My second ever car was a Nissan Micra. It was a Cobalt Blue 1.3 manual with five doors. I bought it brand new back in 1995 and did about a hundred thousand kilometres in it. It was great, nothing much went wrong with it in three years and I loved it. My mates called it the blue baked bean.
When a Micra became available to test as part of our mission to test everything available for under $20k, I was intrigued to see what twenty years and two major model revisions had done to the little car I remembered.
The Nissan New Zealand website lists just one spec level for the Micra, priced at $19,850. For this you get a five door car with a 56kW 1.2 litre 3-cylinder engine mated to a 4-speed automatic transmission. Standard equipment is good. Externally you get 15” alloys, body coloured mirrors and handles, front fog lights, and a reversing camera. Inside there is a touch screen radio with built in satnav, CD player, USB input, Bluetooth and even an eco meter display. There’s a charger socket for your phone next-to a small cubby in the dash. Cruise control and auto lights are also included. The four speaker stereo sounds pretty decent as long as you don’t crank it up too loud.
The first thing I noticed, and everyone else commented on after getting into the Micra, was that it feels high off the ground. My five year-old had to look for something to use to pull herself up to get into the back. For adults it’s much easier, you can pretty much step in and out. All round visibility is excellent because of this height.
The seats are comfortable and have a bit of a side bolster for support, not that you’ll be cornering like a race car in the Micra. The Micra has a traditional key to start, and a manual, rather than electric, handbrake. Nissan’s website says it has keyless start so this may have been updated since our test car was built.
I didn’t expect the Micra to feel fast, but I have to admit I was a little bit disappointed when I first pulled out of a junction. It has a bit of a squishy feel to the throttle at first. Put your foot down further and a bit more performance appears, accompanied by quite a lot of noise and the feeling that you’re starting to abuse the engine. Keep your foot flat – on a motorway on-ramp for example – and the car will get to 6000rpm where it makes peak power, then immediately shift gears.
This car doesn’t have that nippy city-car feel that I wanted it to. Maybe a manual version would be more fun, but there’s obviously no market for that in New Zealand as Nissan don’t offer one.
The power assisted steering is light, and the car is easy to maneuver at all speeds. Suspension is pretty good, but I couldn’t help comparing it to the Suzuki Celerio I tested recently. The Micra has less body roll, but isn’t as comfortable over the bumps.
What’s it like to live with?
The Micra is easy to jump in and out of (unless you’re five), the controls are light and easy to use. The interior feels spacious for a small car, and comfortable. It’s a good car to cruise around town in, doing a bit of shopping or running errands. The satnav works well with a clear and easy to follow map and excellent directions along the lines of “In 200 metres, at the roundabout take the second exit onto high street”. It would be difficult to go wrong!
The dashboard layout is clean, with twisty knobs for the heating and cooling controls and good sized buttons for the rest. There are steering wheel controls for the cruise control and stereo. The cruise control worked pretty well but seemed quite slow to kick down a gear when going up hills, losing speed then picking up again. For a car in this segment the interior plastics are good, and the same texture is repeated on all of the surfaces – take note, Toyota! Everything is light and easy to use.
Externally the car looks pretty good in my opinion. It’s a bit unusual from some angles but it’s recognisably a Micra rather than a bland looking box. I can see echoes of the shape of the old one I had, and it still has a small car cute-ish look.. There are some interesting quirks, such as the bolted-on spoiler-like piece at the bottom of the tailgate to tie it in with the rear bumper. The panel gaps are pretty huge for a modern car. And the reversing camera looks like an afterthought.
After a couple of days with the Micra I realised I had started driving in a rather sedate manner, accelerating slowly and cruising along at 45 in a 50 limit. The speedo was a bit optimistic too according to roadside signs so I was probably doing more like 40. It’s that sort of car – perfectly competent but not much fun. It’ll get you where want to go with no drama, but is unlikely to put a smile on your face. Equipment levels and safety have improved a lot in the twenty years since I had my Micra, but they seemed to have removed any element of fun at the same time.
What it’s up against
The good and the bad.
What do we think?
The Micra is a good little city car with a few extra features you wouldn’t necessarily expect to find at this price point. To be a great car in the city I’d like it to feel a bit more peppy on acceleration but it is certainly a good value car. Saying that, out of the under $20k cars we’ve tested so far it wouldn’t be my first choice.
Autoclique would like to thank Gazley in Wellington for supplying us with the review car.
We would not have been able to complete the $20K Challenge without Gazley’s kind assistance.
Rating – Chevron rating 3.5 out of 5
|Vehicle Type||Small City Car|
|Starting Price||$19,850 NZD|
|Tested Price||$19,850 NZD|
|Transmission||4 speed Automatic|
|0 – 100 kph||13.7 seconds|
|Kerb Weight||960 kg|
|Length x Width x Height||3825 x 1655 x 1520 mm|
|Cargo Capacity||265 Litres|
|Fuel Tank||41 litres|
|ANCAP Safety Ratings||4 stars|