable sitting position in the car. Nevertheless I’m sure less-performance oriented average buyers won’t mind at all. In fact, chances are most of us, especially the shorter ladies, prefer sitting higher.

As far as styling, designers toned down any quirkiness that might have clouded the previous car’s simple position in life. Certainly the front end looks more dominant because of the larger headlights and split front grille. Smooth sweeps flow rearwards from the bonnet, past the roof and finally onto the boot. The roof is special as it features boomerang shapes which apparently help reduce cabin vibrancy.

More innovation inside where Nissan has used fewer parts to build the same components as before, resulting in weight overall savings. Different trim levels are listed on the brochure. These are Visia, Visia+, Acenta and Tekna. Each brings with it various equipment, plus added costs of course. Apart from the 1.5-litre petrol Tekna model whose tekkies are 15-inchers, all others run on 14-inch rubber. There is no full spare wheel, only a space saver.

Standard garb across the range includes ABS brakes with EBD and BAS, airbags for driver and front passenger, rear fog lights, headlights auto-off, and electric power steering. The top Tekna model is equipped with a CD player, Bluetooth connectivity, 6 speakers and music auxiliary input.

By pricing the new Micra quite low at entry, and going wide in terms of price range, Nissan is hoping not just to keep existing owners within the brand but also to conquest those loyal to other brands. The Micra competes mainly against cars like the Volkswagen Polo Vivo, Ford Figo, Citroen C1, Peugeot 107, Toyota Aygo and Chevrolet Spark. Buyers in this segment value price and value for money above all. Nissan reckons they have an ideal balance between features and price. They are hoping for sales above 400 on a monthly basis. Tough job ahead.

Nissan Micra Pricing
1.2 Visia (R108 400)
1.2 Visia+ (R117 500)
1.2 Acenta (R127 500)
1.5 dCi Acenta (R140 400)
1.5 Tekna (R147 000)

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