Nissan Micra 0.9 IG-T review
There are few cars on the market that have had such a turn around from one generation to the next as the new Nissan Micra. The previous model was rather forgettable in many respects - with design, desirability, and driving experience all below a number of its rivals in the highly competitive supermini sector. The new Micra certainly catches the eye though, with one of the most striking designs around. NGC tests the fifth-generation model to see if the Micra's design offers more than style over substance.
Review by Chris Lilly
In a small car you should expect a small engine, and Nissan delivers on this regard with one of the smallest on sale - its 0.9 litre IG-T petrol. At just 898cc, the turbocharged unit still manages to produce a respectable 90hp - good for a 0-62mph time of 12.1 seconds. Quick it ain't then, but the Micra doesn't feel sluggish when driven. The petrol engine's turbo gives a useful boost of torque low down the rev range - 150 Nm at 2,250rpm to be precise. This means that in-gear acceleration feels nippier than the 0-62 time suggests, and drivers can buzz around without feeling as though the Micra's under powered. While it's natural habitat is clearly around town, the Nissan doesn't shame itself outside the urban environment - be it an open road or a motorway. Cruising at motorway speeds means the 0.9 IG-T isn't as refined as some of its rivals, but the noise isn't intrusive and the Micra doesn't shame itself at higher speeds for long periods of time. Around town, the low-down torque for a petrol engine makes light work of tight streets and junctions, and the five-speed gearbox driving the front wheels has a slick and easy shift to it.
There is some serious competition in the Micra's class for fun-to-drive cars. Models such as the Mazda 2 and Ford Fiesta are as eager to be put through their paces down a twisty road as they are pottering around town, so the Micra is in a tough field. It can't match up to the breadth of handling abilities offered by the above rivals, but the Micra is far better than before. Increased stiffness in the body and new suspension has helped with the driving dynamics, as do two advanced technologies for this sector. Nissan's Intelligent Ride Control uses the engine and brakes to restrict pitching when the car goes over big bumps in the road, supported by shock absorbers set-up to assist. Intelligent Trace Control uses the brakes on the inside line of a corner to help keep the nose tucked in and prevent grip from being washed away. Although there was little chance to put these systems through their paces properly, the Micra does drive well, with little roll in the corners or pitch under braking. The suspension feels stiff but not too much so, and the car is comfortable around town - though more supple rivals are available for those with a higher priority on comfort. The steering is light as you would expect, but there isn't as much feel as I would have ideally liked when cornering, despite it being accurate. A decent drive then if not quite as engaging as some other superminis.
The Micra isn't a beautiful car but it is certainly noticeable. Helped by a large range of personalisation options, the design can really catch the eye and I personally like it. Longer, lower, and wider than the previous version, the Micra looks much more athletic than before, and truly competes with the best in class in terms of style. Interior space is compromised a little because of the car's design, but only rearward from the front seats. Those in front have lots of space to play with, though rear passengers will have to be slight or young to be comfortable over a long trip - and of average height or less. The sloping roofline helps with the Micra's style but hinders head room a little, and the cut in rear-windscreen again is a nice design touch, but restricts luggage space above the parcel shelf-line for those times when bigger loads require shifting. It's a good size, especially for a supermini, but there are more practical rivals on offer if interior capacity is at the top of your priorities.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
The Micra's re-found joie de vivre for exterior design is mirrored inside, with the cabin and dashboard great to look at and easy to use. Like the exterior, the interior presents plenty of opportunity for personalisation with a wide ranging colour palette and variety of materials on offer. Nissan has used soft touch materials to create a premium feel to the cabin, and the car on test had a sort of rubberised material as the main panel, stretching the width of the car. It's much nicer than it sounds, I promise. The central touchscreen is a decent size, fast to respond to commands, and easy to use, while the centre console is kept tidy with just a few heating controls separated from the infotainment system. There are lots of nice touches around the cabin as well such as an under-lit phone tray, which are small details but all help to give the impression that the Micra's interior was really well thought out.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
The 0.9 IG-T unit fitted into the Micra has an official fuel economy figure of 64 MPG. During my time with the Nissan, I managed to average 55 MPG with a range of driving styles and environments, which I was pretty impressed with. At times the economy dropped to the mid-40s MPG, which is almost a worst case scenario and if you are driving everywhere as if you are practising for a rally. Keeping around town at normal pace gets that figure to around the 50 MPG mark, and a mix of town and motorway work saw the mid-50s MPG attained. The small-engined Micra is pretty easy to drive economically, and it should help keep running costs reasonable - about as good as many rivals anyway. In terms of tax, the Micra tested is charged either £120 or £140 for the VED first year rate - depending on specification - which is included in the car's OTR. Thereafter it will be £140 a year.
The Micra features three compact engines - two petrol and one diesel - which even the least green of which emits 104 g/km CO2. The 0.9 litre petrol uses turbo-charging to help reduce fuel consumption while maintaining power levels, and it also has stop/start technology for when the car is stationary. The new Micra's aerodynamics are better than before too thanks to the longer and lower profile, with Nissan claiming a best in class drag coefficient. The 0.9 IG-T engine has emissions as low as 99 g/km CO2, though the model tested saw that increase to 104 g/km because of the larger wheels fitted. According to our calculations, the model tested has a Next Green Car Rating of 36.
Nissan has kitted the Micra out well, with some big-car features squeezed into a tiny package. The top-spec car on test had Bose speakers fitted into the driver's headrest for example. The entry level Visia is fairly sparse but with a few nice touches such as front fog lights, electric front windows, and Bluetooth and USB audio system. Step up to Visia+ and air-conditioning and engine stop/start are added. Acenta is where many buyers will start looking with 16-inch alloys, body coloured mirrors and handles, 5-inch digital driver display, 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay, cruise control, and steering mounted controls. N-Connecta adds DAB radio, automatic air conditioning, and leather steering wheel to the list among other items, while Tekna tested upgraded to 17-inch alloys, adds the Bose audio pack, rear parking sensors and camera, keyless entry and start, and leather trim. Safety features are good too with traffic sign recognition, automatic high-beam headlights, hill start assist, the chassis control technologies mentioned in the Handling section, lane departure warning, and emergency brake assist with pedestrian recognition.
Nissan has done a very good job in updating the Micra to compete with some of the best in its class. It's not the most fun to drive, most practical, or most frugal, but the Micra is a good all-rounder and gives Nissan a true competitor in the supermini market.
Model tested: Nissan Micra 0.9 IG-T Tekna
Engine / CO2: 0.9 litre turbo petrol engine / 104 g/km
Trim grades: Visia, Visia+, Acenta, N-Connecta, Tekna
On-road price: From £11,995. Price as tested: £17,435
Warranty: Three years / 60,000 miles
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 3.5 Stars