Nissan Micra hatchback

£7,995 - £15,115

The Nissan Micra model name has been around for three decades now, and the car has built a strong reputation over the years for durability, low running costs and a user-friendly driving experience. The Micra doesn’t have the fun driving characteristics of the Ford Fiesta or the classy interior of the Volkswagen Polo, but its light controls make it extremely easy to drive. Anyone considering a Micra should also look at the Kia Rio, Hyundai i20 and Toyota Yaris.

Unlike its rivals, Nissan does not offer the Micra with a diesel engine, but buyers can choose a hi-tech 1.2-litre petrol. This engine uses a supercharger to provide a good balance of performance and economy, but even the basic 1.2-litre petrol is cheap to run. If you do a mixture of town and motorway driving, we’d recommend the supercharged 1.2-litre petrol, but fitted with the five-speed manual gearbox rather than the noisy CVT automatic transmission.

A facelift in 2013 gave the Micra same ‘corporate look’ as the Nissan Note and Nissan Qashqai, with all-new front wings, a new bonnet, new headlights and a new rear bumper. At the same time, the available models were trimmed back to include just Visia, Acenta and Tekna.

All cars come with Bluetooth phone connection, a USB port and electric windows, while the Acenta adds climate and cruise control, and automatic operation of the lights and wipers. Go for the flagship Tekna model and you benefit from big-car features such as keyless entry and Nissan's Connect sat-nav set-up.

Yet while the Micra is reasonably well equipped, it falls behind class standards for quality. There's not a lot wrong with the way it's screwed together – it's simply that the car lacks the soft-touch materials and attention to detail that marks out cars such as the VW Polo.

Under the skin, the Micra uses just one engine – a 1.2-litre three-cylinder that produces either 79bhp or 99bhp with a supercharger. Surprisingly, it's the latter that promises the best fuel economy and lowest CO2 emissions. A five-speed gearbox is fitted as standard, while a CVT automatic is available as an option.

All versions of the Micra benefit from light controls, excellent visibility and a tight turning circle, meaning they’re a doddle to drive around town. However, head out on to the open road and you’ll discover the Nissan is hobbled by lifeless handling, a crashy ride and refinement that's no match for the class leaders.