Road Tests

Drive: New 84kW Nissan Micra is so close but so far

New 84kW Micra but not a hot hatch

Nope, but it does address the up-till-now seriously uncompetitive side of the Micra range which was the 66kW engine with a power delivery that went on the occasional snooze. The uprated Micra is profoundly faster at any given point and easier to drive especially at low speed. The new 1.0-litre 3-cylinder (measured at 999cc to slide in the lowest tax bracket) engine is a product of the Renault, Daimler development and we’ll see what Renault can do with it in the new Clio early next year.

What do the numbers say?

With a smoother, fuller power curve underfoot and revised ratios to a make room for a sixth gear, the 84kW Micra shaves a game-changing two seconds off the 0-100kph time while paradoxically juggling that with better fuel consumption and lower carbon emissions. Rivals like Polo and Fiesta offer an auto box at this price but they’re no faster off the line, just a little more relaxing when running errands around town. The new engine doesn’t elevate the Micra above its peers, but it does succeed in letting some of the Micra’s other qualities rise to the foreground.

And those are

Of a seriously well-built and styled supermini. The rear door handles in the C-pillar and wedged glass aren’t all that practical for kids or nervous drivers but Micra leads Nissan’s interior design and materials with a smaller amount of scratchy plastic than either a Fiesta or Polo. Screen size or technology haven’t been sacrificed in the process with a plethora modern features like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, blind spot monitoring and parking camera standard on all trims. A Bose audio system in the Tekna model connects small speakers in the headrest to an amplifier under the seat. Rear passengers will be within their right to chastise Nissan for the manual window winders.

Nissan Micra South Africa info

What’s the drive like?

This is now a car that’s a lot more prepared for the city’s widespread challenges like steep urban inclines or safely zig-zagging between the uneven flow of traffic. It’s not a sporty handler despite being 10mm nearer the ground but will impress customers with the way it feels more substantial than its actual footprint. Insulation is brilliant too, so much so that spending more Rands in Nissan’s family might actually be viewed as a downgrade.

Verdict

Thanks to the new engine the Nissan Micra now has a fighting chance but the job of taking sales away from Polo and Fiesta without an auto option still leaves it with a mountain to climb. Even if that does arrive next year, it will need to be a dual clutch design instead of the more likely CVT. Specification and model mix are so crucial between hero or zero. Currently the Micra hangs in mid-air. Andrew Leopold

 Specification

  • R326,300
  • 1.0 3cyl turbo petrol
  • 84kW
  • 180Nm
  • 0-100kph in 9.9 secs, 195kph
  • 5.0l/100km
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