Nissan has had a big year, with a new Qashqai and Note on top of Leaf production starting in the UK. But it hasn’t forgotten its little ’un, the Micra. Sure, the Micra isn’t what you’d call high in the desirability stakes, but the recent facelift has given the supermini a more pleasing look and some extra gear. We’ve driven the top spec DIG-S Tekna model to see how the changes stack up.
What’s new about the 2013 Nissan Micra?
The obvious change is the look, with the Manga-like cheeky face of the old version replaced with subtler, more grown up lines. This Tekna model is as mature as the Micra gets, with chrome lashings across the grille as part of the new front-end, leading to polished, Continental-shod 16in alloys. There’s also a new rear bumper and LED tail-lamps, but the doors, roof and underpinnings remain unchanged. Mechanically, there’s no news, with the 1.2-litre three-cylinder ‘DIG-S’ (S for supercharger) carried over.
What’s the inside like?
The Micra’s cabin doesn’t quite live up to the promise of the exterior: it’s not as well-rounded and polished, especially for a model that costs £14k. It’s been redesigned (partly), with a new centre console that’s much cleaner and a larger integrated 5.8in colour touchscreen for the Tekna, which responds much faster than the VW Up’s laggy unit, and is intuitive and easy to operate.
Still, the interior can’t match our long-term VW Up in terms of fit and finish, but that’s not to say it feels cheap or nasty: the leather-wrap wheel feels good (if a tad large) and while the design lacks any level of sophistication, the benefit is that everything is straightforward and convenient. The ease of use is part of the appeal: the Micra’s not trying to dazzle or impress, but simply go about its business with no fuss, which the cabin does superbly.
And the driving experience?
That 97bhp 1.2-litre triple doesn’t have what you call punch, but more a gentle push. It needs to be worked for a strong result, but it is quite capable in traffic and on the motorway, where it simmers after a coarse run up the revs. It takes 11.4 seconds to stroll through the five-speed manual to 62mph, which has a clunky, light action. The driver’s seat is on the flat, firm side but is reasonably comfortable, although it feels like you’re sitting at almost MPV height.
This gives great visibility, with those large side mirrors, but it only emphasises the awkward, more compromised dynamics that focus on comfort around town. Ride comfort is impressive, even on those relatively large wheels, which also brings excellent traction to the well-composed chassis, which settles quickly over large bumps.
Does it still handle like a go-kart?
Tip the Micra into a bend and the steering proves weighty, well-calibrated and predictable, even if it calls for big inputs for small movements. There’s not enough poke to spin wheels out of corners, helped by strong traction levels, and while the body roll is well controlled, there’s still enough to make a quick change of direction soggier than we’d like. It’s still playful, though, thanks to its urban-friendly proportions.
The stats: is it as practical as its rivals?
Put the Micra against its key opposition, and it’s clear why it sells so well. The five-door has plenty of rear head and legroom, with a 60/40 split-fold rear seat. With it in place, there’s 265L of bootspace, or flattened, there’s 1132L. That’s more the VW Up (251/959L) and the Hyundai i10 (252/910L), but the Nissan’s 66mpg/99g/km of CO2 is pipped by the Up’s 67.3mpg and 98g/km. It’s also more expensive, (with even the entry-level Visia spec starting at £9950), giving the Micra a higher entry point even if it’s arguably better value than some of its opposition.
The Micra looks more grown up, and despite its mechanical being largely unchanged, it’s a little more restrained that before. It’s still fun to throw around, but its doughy roll and relaxed steering is exacerbated by the high driving position, which would make it even better. Yet it’s great around town, with enough power and easy, agreeable controls letting you get on with things.
Yet the £14k ask seems a little rich here, especially with that interior that still has the look and feel of a poverty-spec runabout.