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2017 Nissan Micra review: First drive

The Good

  • Zippy drive
  • Practical
  • Good level of standard equipment

The Bad

  • Tad gutless
  • No Android Auto
4

Watch out, Mr Ford Fiesta. A talented new upstart has arrived in supermini town, as we found out in our review of a left-hand drive production 2017 Nissan Micra.

The country used for the one of the bloodiest battles in Game of Thrones seems like an unlikely place to let motoring journalists drive the fifth-generation Micra, but then Nissan needs a small car to make a mountainous impression – the sort offered by Croatia’s vistas.

The Micra is, of course, plagued by the fact it is seen as a car for old people. It is four-wheeled TCP, a Werther’s Original with doors. Yet earlier models, the first of which arrived in 1982, were bought in the millions and only the Indian-built, fourth-generation version was laughably bad.

Nissan knew the Micra image was so tarnished it actually considered ditching the name. That means we could have been driving around in the March, as it is known outside of Britain, but then being named after a calendar month is hardly a step up.

To make matters worse, the entirety of the B-segment lies at the feet of the Ford Fiesta, the UK’s best-selling car for eight years and the class-leader in terms of overall performance. That is before we even consider a new version is arriving soon.

You can understand why, then, Nissan has gone overboard with the 2017 Micra. Autonomous braking as standard, looks that will make you talk of the town at bingo, go-faster stripes, torque vectoring – this is no mid-life facelift with tweaked headlights and a bigger cup holder.

So the big question is whether the Japanese manufacturer done enough to compete? Can it really unseat the Fiesta and would we buy one? We clocked up a couple of hundred kilometres in one of two petrol models to try and find out ahead its launch, which is March 2017 in Britain.

2017 Nissan Micra: What’s new, then?

The 2017 Nissan Micra is built upon the ‘V platform’ used by its predecessor, yet the differences are numerous. You need only look at it to see the biggest difference ─ the Micra is no longer pipe and slippers, it is selfie sticks and festivals.

It is also bigger to the point that, if it was 10mm longer, it would no longer be a B-segment car. A 174mm increase in length and 78mm increase in width make it better for all inside. It is, however, 55mm shorter, helping Nissan achieve an impressive drag coefficient of 0.29 so it cuts through the air better.

The mechanics of the old car have been put into retirement, too. Save for the engine mountings, fuel tank and a few other components, everything about the new Micra is fresh, including a lower centre of gravity, three new engines (borrowed from Renault), reconfigured chassis and an an all-new interior.

We should also mention the new Micra has a few class firsts, including autonomous emergency braking as standard, 360-degree view parking cameras, a Bose sound system with speakers in the driver’s headrest and lane-keep assist.

Then there is a new infotainment system, torque vectoring to help keep understeer at bay and improve cornering and, lest we not forget, those funky looks and bright colours. Never has a Micra had so much attitude. Although will it be too funky and deter older buyers?

2017 Nissan Micra: What about practicality?

Oodles of it, thank you for asking. The 10-litre glove box, for instance, can hold a two-litre bottle of your preferred pop and the boot is a respectable 300 litres, expandable to 1,004 litres with the 60:40 split rear seats folded down.

The driver’s seat can accommodate someone up to 6ft8 in height, so says Nissan, while there are various storage areas to store things. Meanwhile a USB and 12v socket let you charge your gadgets and three cup holders provide ample coffee-holding potential.

The 2017 Micra’s rear seats provide head room for those around 6ft and leg room is okay, but hardly generous once anyone above average in height sits up front. But children and small adults will be fine.

As for build quality, only one scratchy plastic lets the side down as it is otherwise a sturdy enough cabin to cope with whatever you throw at it. It all looks great, too, especially if you start customising the interior colours for a more upmarket look.

Not only that, the turning circle is suitably dinky so U-turns will be no problem, although the sizable pillars at the back and small rear window could prove a pain for some owners when performing other manoeuvres.

It is worth mentioning Apple CarPlay is supported, but not Android Auto. We have heard rumblings this is because the chipset in the infotainment system is unable to support Google’s car user-interface and that it will take a facelift to change the situation, but Nissan is yet to officially clarify.

2017 Nissan Micra: How well does it drive?

Like no other Micra before it. Nissan has made the 2017 Micra a much more dynamic car capable of going round corners with refreshing levels of enthusiasm. Even on Croatia’s bendy roads, it was never phased.

The torque vectoring helps it maintain composure and grip without being noticeable, while the suspension soaks up bumps nicely although British roads will be the real test. It errs on the side of spongey and the body roll is noticeable, but at worst the drive is agreeable and predictable.

