Sunday 24 March 2019

Micra steps up the power with new engines and automatics

Nissan Micra
Nissan Micra
Nissan Micra's interior

John Galvin, Lisbon

Two years ago Nissan surprised everyone by reinventing the Micra as a sharp, urban supermini. It was still as easy as ever to drive and live with but, with a sharp suit of clothes, it looked like no previous model.

Now the Micra is getting some mild upgrades, including a more powerful 1-litre triple, the reintroduction of an automatic gearbox and a new, range-topping special-order N-Sport.

We first tried the N-Sport on twisty roads around Lisbon. While it also gets its power from a 1-litre engine, this 117bhp version is quite different from the standard motor, particularly the cylinder head, which gains direct injection.

Nissan describe it as a warm hatch but performance could better be described as lukewarm. That doesn't mean it isn't enjoyable to drive. The suspension is 10mm lower; springs, dampers have also been uprated. A quicker steering rack completes the chassis changes and they make a surprising difference to the driving.

Nissan Micra's interior
Nissan Micra's interior

There's great balance to the car and it's surprisingly fun to drive. Indeed, the steering could do with being even quicker.

Seats are comfortable with more Alcantara swathed on the dashboard, along with white air vents to emphasise sportiness. It's a worthy range-topper.

Next up was the new 1-litre engine, which replaces the 90bhp. Along with the extra power, you get more torque; emissions are cut 13pc.

You don't lose much performance in the step down from the N-Power; the motor has the same smooth, engaging feel. There's a 5spd gearbox instead of the 6spd fitted to the N-Power. It's light and easy to use.

If you want to make life even easier, go for the Xtronic automatic, which is the new CVT gearbox. Unlike conventional CVTs which can be noisy, this uses predefined shift points to mimic the fixed ratios of a normal transmission.

It works well, even when you need to kick down on the motorway. If you didn't know it was a CVT, you wouldn't guess it from its behaviour. According to Nissan, a CVT gearbox is efficient because it's light and transmission losses are cut. There's a small CO2 penalty over the manual gearbox but it's not huge.

The existing 71bhp normally aspirated engine remains as does the 1.5 dCi diesel. The 1-litre IG-T starts at €17,195 for XE base grade but it won't arrive until later this year. The same car with the CVT gearbox is on sale now from €19,995, around the same as key rival Toyota Yaris hybrid.

The updated Micra also introduces a new NissanConnect infotainment system (voice recognition, a customisable screen and over the air map updates). Based on a 7ins screen, it supports Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and a Find My Car function.

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