I've had the Nissan Micra on test review before, but it was during a week of terrible weather so I not only skipped on shooting it, I also gave driving around a wide berth too because torrential rain brings out idiot drivers. That meant a proper review wasn't possible. Luckily I managed to have a second session scheduled with the Turbo Acenta Plus Tech trim of the all-new Nissan Micra, and I'm happy I did. This hatchback surprised me, it's got a fair bit going for it on paper and I found that things translated into the real world just right too.
The older Micra models wren't bad looking little cars, but they ended up being a car you knew existed, but completely forgot when it came time to buy in that segment. There was nothing wrong with them, they just weren't on the radar. This all-new design is way different, the new and larger body conforms to the rest of Nissan's design architecture and so has really good looks and lines to it. The front is no longer a bubble, it's an angular car that has a bit of attitude thrown in. The same goes for the rear; more angles and strong lines make it one of those cars that may be able to get by on its looks alone. This version rolls on 17" wheels shod with 205/45R17 tyres, and for an OEM wheel they have a decent design and they actually suit the car well too. There is a bit of wheel gap going on, but that's the norm in SA because of the dodgy roads in some places, but that's just a first modification for the guys I know who'd rock one of these.
The floating roof design is really cool, more noticeable on the lighter colours than on this Echo Grey, but it's there. The angular lights up front and the boomerang-design taillights all just work. The only thing I'd change on one of these really is the ride height. I'd also like to see the car with aftermarket wheels in the popular styles seen on the Micra's JDM brethren. I reckon with the right wheels, window tint, a rear bumper with an exhaust cut out for a neat tail piece and some clever stickers, it could be made to look like a closer relative to a GT-R, especially on the Energy Orange painted cars.
Inside the Nissan Micra, things are pretty good too. The design is modern and pretty funky, indicative of the intended target market's taste. Seating position is great, everything adjusts to get my statuesque 5ft7 frame perfectly comfortable with a good view all round. Luckily even if viewing was a mission, there's surround cameras to save bumpers and curbing your wheels. The cabin does have a rather sporty way about it, the seats have a high bolster, there's a flat-bottom steering wheel, a high shifter lever and stitched leather dash trim. Adding the brushed aluminium-look trim was a good touch, the cabin looks more upmarket than the price tag suggests. The climate control knobs sit just above the shifter position, separated from the dash, and above that the 7-inch touchscreen heading up the infotainment system. It's great system that Nissan has here, easy to use and set up and the 6-speaker audio system plays great.
Mobile connectivity is tops quality, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are found as standard. Having my Samsung S8 connected to display Waze on the screen made my week as I was driving unknown roads a fair bit. The Bluetooth audio streaming was also hassle free and great quality, as was the hands-free part of it. Various information from the system can also be displayed in the centre of the instrument cluster so you can know what's going on while keeping your eyes on the road. That aforementioned steering wheel also features controls for the infotainment as well as the cruise control. It really is a decent place to be and it's a solid fit and finish as what you'd usually find higher up the rung.
The all-new Nissan Micra takes a little getting used to, when you first drive it you'd be forgiven for a little frustration creeping in. It's a small capacity motor that's helped along with a turbocharger. The thing is, when you have such a small engine there's not going to be much low down torque and so you sort of need to slip the clutch a smidgen to allow the revs to rise so you can have a decent pull off. A normal driving style will see you feeling a lot of turbo lag that will either have you scrabbling to pull back a gear, or bouncing your body forwards and backwards in an attempt to help the car along. As said, you quickly get used to the way it needs to be driven. I took a mate for a drive, and I ran it through the gear hard and we were both mighty impressed with how this little 1200cc powerplant performs. A few times we commented on how good it is for a 1200cc, and wringing it's neat is quite fun. It was only when I was checking the pricing for someone else who wanted to pitch the Micra to his employer as a fleet car option, that the new range of Nissan Micras all use a 3-cylinder 0.9-litre setup, or 900cc. Power is rated at 66kW and 140Nm. I immediately told my mate and his mind was equally blown. The transmission is pretty good, a tight and notch 5-speed 'box. It's claimed to sip just 5.1-litres/100km and on my week I only saw 5.8s for a few days, and when used on shorter drives it hovered around the 6.3 mark, which is also decent considering how the small lump likes to be revved.
This new platform is longer, wider and lower and with the 17's on it's a good drive. The chassis is taught and the suspension stiffens up well when put under pressure. Normal driving sees it being comfortable and smooth. If you could take the traction control off, it could be a fun car to play around in a weekend gymkhana event. If you manage to keep the motor in the sweet spot of the revs, you'd surprise a few people with what a 900cc can do. Driver aids include intelligent FEB (Forward Emergency Braking), BSW (Blind Spot Warning), hill start-assist and start/stop technology too.
Overall the all-new Nissan Micra is a great little package. It looks really good, it's feature-packed and it's a fun drive. There are four trim options available to try an accommodate various budgets. Things start off with the Turbo Visia at R247 800, then there's the Turbo Acenta at R273 900, the Turbo Acenta Plus at R289 600 and then the range-topping Turbo Acenta Plus Tech at R305 900 (as for Sept 2019). I think crossing the R300k mark shouldn't happen even though it is a well-rounded car. It doesn't quite have the performance to justify it. There's some good competitors in this segment at that price, and if you're a regular here you'd know that I'd rather throw another R10k into the finance and get me summit with more performance in the same category. That's just my choice, if you are in the market for a car in this segment, hit up a dealership and give one a go, there's no reason it shouldn't tick all your boxes.
I do think some clever marketing is needed for the car, I think this is a good option for young enthusiasts who want to do the whole aftermarket car show thing, but if these guys only get exposure to the usual brands then this Micra won't be a consideration. I reckon if Nissan SA pulled a Suzuki SA stunt and tarted one up a bit and took it to shows, there'd be some good interest in the car. There's the usual suspension/wheel/stickers route that would have great results, but if they dug in the parts bin and retrofitted seats from an older GT-R (there must be a set around that was removed from a racecar or under warranty etc), changed hubs to accommodate GT-R 18-inch wheels, some carbon interior trim bits, a downpipe and exhaust it would be a proper talking point. You know, just a thought...