Rarely has a car changed so much from one generation to the next as the new Nissan Micra.
Once an ugly duckling so beloved of driving schools and people of a certain age, the fifth-generation is now the coolest new kid on the block.
Fresh and modern, the striking new supermini features Nissan’s signature V-motion grille, sharply sculpted lines, rear door handles hidden in the C-pillars, an extended roofline incorporating a spoiler, a “floating roof” and boomerang-shaped rear lights.
It’s also on trend when it comes to personalisation with a choice of 10 basic colours, including fabulous Energy Orange, which combined with the various other options means that there are more than 100 combinations available.
It’s much the same story inside where it’s been stylishly designed with a wide use of quality plastics, decent fabrics and more customisation options. There’s a definite feeling of space and light up front, while the instrument cluster is clear and features a mini colour digital info screen sandwiched between two big dials. Obviously it’s also fully connected with a built-in 7-inch infotainment touchscreen (Acenta grade upwards) dominating the centre console.
The seats are comfortable and there’s plenty of adjustment, as there is with the steering. It’s a little tighter in the back, but there’s just enough rooms for adults, though taller passengers will struggle for head and leg space.
There are plenty of places to store smaller items in the cabin too, while the boot capacity is a competitive 300 litres, expanding to 1,004 litres with the 60:40 split rear seats folded down.
The top-of-the-range Tekna also features an optional “first-of-its-kind” Bose personal sound system with special speakers built into the driver’s seat headrest for an “immersive listening experience”. Nice gimmick, though the difference isn’t quite as dramatic as one might think.
Initially available with two 89bhp engines – a 0.9-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol and 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel – an entry-level 72bhp three-cylinder 1.0-litre petrol (non turbo) will follow later in 2017.
I tested versions with the two engines available now in various trim levels. For the record, Nissan expects the 0.9-litre petrol in Acenta grade to be the most popular model.
The first thing you notice about driving the new Micra is that it’s impressively refined. Push it hard and the three-pot petrol thrums and it gets a little out of breath, but keep it smooth and it’s a good little unit. Definitely room there for a hot Nismo version at some stage in the future.
As you’d expect, the diesel has more torque and is much more relaxed at speed, so it’s probably the better choice if you spend most of your time cruising on motorways. On paper both are pretty economical.
The 0.9-litre petrol can reach 62mph from standstill in 12.1sec, a top speed of 109mph, and it’s capable of up to 58.9mpg, emitting a low 99g/km CO2.
The engines are paired to a five-speed manual gearbox, which isn’t the slickest and seems like it’s a gear short at times, such is the trend towards six-speeders these days.
The stand-out observation for the new Micra is that it handles really impressively with barely any body lean when tackling corners at higher speeds and good grip.
It uses Nissan’s Intelligent Trace Control system which kicks in when cornering, automatically engaging and adjusting the brakes on the inside of the vehicle, and the wheels on the outside. The ride is nicely settled too.
And full marks to Nissan too for equipping the new Micra with a shed-load of safety and driver assistance tech as standard. Every car comes with land departure warning, automatic emergency braking, traffic sign recognition and high beam assist.
Other electronic safety systems include Electronic Stability Program, anti-lock brakes, hill start assist, a speed limiter, automatic headlight sensor, automatic hazard lights and a tyre pressure monitoring system.
The options list is also impressive for a supermini, including the “class-exclusive” Intelligent AVM (Around-View Monitor) which gives you a virtual bird’s eye view of your car and its surroundings to make parking a doddle.
The Nissan Micra has to be good because it’s up against strong opposition including the existing and upcoming new Ford Fiesta, Kia Rio, Suzuki Baleno, Citroen C3, Volkswagen Polo and Skoda Fabia.
Verdict: Distinctively stylish, well built, safe, packed with goodies and entertaining to drive, the Nissan Micra is a serious contender.