The history of the Nissan Micra in Europe stretches back more than three decades. First launched in 1983, Nissan have sold more than seven million of their B-segment hatch.
During that time they built a reputation for reliability – but of those seven million cars, it’s unlikely many were sold on the strength of their sex appeal.
The all-new fifth generation Micra however, is a really great-looking car. Built on a modified version of Nissan’s V-platform, it’s all sharp angles, colour accents and it’s longer, lower and wider than the previous model.
Some manufacturers espouse the ‘evolution, not revolution’ school of design with new models but, frankly, revolution was needed – the old Micra lagging miles off the pace compared with the
Nissan Micra N-Connecta 0.9l IG-T 90
Engine: 900cc, three-cylinder, turbo, petrol
Transmission: Five-speed manual
Top speed: 109mph
0-62mph: 12.1 seconds
CO2 emissions:104 g/km
And a revolution is what the designers have delivered – the only thing the fifth generation car shares visually with the outgoing model is the badge.
Inside, it’s a striking contrast to the old car’s bland plastic expanse. A soft-touch fabric-covered upper dash can be customised and colour coded to the accents adorning the car’s exterior. A leather steering wheel and leather door inserts distract from some otherwise underwhelming plastics to give the cabin an overall premium feel.
Despite sharing much of the architecture that underpinned the old car, on the road, the Micra handles far better than its dull predecessor. The five-speed manual gearbox in our test model changes smoothly and the 900cc turbocharged engine to which it’s mated is a bit of a cracker –although the high-pitched whine from the three-cylinder unit takes a bit of getting used to.
The clutch was a little light for my liking, but with no discernable turbo lag and 89bhp and 103lb/ft of torque on tap it’s a lively engine which is a prime example of how good modern, small capacity petrol engines can be.
Over the course of the test our demo car averaged just shy of 50mpg across a mix of city driving and a couple of cross-country motorway jaunts. Pretty good but, as we’ve come to expect, a fair bit off the claimed 64.2mpg claimed average.
Cabin noise on those longer journeys was a little high but nothing cranking up the volume on the excellent Bose sound system – complete with headrest-mounted speakers – couldn’t offset.
Those speakers are a £500 option, but the list of standard equipment in our model is a long one which includes cutting-edge safety tech like intelligent braking with pedestrian recognition, lane intervention and intelligent ride control.
The operating system on Nissan’s seven-inch infotainment system is a simple one, but one that works just fine even if it does lack some of the detail we’ve come to expect from such things.
But perhaps that stripped-back interface is something to do with Nissan’s drive to make the Micra one of the safest cars in it’s class. The designers reportedly used high-definition cameras and the latest eye-tracking software during the design of the cabin and configuration of the instruments to give the Micra what Nissan say is the lowest ‘eyes off the road’ time in the B segment.
Keep your eyes on the Micra though, the mix of good looks and high-tech equipment should be enough to see strong sales in a segment with some stiff competition.