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Nissan Micra SR160 Car Review | August 16, 2005

Driven August 2005

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More commonly seen with a Hertz or Motability sticker adorning its back window, the Nissan Micra ranks as a top contender for the most improbable performance car of all time.

Here you have a disarmingly upright, affordable and exceptionally easy car to drive - and one that would get you pelted with Big Macs and bottles of Bacardi Breezer if you dared to turn up to a cruise in.

Perched on this particular Micra's comically rounded rump is a label of a different kind reading 'SR160'.

SR stands for Street Racing (no kidding), while the 160 bit is more than a little confusing. In a Clio 182 you trust you're getting 182bhp; in a Fiesta ST150 there's a healthy 150bhp. But a Micra SR160? 109bhp is all you have to play with.

The 160 relates to the capacity of the 1.6-litre engine, following the convention set by the 350Z. So while it's not exactly quick, the SR160 does at least sound like it is.

The engine sucks and snarls under load in a true, old-school, hot-hatch stylee, revving hard when the drilled alloy accelerator pedal is stamped to the floor. The flick-switch gearchange gives plenty of extra encouragement, with the precise, evenly weighed steering acting as an accomplice.

Sometimes small cars don't have to be all that rapid to stretch a broad grin across your face, and so it is with the SR160.

The limits aren't even all that high. You can never quite escape the sensation you're in a car that sits tall on its suspension, rolling then twitching at the rear if you keep on the brakes for a little too long as you tip it into a corner. Overall balance is excellent, though, with grip receding progressively at each end.

At £9,995, the SR160 is also great value. The standard-kit list stretches to air-conditioning, an in-dash, six-disc CD changer and a stability control system. It only finds itself in 'insurance group 6' and is capable of returning better than 40mpg.

Nissan just hasn't bothered to do all that much to make it look different from a basic Micra; the one that your granny may have also placed on her wishlist, alongside Engelbert Humperdinck. A deeper front spoiler and graphite-finish alloys are about as far as it goes.

But what a hoot this car is to drive. You could even grow to love it - just as long as you can learn to live with looking like a garden gnome who's in one big helluva hurry.

Peter Grunert

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