Nissan Micra

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Nissan Micra

Road Test

Nissan Micra DIG-S VISIA driven

Driven September 2011

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The new Micra has been widely ignored by the likes of us. But are you surprised? It looks older than, well, the old one. Climb in, and you're faced with dashboard furniture of the sort of cheapo hard plastic last seen in the Citroen Saxo. Before you so much as start the engine, you're flogging a horse that, if not actually dead, is close to terminally infirm.

But, intriguingly, they've now added a slinky supercharged engine. It has three cylinders, some sophisticated anti-friction measures, direct injection and the ability to run in the Miller combustion cycle, all of which make it properly economical at a dawdle. When you floor it, the valves go to conventional Otto timing and the supercharger kicks in.

Result is 95g/km emissions and 69mpg economy, but a worthwhile 98bhp in a light car. That means diesel-like economy at a cheaper price, and the sweet-revving nature of a petrol. Similar promise to the Fiat TwinAir, you'll have spotted.

This is an economy supermini, but it's not a total slug, and the supercharged mode kicks smoothly into action with no lag, burbling happily away in that thrummy vibe of a Smart or (with a big stretch of the imagination) half a 911. The chassis is chirpy enough too, happy to be chucked through urban chicanery, but reasonably placid over bumps.

Hmmm, time for a sandwich. Nice bit of cold roast beef, some tangy horseradish sauce, couple of slices of tomato straight out of the greenhouse. Ah, but... it's wrapped in a couple of slices of week-old bread, corners turning up, mould taking hold. Still, you can always eat the filling and chuck away the bread. At least you'd be halfway to a lunch. With the Micra DIG-S,the high-tech engine and perky dynamics are all very well, but you can't have them without the mouldy-bread bodywork.

We'll pass. There are other interesting little engines out there, and they come in more alluring little cars: the TwinAir in the Fiat 500 (and soon the Chrysler Ypsilon), or the Twingo 100 TCE.

Not that Nissan cares what I think. The Micra's British mission is to be abused by driving-school learners or bimbled to the village hall by OAPs. The new one will carry on that tradition. The reason it looks so bulbous and feels so cheap is that it's built in India for people who don't have the income to be as snooty as we are; they need the Micra to enclose the maximum possible space for the minimum possible price.

Paul Horrell

We like: Engine, handling
We don't like: Gruesome aesthetics
The  verdict: Too ugly. We'll wait until Nissan has an interesting enough car for this engine.
Performance: 0-62mph in 11.3secs, max 112mph, 68.9mpg
Tech: 1198cc, 3cyl, FWD, 98bhp, 105lb ft, 979kg, 95g/km CO2
Tick this on the options list: n/a
And avoid this: n/a

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