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Nissan Micra: Small fun runaround is practical motoring personified

By Ghaith Madadha - Nov 09,2020 - Last updated at Nov 09,2020

Photo courtesy of Nissan

A favourite among many driver learning centres in many parts of the world since its introduction, the Nissan Micra is renowned for its affordability, practicality, reliability and user-friendly accessibility.

Driven by this writer for the first time since passing a driving test in its second generation iteration many years ago, the current Micra proved just as versatile and easy to drive as ever. But more so, the current Micra proved to be more fun car to drive than it has ever been, with its lightweight agility, quick reflexes and uncomplicated nature.

 

Engaging character

 

First launched in 2010 and joined by a fourth generation model sold in wealthier markets, the third generation Micra ‘K13’ remains current and very relevant in many developing markets. Going by the name Nissan March in some countries, the Micra has been face-lifted since, and looks all the better for it, with a bigger, wider and more prominent lower intake and new signature Nissan V-motion grille to better visually integrate it in the brand’s current design identity. Also gaining sharper front boomerang-style headlights the current Micra looks sportier and feistier than predecessors.

Neither overtly aggressive nor quirky or passive in its demeanour, the Micra however sits on the road with a wide, eager and athletic stance at the rear, accurately hinting at an engagingly sporty handling ability and crucial fun factor that makes this compact runaround such an appealing car. A tiny 987kg lightweight that delivers huge thrills without having to push it to high speeds, the Micra makes even the smallest driving chore an interesting and rewarding one with its sharp reflexes, darty direction changes, willing nature and little diluted driving characteristics.

 

Agility and adjustability

 

With quick, light and direct steering delivering good feel and feedback, the Micra is driven with small finger tip and wrist movements, as it zips through corners and in traffic. Eager and crisp pouncing into a corner, the Micra’s front tires dig in with commitment and resilience to under-steer even when pushed hard into a corner. Well-communicating position, textures and dynamic limits, the Micra is brilliantly agile and capable of effortlessly turning on the proverbial dime. Body lean is meanwhile well controlled, and its rear finds a happy medium between reassuring grip and playful adjustability.

Rewarding, entertaining and visceral yet confident driven pedal to metal through winding country lanes exploiting its talented chassis and nimble handling, the Micra is however in its element in busy city streets and very narrow and remote snaking lanes that flummox larger, less wieldy and less agile cars. Easily placed on road with its excellent visibility and supportive, attentive, alert and well-adjustable driving position, one always feels connected and in perfect command. In the city it is effortlessly easy to maneuver with its tight 9.4-metre turning circle, while parking is a doddle even without the optional reversing camera.

 

Progressive pace

 

Settled on rebound and in vertical movement, the Micra nonetheless rides comfortably, and easily dispatches imperfections and larger city speed humps in its stride, taking advantage of its good 150mm ride height and short wheelbase. That said, jagged temporary style speed bumps can feel slightly firm, and can slightly disrupt its otherwise very refined driving experience. Surprisingly stable and sure-footed at speed, the Micra damps road and wind noise well, without being disconnected. Is engine thrum is un-intrusive at most speeds, but engagingly evident when pushed to its rev limit. 

Available with many engine and gearbox options across its production span and various markets, the Micra however receives a single specification for Jordan, powered by an eager naturally-aspirated 1.5-litre 4-cylinder engine driving the front wheels through a 4-speed automatic gearbox. Developing 99BHP at 6,000rpm and 99lb/ft at 4,000rpm, the lightweight Micra keeps a quick pace with eager responsiveness and progressive delivery from idling to redline. Responsive throttle control accurately exploits its delicate and nimble handling abilities with exacting and incremental delivery, while 0-100km arrives at a good pace in second gear, and top speed is estimated at 170km/h or more.

 

Consistently practical

 

A change from many Nissans’ usual use of smooth and efficient continuously variable transmission, the Micra’s traditional automatic gearbox instead provides fixed ratios and consistency with a three gear plus overdrive set-up. Gear changes are quick, smooth and responsive to throttle input and allow good driving versatility and on-the-move acceleration even at highway speeds. On steep inclines one has to rev quite high in first gear to maintain revs and momentum for second gear, but perhaps the 5-speed manual gearbox available in some markets would provide closer ratios for still better performance and an even more engaging driving experience.

Practical, fun, user-friendly and affordable to own and run, the Micra returned frugal fuel efficiency even during untypically demanding test drive conditions. Though small and narrow, it is superbly packaged, with good space and better rear access and head and legroom than many larger cars. If not palatial in the rear, it however readily accommodates large, tall adults seated in tandem. Its 265-litre boot is also well packaged and expands with the rear bench folded. Pleasant and airy in ambiance with good but not luxurious in-class plastics, fabric and appointment, the Micra’s equipment includes electric front windows, remote central locking and a powerful A/C, but no USB ports.

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

 

Engine: 1.5-litre, transverse 4-cylinders

Bore x stroke: 78 x 78.4mm

Valve-train: 16-valve, DOHC

Compression: 10.1:1

Gearbox: 4-speed auto, front-wheel-drive

Gear ratios: 1st 2.861; 2nd 1.562; 3rd 1.0; 4th 0.698

Reverse/final drive: 2.31:1/4.081:1

Power, BHP (PS) [kW]: 99 (101) [74] @6,000rpm

Specific power: 66.2BHP/litre

Power-to-weight: 100.5BHP/tonne

Torque, lb/ft (Nm): 99 (134) @4,000rpm

Specific torque: 89.7Nm/litre

Torque-to-weight: 136Nm/tonne

Fuel capacity: 41-litres

Length: 3,825mm

Width: 1,665mm

Height: 1,535mm

Wheelbase: 2,450mm

Track, F/R: 1,460/1,465mm

Minimum ground clearance: 150mm

Minimum luggage volume: 265-litres

Kerb weight: 987kg

Gross vehicle weight: 1,425kg

Suspension, F/R: MacPherson struts/torsion beam

Steering: Power-assisted rack & pinion

Turning circle: 9.4-metres

Brakes, F/R: Discs/drums

Tyres: 175/60R15

Price, on-the-road, no insurance: JD13,600

 

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