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Review: Nissan Micra CVT
Driven July 2013
To begin with, let me put forward a couple of simple questions. With the show of hands, who thinks the current Nissan Micra looks cute? Umm, a notable response. Next. Who thinks the current Nissan Micra looks overly cute? Wow! A lotta hands up in the air again. One last question. Who likes their car to be addressed as 'a cute looking car’? Oh, good response here too, although a lot of those proud hands belong to the fairer sex.
Now, what does this small exercise demonstrate? It shows that although the current generation Nissan Micra gets a decent score in styling, it comes across as ‘cute’. And while this has impressed the female buyers, it has unfortunately also been one of the main reasons why a lot of male buyers have shied away from the little Nissan.
So without wasting any more time, Nissan sprinted back to its drawing board and dished out a mid-life style change for the Micra. The car you see above is the new, facelifted version and it’s more than just a nip and tuck job. It brings along a considerable amount of exterior, interior and mechanical changes.
The moment you look at the new Micra, you realise how much sharper, refreshing and contemporary it looks. Those rounded frog-eyed headlamps have been swapped with an angular one which further sweeps back into the hood. The bonnet creases are new and more pronounced, and so is the bigger toothed front grille. The front bumper has been completely redesigned and the bigger lower air dam now looks more aggressive than before. The new fog lamp housings and beefier front fenders complete the front-end changes.
Nissan hasn’t changed anything on the side of the car, but at the rear, there is an altered tail lamp cluster with LED treatment, a new bumper, and the bootlid now gets an additional lower lip. The top-end variant also gets a new alloy wheel design.
There is a welcome change in the cabin where the circular themed dashboard now makes way for a more modern and exciting looking one. Majority of the changes are restricted to the centre console which gets a new glossy black finish and a touch of silver that helps break the boredom from the all-grey interiors of the earlier car. The centre AC vents are now rectangular and the in-dash music player is all new which also gets inputs for UBS and AUX-in. The rotary knobs for manual AC and the circular unit for the automatic climate control remain the same, but they have been packaged differently.
On the mechanical front, the two powerplants are carried forward from the earlier car – a 3-cylinder, 75bhp, 1.2-litre petrol and a 4-cylinder, 63bhp, 1.5-litre diesel motor. While the earlier car had 5-speed manual transmission for both the motors, Nissan is now offering the petrol variant with an option of a CVT ’box (continuously variable transmission) as well. Yes, the new Micra will be available with a CVT, but in the petrol XV variant only.
What that means is that the newly developed, fourth generation CVT ’box should complement the Micra’s easy-going nature. To check out how the CVT ’box changes the driving experience, we took it for a lengthy stint around the town. But we came back with mixed feelings.
The Micra was never a car that you would want to drive after witnessing an exciting, adrenaline pumping grand prix racing. It was more of a daily car that concentrated mainly on travelling from point A to point B without creating much drama. And the CVT sticks to this formula very well. Its performance can’t be termed as thrilling, nor can we call it a dud. The Micra CVT feels more suited for city driving rather than outright highway run.
Power is available from the lower RPMs but to really reap the benefits of a CVT, it needs to be driven in a particular manner. If you gun down the throttle pedal to the floor, the motor would immediately build up revs up to 5,800rpm but then the acceleration won’t feel as rapid. When driven hard, the motor feels strained and gets loud enough for the engine noise to make its way into the cabin. But try a casual drive drive around the town with a light foot and the Micra feels more rewarding. Keep the engine spinning at 2,000rpm and the Micra won’t disappoint you. It can move in and around the city doing anything between 40-100kph from as low as 2,000rpm and the motor won’t complain even once.
The driving experience only gets disappointing when you are out on the highway and in a mood for a spirited run. The CVT takes time to respond to a jab of the throttle pedal and this makes overtaking fast moving cars quite tricky. You actually need to plan your overtaking moves or the CVT will make you look foolish at times. And once you have lost momentum, it will take a couple of seconds before the CVT shifts down and starts building up the pace all over again.
Nissan claims they have bettered NVH levels on the Micra and we did feel the cabin a bit quieter than before, but only as long as the revs are kept low. It also claims the CVT variant is more fuel efficient than its manual counterpart. But one thing is for sure, anyone buying the CVT needs to be educated on how to use of the ’box to maximize its benefits. Or else you would end up frustrated with a motor that won’t feel silent while being stuck at 5,800rpm and wouldn't return a healthy fuel economy, as promised by the manufacturer.
The steering wheel is not disappointing though and it feels good while in the city and out on the highway. However, we would have loved more feedback at higher speeds. The suspension too isn’t that bad at slower speeds. It absorbs most of the road irregularities, but bigger and sharper thuds do make themselves felt in the cabin. Due to a softer suspension setup, the Micra does roll a bit at higher speeds. But that’s about it. The car felt planted for most part of our drive which consisted some rough patches, city traffic and open highway runs.
The space too isn’t much of a worry and there is ample of legroom for the front passengers as well as for those sitting behind. There are a good number of cubby holes all around the cabin and the boot space is decent too. The front row seats are quite supportive and comfortable, but the rear passengers may complain about lack of thigh support and this may be a problem on the longer runs.
So, the all-new Micra (as Nissan calls it), brings in a lot of styling changes, which will surely appeal to a larger audience. There aren’t any significant mechanical changes apart from a new CVT variant and improved NVH levels. Plus, the Micra has been technically sound with little needed to be changed. With the CVT, Nissan offers you an additional option, but the manual variants of the petrol and diesel motors still remain our choice.
3-cylinder, 1.2-litre petrol, 75bhp, 104Nm 5M; 4-cylinder, 1.5-litre diesel, 63bhp, 160Nm, 5M; 3-cylinder, 1.2-litre petrol, 76bhp, 104Nm CVT
In terms of looks, the new Micra gets a thumbs up from our side. In fact, this should have been the car launched in the first place - back in 2010. The CVT, however, didn’t really manage to win our votes, but it could be a decent city car if you need a hassle free drive. Wait a minute; it’s worth buying only if it’s priced closer to the manual variant.