No doubt the smaller 16-inch alloys will help with overall ride compliance. On that note, the optional 17s undoubtedly look better, but the CO2 and fuel economy hit is worth avoiding.

Get a bit heavy-footed and the 0.9-litre petrol, complete with 88.5bhp and 104lb/ft (140Nm) of torque, and things start getting revvy, but the engine note is oddly throaty and near-silence soon descends once you bother to use the five-speed manual gearbox.

There are times when the 2017 Micra feels gutless, encouraging you into a lower gear to maximise the level of pep, which undoes the fact it is said to be capable of up to 61.4mpg. Throttle response could be better, too, but then it does give the rumoured Micra Nismo more breathing space to shine.

Vague is the best description for the steering, but the chassis does at least tell you are reaching the upper limits of grip. The brakes have lots of travel and make smooth braking easy, not that the 1,082kg kerb weight gives them too much to do.

Changing gear can be done with a quick, smooth movement and the throw between suits its eagerness to please. Admittedly it is neither as punchy and confident as the current Fiesta (no one has driven the new version), yet it offers greater comfort and maturity.

This is especially true when you realise just how quiet the 2017 Micra is. The noise, vibration and harshness department have made it a wonderfully smooth and quiet car that gives the very capable and very loud Bose six-speaker sound system a chance to shine.

The 88.5bhp 1.5-litre dCi diesel ─ capable of up to a claimed 88.3mpg combined ─ is meant to be particularly refined, but sadly we never got to drive it because of snow the following day. Yes, snow. In Croatia.

A third petrol engine packing a weedier 72hp and 1.0-litre displacement will be available later in the year for those wanting the absolute cheapest new Micra experience, but we have a concern it will be too slow.

2017 Nissan Micra: How safe is it?

Very safe if the inclusion of autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian recognition is anything to go by because it will try to stop the car when you are too slow (or too blind) to react. Its lane assistant system also makes it safer, as well as six airbags and seat belt height adjustment.

Even the base UK car is fitted with the Safety+ Pack that includes the two aforementioned safety systems (which should help secure it a five-star Euro NCAP rating), as well as Traffic Sign Recognition and High Beam Assist.

A blind-spot warning system with radar sensors in the rear bumper, automatic headlight sensor, automatic hazard lights and hill-start assist also make the cut, giving the 2017 Micra an impressive list of safety credentials.

2017 Nissan Micra: What is the UK price?

There are five grades available. At the bottom is the 2017 Micra Visia fitted with the 1.0 petrol, which starts from £11,995. The more efficient and more powerful dCi costs £2,200 extra.

Standard extras include LED daytime running lights, Hill Start Assist, Intelligent Emergency Braking, Intelligent Lane Intervention, High Beam Assist, trip computer, electric door mirrors, two-tone dashboard, entry-level sound system with two speakers and a height-adjustable driver’s seat.

Next up is Visia+, which adds air-conditioning. Above that is Acenta, complete with body coloured exterior bits, 16-inch steel wheels, seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system, four speakers, cruise control and two-tone upholstery.

Then there is N-Connecta, complete with 16-inch alloys, front fog lamps, folding heated door mirrors, privacy glass, leather steering wheel, automatic air-conditioning and the NissanConnect touchscreen infotainment system with a seven-inch display.

Atop the range is the car we drove, the Micra Tekna. Starting from £18,645 if you want the more expensive dCi, it comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, Nissan Intelligent Key with an engine start button, the fancy Bose speaker system with six speakers, a rear-view camera and rear parking sensors.

Factor in all the customisation options and there are more than 100 combinations of the 2017 Micra so you can make it yours. But you will need to go for at least the Acenta to open up the option of the Interior Personalisation Pack, which has three colour options: Power Blue, Energy Orange and Invigorating Red.

2017 Nissan Micra: So should I buy one, then?

It is impossible to say if Nissan has done enough to unseat the Fiesta, especially as we have only laid eyes on what will undoubtedly be its biggest competitor. But we are happy to say the new Micra is well worth considering and will certainly put a lot of pressure on its B-segment rivals.

Remarkably refined, stylish to look at on the inside and out, seemingly very safe and a pleasing drive, it is still hard to believe we are talking about a Micra. Even less believable is the fact Nissan has managed to reside the elderly driver image to a retirement home.

No longer, then, will you hurry past an aging Micra driver going for a Sunday carvery – it is more likely the owner will be trying to overtake you. With the Bose system at full tilt. But probably not while listening to the Ink Spots.

Specification

Engine0.9-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol
Power88.7bhp (90PS)
Torque104lb/ft (140Nm)
Acceleration0-62mph in 12.1 seconds
Emissions99g/km of CO2
Economy64.1mpg combined
PriceFrom £11,995 (model tested £18,645)

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