Saturday 27 May 2017

Micra's the magic word

NISSAN MICRA
RATING 81/100
NISSAN MICRA RATING 81/100

This is a relatively unremarkable small car. That, believe it or not, is a remarkable thing for me to say because Nissan has revolutionised how so many motors should look and feel. Think the quintessential crossover Qashqai and the smaller Juke, for example.

Even the last Micra flew in the face of a good few conventions.

This one doesn't. It is a much more traditional Micra. More reminiscent of the little motors we all drove centuries ago when a small amount of money bought you a lot of mileage.

Now, I don't know if this retro conservative swing is a good or bad thing. The Micra is subdued in most facets, something that thankfully extends to the grand little three-cylinder engine that does its best to keep your fuel bills under control.

I wasn't a big, big fan of the old Micra's looks because I don't kneel at the altar of those large bulbous headlights. But it was/is a super little car.

Now, I think this probably needs a little more of some excess or other to give it a bit of eye-catching character. I think the sort of people who would be interested in buying one of these are demanding "difference" more and more.

They also want what this gives them in abundance: a right good roomy cabin, surprisingly spacious I discovered, and a decent level of equipment. I think that is especially true if you pay the extra €1,000 for the SV spec level I had on test -- air con and cruise control are among the package.

Yet it didn't feel as substantial as the old one, or indeed several of its key rivals -- the Skoda Fabia, VW Polo, Peugeot 207 and Ford Fiesta come to mind immediately. One of the downsides of that was a bit more road/tyre noise even over relatively decent surfaces. That annoyed me a bit because there is no need for that any more.

In contrast, I would have expected a bit of noise from the three-cylinder engine but was pleasantly surprised that it was so quiet.

It's a little gem.

This is a car mainly directed at younger people (and "downsizing" mature couples perhaps) who are likely to be looking at this new Micra as their first new car.

Families too will consider it as a runaround second motor.

And as I said, young people like their cars with a bit of pzazz about them. This has it in some areas and doesn't in others.

Around town it was grand, making it easy to slip through traffic and was a dream to park (why are there so many big, awkward pillars in car parks?).

Yet I would have liked something extra, you know? The bit of spirited, sporty chassis that you get and feel behind the wheel of a Fiesta or a Peugeot 207, or that preponderant sense of sturdy solidity that emanates from a Fabia or Polo.

By the same token, its smoothness and stability surprised me when I got it up to speed on the motorway in the course of a wet and windy old drive.

So, it is a technically advanced little car with subdued looks that puts it in the shadow of its predecessor.

Ultimately, its biggest difficulty will be plying its trade against some seriously good, and massively improved, opposition.

Its biggest positive is its name. Micras go forever no matter what their outward appearance. It may look like a relatively unremarkable small car, but it has a pedigree that will bestow a lot of street cred on it. Give it a drive. It is one of those you have to sample before deciding what your next small car is going to be.

ecunningham@independent.ie

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