The boomerang puppy
Nissans usually make a good impression on yours truly. Even models with just one exhaust pipe and no wings are usually well packaged and good to drive. The Micra was the exception, chiefly because I never tested the previous version and partly because I didn’t like its looks.
The original Nissan Micra was launched in 1982 and has just morphed into the fourth generation small hatchback you see on this page. Namibia only welcomed gen three a few years ago and although I imagine it was good little car, it was just a little too cute. Too round.
Quite a few affordable hatchbacks could be accused of this, so it comes as no surprise that the freshest version looks a little more sedate. Its stumped backside immediately caught my eye, not necessarily in a good way, until familiarity set in a few days later.
By this stage I had gotten used to the shape and colour of my new wheels. For aerodynamic and rear space reasons, the new Micra has interesting boomerang dents on its roof, followed by a sizable hump. The new Kia, pardon, Nissan nose sits snugly between the two cute headlights.
There’s still a lot of Micra 3 in the overall shape and I would defend criticisms of blandness with a more unisex appeal. We South Africans love our little hatchbacks so Nissan has made sure that the new Micra charges into battle with a more agreeable form and decent equipment.
Small runabouts are usually fun to drive and although I reluctantly climbed out of a seven-figure luxury bruiser, a few kilometres down the road I hastily accepted the Micra’s friend request. Before I get to my driving impression, let’s quickly look at the local range:
Following international trends of smaller, more efficient engines, Nissan South Africa offers the Micra with three engines: a 1.2-litre 3-cylinder petrol (56kW, 76hp, 104Nm), a 1.5-litre Diesel (47kW, 64hp, 160Nm) and a 1.5-litre 4-cylinder petrol (73kW, 99hp, 134Nm).
Barring the Diesel, this found great favour with me. Three cylinders are always endearing and gruff-sounding little mills while most 1500’s tend to have immense character. The 1.2 Micra is offered in three spec levels ranging from N$108,400 to N$127,500 while Diesel and 1.5 are only available in top-spec.
All Micras feature anti-lock brakes (ABS) with emergency assist (EBA) and force distribution (EBD), two airbags, electric power steering, tilt-adjustable steering wheel, three cup holders, immobiliser, data-dot anti-theft markings, a three-year 100,000km warranty and roadside assistance.
More expensive models spoil you with remote central locking, more airbags, fog lights, electric windows, electric and folding mirrors, auto lights, rear wiper, various audio equipment, Bluetooth, sun visors with mirrors, extra storage pockets, ISOFIX mountings, alloy wheels, and the odd bit of colour coding.
The interior is a sea of acceptable entry-level plastic blackness… some surfaces and gaps felt decidedly second-rate but no worse than in some competitors. Even tall adults will find decent room and comfort, also at the back. The entire rear bench collapses to offer two additional cargo configurations over the smallish boot.
Although lacking a temperature gauge, Micra’s instruments are very legible and supplemented by a comprehensive board computer. Clutch and steering are light and quick to respond, although the brake pedal demands a heavy foot – braking is very good though.
This top-spec Micra 1.2 Acenta was no exception to my sentiments about three cylinders… Working through a somewhat notchy five-speed manual gearbox, its lack of displacement can struggle a little at low speeds and/or with the air-con switched on, but is still superior to its thousand cc peers.
Nonetheless, just select a previous gear and put foot – the 1198cc motor is happiest at medium to high revs and barks that unmistakably rough 3/6 cylinder melody. Feel free to administer a sound trashing and witness how the digital fuel display stays put.
Better still, most of the times you’re not going fast enough to get into trouble. This little Micra is like all the other adorable 3-cylinders: small puppy, big heart. Nissan alleges 0-100km/h in 13.2 seconds (we managed 12.5), a top speed of 166km/h, 5.2L/100km average consumption and CO2/km of 124g.
Although the Micra lacks traction or stability control, it offers a forgiving suspension that easily soaks up nasty bits of city tarmac and, together with its skinny tyres, rewards hasty cornering with plenty of squealing and predictable under-steer.
I’m not completely sold on the new Micra’s looks but I luuuv their choice of engines. I also appreciate Nissan’s efforts in the spec / options department where competitive base pricing allows YOU to choose if you want (cough, need) a service plan and any of the options. Two thumbs up, Nissan.
Road Dry tarmac, level
Occupants Driver, no passengers
Fuel level 2/3