The 2018 Nissan Micra is up for Irish Car of the Year, and rightly so. The much improved B-segment car is up against the likes of the Ford Fiesta, Mazda2, Volkswagen Polo and Renault Clio. But, can the improved looks steer buyers towards the French-built hatchback?
From up front, the Nissan Micra is now a much more muscular and angular little thing. Gone are the days of the third generation K12 Micra with its peculiar, bubbly shape. Nissan is steering towards younger buyers with the new personalised options list. Buyers can opt for bold colour schemes like Enigma Black and Energy Orange but some buyers may go for the safe colour scheme of Passion Red, like this test car.
Inside, the Micra is just as customisable as the exterior. In the SV trimmed car, I had, the seats are a combination of black and cream cloth. Breaking up the dash is a faux-leather band, a similar look to the Mazda2. The overall quality of the interior is typical Nissan; lots of sharp, cheap and scratchy plastics. The Mazda2 is similarly priced but the finish of the interior is of a much higher quality.
Taking centre stage on the dash is the infotainment system. Physically, it looks good but it is not as modern or as convenient as other systems from its competitors. There are buttons for features that don’t necessarily need to be accessed quickly. For example, there is an Info button which brings you to the infotainment’s software information, not particularly essential. Joys for the Apple users among you because Apple CarPlay features on this system. However, for us Android owners, no Android Auto. Although, my phone could be connected through Bluetooth.
The Nissan Micra’s practicality will always play a large part in the buying decision of it. There are big enough door bins up front, three cupholders in the centre console and a decent sized glovebox. In the rear, you will struggle to fit in an adult, let alone three. I’m 6 foot, which is 183cm. My legs were pushed up against the driver seat, which was in my driving position, and my head was brushing the roof. On top of that, there are still wind-up windows to the rear. As for boot space, the Micra boasts 300 litres, 3l down on the Ford Fiesta but 20l up on the Mazda2.
Turning the key, the 1.5DSL diesel 90hp engine rattles into life. This is the same unit that is used across Nissan, Renault and Dacia models. I very much dislike this engine, even more so in the Micra. The Micra shouldn’t need a diesel. When used properly, diesels are for long, higher mileage journeys. Not small, city runabouts. Nissan are offering a new 0.9l 3-cylinder 90hp petrol engine in the Micra, which we will have a review on soon. I’m a sucker for 3-cylinders and I can’t help but think that this engine would be a lot more characterful. It is on par in terms of horsepower but is down 80Nm, to 140Nm, on the diesel. This will be noticeable when at motorway speeds. On the motorway, it feels a lot more secure than the Mazda2 does but the cabin is still filled with road noise. The A and B pillars aren’t the worst to see around but the C pillar is quite chunky and can be a problematic blind spot.
Take it onto a twisty backroad and the Micra is surprisingly impressive. The steering isn’t as responsive as the likes of the Ford Fiesta or Mazda2 but gives generous feedback and feels weighty. The gearchange is notchy but in an engaging way. With the diesel, leave it in third gear and the Micra will actually make you grin. It feels very planted in and out of corners. I feel a Micra Nismo coming on…
The Micra is priced from €16,650. However, upgrading to the SV trim with the Safety Pack, which adds headlight assist, lane departure and traffic sign recognition, pushes the price to €21,000.
So the question; will the new Micra entice buyers? Absolutely no doubt. It is a huge improvement over previous generations of the car and still remains affordable. Although, the Micra still has a long way to come in terms of interior quality to rival the Ford Fiesta and Mazda2. But put it this way, for an extra €500 you could have a specced up Mazda2 and I can see the €500-worth of a difference. But if you do buy the Micra, please-oh-please don’t opt for the diesel.