Nissan Micra hatchback
Price: £10,050 - £15,200
- Spacious for rear seat passengers
- Cheap to run
- Clean engines
- Poor quality interior
- Not fun to drive
- Basic models lack key equipment
"The Nissan Micra isn't particularly exciting or stylish, but it's easy to drive, surprisingly spacious and cheap."
You won’t find many cars more common on UK roads than the Nissan Micra. The Micra has been around for nearly 30 years and has been almost as popular as rivals such as the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo. The fourth-generation of Micra was made to be a global seller, so its formerly quirky dimensions were toned down to ensure a broad appeal. It also only comes as a five-door hatchback, with a 2010 update removing what was left of its idiosyncratic charm.
The interior quality also suffered, with a noticeable drop in overall build quality. You do get a roomy interior for a car of such compact dimensions that can just about fit five adults comfortably, plus a reasonable-sized boot.
Sadly, it's not much fun to drive and is nowhere near as good as the Ford Fiesta. Also, the base-model Visia specification misses out some pretty essential, basic equipment that you’d expect to be included as standard on most superminis nowadays.
MPG, running costs & CO2
Cheap to run, but supercharged engine is even better
Like any competent supermini, the Micra is cheap to run. There isn’t a super-efficient diesel engine on offer, but the petrol engines are all on the cheaper end of the scale and deliver decent performance, too. The standard three-cylinder 1.2-litre petrol engine returns 56.5mpg in combined fuel economy and emits 115g/km of CO2, while the supercharged 1.2-litre DIG-S delivers improved performance and fuel economy, returning 68.9mpg and emitting 95g/km of CO2 – which makes it exempt from road tax. Both models fall into a low insurance group, and servicing costs should be affordable thanks to the large number of parts and components available in the UK. If you also consider its strong reliability record and comprehensive warranty, the Micra is a dependable and durable supermini that won’t cost you much to keep on the road.
Interior & comfort
Interior is drab but ride is comfortable
The suspension on the Micra performs just about adequately, absorbing most of the bigger bumps or potholes you may encounter in the UK. However, rough roads in general are not a comfortable experience because of the amount of rattling in the cabin, which might be more tolerable if the interior wasn’t so drab. All the materials used inside the Micra look and feel far too brittle, with all lids, switches and door handles feeling very cheap indeed. The top-of-the-range Tekna models do get a panoramic glass roof, which improves the overall feel of the interior slightly, but it's not enough to overcome the feeling of cheapness inside the car.
Practicality & boot space
Spacious for passengers, but boot could be bigger
There's a surprising amount of space inside the Micra for a supermini, thanks mainly to its wheels being positioned at the very corners of the body, freeing up more space than in most of its main rivals. Taller adults will fit in the back but with some discomfort, and the 265 litres of boot space is average for this class. Fold down the back seats and the boot expands to a more healthy 1,132 litres, but the entry-level Visia models don’t get split-fold seats as standard and have to make do with the standard boot, which is still larger than you get in a Hyundai i20 or Mazda2. The glove compartment is a good size, divided into two sections, and there are storage cubbies dotted around the cabin.
Frustratingly, the top-of-the-range Tekna models equipped with the Nissan Connect sat-nav system don't come with a 12v power socket, so you can't charge any other technological accessories in the car.
Reliability & safety
Nissan’s reputation for reliability is strong
Even though the current Micra is a shadow of the car of old, it still managed to rank 24th in the list of the top 100 cars in the 2013 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, scoring particularly highly for running costs, technology and reliability. However, Nissan's new global strategy appears to have affected its overall quality as a company, with it dropping a hefty eight spots down the manufacturers rankings to drop out of the top 10 and finish 12th out of 32. The only category where it performed reasonably well was reliability, so you can expect the Micra's parts and components to be fairly reliable.
It didn’t perform particularly well in crash testing either , only securing a four-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests, which is surprising when you consider that it's now commonplace for new cars to achieve a full five-star rating. A four-star rating is troubling when so many of the car's rivals have five, but at least the Micra scored 84 per cent for adult safety, thanks to lots of smart safety technology and plenty of accessories, including six airbags, anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control (ESP) and ISOFIX child seat anchor points, all as standard.
Engines, drive & performance
Good in town but not particularly fun to drive
Not much good news here – to get any real performance out of the Micra's engines you’ll have to work them pretty hard, which in turn makes the car very noisy. The more powerful supercharged engine is only a little bit better but it does at least have some extra power that comes in handy when driving the Micra on the open road.
Sadly, the manual gearbox is clunky and the automatic is extremely slow at changing gear, making the engine loud when driving at motorway speeds. Thankfully the steering is light and reactive, and the Micra offers decent visibility.
Despite its many failings, the Micra remains a solid city runabout - it's not exciting and suffers from a lot of body roll through the corners, but it is comfortable and easy enough to manoeuvre. Driving through busy traffic is also very straightforward thanks to its small turning circle, while parking is a doddle because of its tiny dimensions.
It's currently available with two 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol engines – neither of which offers much acceleration or excitement, but both are suited to urban driving. The entry-level 79bhp engine is sufficient around town but the newer 97bhp DIG-S supercharged engine offers better efficiency and performance, and is the engine we’d recommend out of the two, combined with the manual gearbox.
Price, value for money & options
Basic models feel very cheap
You often get what you pay for and the Micra is no exception – it's cheap but it feels like it. The 2010 update definitely made it worse, introducing hard plastics and a dour grey interior colour scheme.
The entry-level Visia models don't get much equipment at all, though all cars do at least come with Bluetooth connectivity and a CD radio. Mid-range Acenta models add cruise control, alloy wheels and climate control, while top-of-the-range Tekna models throw in parking sensors, automatic headlights and windscreen wipers, and an integrated sat-nav as standard. No sporty model is available but you can buy a limited edition ELLE car based on the Acenta, which comes with a panoramic roof, 15-inch alloy wheels and some chrome trim.
Resale values in the used car market are relatively strong thanks to the Micra's celebrated reliability, and there are plenty of deals to be had on both new and second-hand cars, so, as ever, try not to pay list price.
What the others say
"The most basic Visia models are just that – basic. Granted, you get Bluetooth phone connection, but you don't get alloys, air-conditioning or driver's seat-height adjustment."
"The new Nissan Micra is dull to look at and dull to drive, but it is relatively green and relatively cheap - especially if you go for the entry-level version."
"Yet it feels like a step in the wrong direction. Where the previous model was quirky and cute, the newcomer struggles to make an impression. The tall body does mean the interior is roomier, but it doesn’t give the Micra much kerbside appeal – a key route to sales success in this highly competitive sector of the market."
Last updated: 6 Jan 2014