Nissan’s nipped and tucked Micra hits its rivals where it hurts - the bottom line.
WHAT IS IT?
The long-awaited facelift of Nissan’s Micra city car, which boasts more equipment, sharper styling and a streamlined range. There’s also an unchanged $13,490 starting price, which makes it one of Australia’s cheapest new cars.
WHY WE'RE TESTING IT
We like the Micra here at Wheels. The old car fared well in COTY testing way back in 2010, but has subsequently faded against fresher, sharper rivals . Hopefully this facelift brings a welcome return to form.
THE WHEELS VERDICT
Cheap, cheerful and now bristling with more equipment, the updated Micra remains an attractive budget city car. Pity the package is let down by dated dynamics and a $16,000 Ti flagship that’s out of its depth against the more polished Mazda 2 and Volkswagen Polo.
PLUS: Fresh styling; boosted equipment; sharper pricing
MINUS: dated dynamics and performance; compromised rear seating
THE WHEELS REVIEW
IT’S TAKEN almost two years to arrive, but Nissan’s updated Micra has finally hit Aussie roads. Excess stock of the current, ageing Micra meant Nissan Oz repeatedly delayed the arrival of this new Indian-made model, which heralds a welcome equipment boost, a streamlined range and refreshed styling.
Two variants are now offered, base ST and top-spec Ti, with Nissan axing the old mid-grade ST-L. Both variants retain the old model’s 56kW/104Nm 1.2-litre turbo triple, and offer the choice of a five-speed manual (ST only) or four-speed automatic.
The manual ST’s $13,490 starting price remains unchanged too, meaning the Micra remains one of Australia’s cheapest new cars, while Nissan has lopped some $2000 from the flagship Ti, which now starts at $16,990. The styling updates are subtle, despite Nissan’s claim that more than 50 per cent of the body is updated, and include a sharper looking bonnet and grille, a revised front bumper and restyled tail lights.
It’s inside, though, where the biggest gains have been made. Improved interior plastics and a redesigned centre console lift the cabin’s ambience, as does the addition of rear power windows, an upgraded multimedia system and cruise control as standard. The rear seats are still pinched for knee room – Nissan can only do so much with a 2450mm wheelbase – and the squabs are fairly unyielding too.
Top-spec Ti models add a 5.8-inch touch screen with sat-nav, reverse camera, auto headlights and bigger 15-inch alloy wheels. None of the oily bits underneath have changed, meaning the Micra’s handling and performance, which was among the best in class five years ago, is now beginning to edge off the pace.
The existing 1.2-litre triple is lethargic off the line and sounds coarse and unrefined high in the rev range, the steering is vague and slow and the antiquated four-speed auto feels a ratio short-changed at freeway speeds.
Despite these flaws, there’s still plenty to like. The engine, while sluggish down low, makes good above 4000rpm, visibility is excellent and the handling, while not as sharp as it once was (especially compared to the new Suzuki Celerio), is still a cut above rivals like Mitsubishi Mirage and Holden’s Barina Spark.
The result is the updated Micra continues to sit on the right side of the subtle divide between cheap and cheerful and cheap and nasty. A new look and improved equipment boosts the appeal of the base ST, which retains its bargain basement $13,490 sticker. Where the Micra range makes less sense is with the flagship Ti, which despite more equipment and a thriftier $16,990 asking price, teases at the edge of the Micra’s brand equity, unable to match the refinement, equipment or appeal of rivals like the new Mazda 2 and VW Polo.
Model: Nissan Micra Ti
Engine: 1198cc, 3cyl, dohc, turbo
Max power: 56kW @ 6000rpm
Max torque: 104Nm @ 4000rpm
Transmission: 4-speed automatic
On sale: now