Nissan Micra hatchback

£7,995 - £15,115

The Nissan Micra is a familiar model name, having been around for at least 30 years. The five-door supermini is a byword for reliability, reasonable running costs and easy driving manners, but the current model is also just a little bit dull and uninspiring. A Volkswagen Polo feels classier, a Ford Fiesta is better to drive and a Toyota Yaris looks sharper. Meanwhile, old rivals have raised their game – the Hyundai i20 and Kia Rio are both compelling alternatives to the rather joyless Micra.

While most manufacturers field a diesel engine in this class, the Micra is available only with a 1.2-litre petrol, albeit with a choice of power outputs. The more powerful 97bhp version gets our vote for its broader abilities – it's good on the open road as well as in the city. With our preferred five-speed manual transmission, it's almost as economical as a diesel and free to tax. If you can, avoid the CVT automatic, as it's noisier and less efficient.

Underway, the Micra is an undemanding little car with excellent visibility, light controls and a tight turning circle. However, away from the city and at higher speeds its handling is only average and its suspension is easily upset by broken roads. It's noisy, too. Rivals such as the Ford Fiesta are far more capable and fun to drive.

The upside to the Micra's rather dumpy looks is that there's lot of cabin space. Front and rear-seat passengers will be surprised by the amount of leg and headroom on offer. The boot is only average though, while handy split-folding rear seats are reserved for higher-spec models.

There are four trim levels. Basic Visia is just that, so you’d be better off looking at mid-spec Acenta, which adds electric door mirrors, driver's seat height adjustment, climate control, cruise control, alloy wheels and a roof spoiler to the Visia's front electric windows, Bluetooth and USB port.

N-TEC pushes the boat out with satellite navigation, rear parking sensors with a 'Parking Slot Measurement' system, climate control and automatic headlights and windscreen wipers. Tekna equips suede trim and keyless start.

From a safety perspective, the Micra earned only four out of a possible five stars when it was crash-tested by Euro NCAP. However, it makes up for that with decent safety equipment, including electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes, six airbags and ISOFIX child-seat anchor points.