Learning to drive

Nissan Micra

Nissan Micra hero Award Winner

Nissan Micra

Model tested Nissan Micra 1.5 dCi 90 Tekna
Price £19,340
Engine 1461cc
Power 89bhp@4000rpm
Transmission 5-speed manual
0-62mph 11.9 seconds
Top speed 111mph
Economy / CO2 80.7mpg/97g/km
Insurance group 8

The Nissan Micra was first seen as far back as 1982. Since then there have been five generations of Nissan’s supermini, some much better than others. The current fifth-generation model arrived in spring 2017 and it’s easily the best so far as it’s bigger, a lot safer, far more high-tech and infinitely better to drive than any previous Micra. Throw in a sharp, ultra-modern design and it’s easy to see why the Nissan Micra Mk5 was FirstCar’s 2018 Car of the Year – that’s how good it is.

And it’s the winner of FirstCar’s car of the year 2019

FirstCar car of the year

We like

  • Lots of safety kit
  • Smart design inside and out

We don’t like

  • Firm ride
  • Cramped rear seats

Cabin

Nissan Micra

Nissan doesn’t do boring design, so the Micra’s cabin feels very modern. Our test car wasn’t all that representative because Nissan had gone a bit mad; few people will spend £21,500 on their own Micra. But cheaper Micras still have plenty to offer, especially if you’re in the front seats as there’s plenty of room, lots of adjustment for the seats and steering wheel, plus it’s all very well made.

Despite this Micra being bigger than its predecessors, there isn’t as much head and leg room in the back seats as you might think. That’s due to the way the roof slopes sharply and things feel even more cramped because of the rising waistline, so the back windows are quite shallow. The back seats also feel more claustrophobic when the rear windows are heavily tinted, as those on our test car were.

Offered only as a five-door hatchback, the Micra is available in a range of bright, eye-catching colours with an exterior that looks bang up to date. And by spending some extra cash you can personalise the interior too, with two-tone colour schemes that introduce flashes of orange, blue or red.

Usability is boosted by lots of cubby holes so you’ve got plenty of places to put your stuff, but this is tempered with a boot that doesn’t seem all that spacious. However, with a capacity of 300 litres the Micra’s load bay is bigger than the Ford Fiesta’s and VW Polo’s, but it trails the 355-litre Seat Ibiza.

Safety

This is one of the highlights of the new Micra – the amount of safety kit that Nissan has shoehorned in is very impressive, and even entry-level cars aren’t short of life-saving tech. Even the cheapest Micra comes with auto emergency braking with pedestrian recognition, along with lane departure warning and hill start assist. Jump up several grades to Acenta and you’ll also get traffic sign recognition.

For £600 you can specify the Vision+ option pack which brings blind spot warning and an around-view camera, both of which are well worth having – not least of all because all-round visibility is quite compromised thanks to the thick pillars.

Driving

The cheapest Micras have a non-turbo 1.0-litre petrol engine (badged IG 71) which doesn’t feel very perky. You’re much better off going for the 0.9-litre petrol engine (IG-T 90) or the 1.5-litre diesel (1.5 dCi), both of which are turbocharged and feel much more lively as a result.

Most Micras come with a five-speed manual gearbox; only the sporty Micra DIG-T 117 gets a six-speed transmission, while there’s one automatic choice and that’s the turbocharged 0.9-litre petrol engine.

It’s pretty much all good news where the driving experience is concerned, with the Micra feeling very stable at motorway speeds, and it’s refined too. The extra display within the instrumentation on higher-spec models means there’s a lot of information to keep track of but you soon get used to it, and because this can be configured to display a digital speedo, it’s worth having.

The steering is light and so is the gear change, while the brakes are strong without being over-sensitive. Perhaps the biggest downside to the Micra’s driving experience is the firm ride; this isn’t the most comfortable supermini on really poorly surfaced roads.

Connectivity

Disappointingly, cheaper Micras come with a stereo system that features just two speakers, which is pretty rubbish for any new car. However, Bluetooth and a USB port along with an auxiliary socket are also standard on all Micras.

Buy a mid-range (Acenta) model or above, and you get four speakers along with a DAB radio and a NissanConnect multi-media system which incorporates Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The NissanConnect interface is a bit over-designed so you have to get used to it, but it’s pretty intuitive to use, and once you’ve got everything set up how you want it, the system sounds good.

We would avoid any Micra with the optional Bose hi-fi, unless you only ever travel with people in the front. Bizarrely, the Bose-spec car just has speakers in the front which means that anybody sitting in the back seats can’t hear anything.

Costs

The Micra is priced from around £13,000, and while these entry-level models are reasonably well equipped they’re a bit underpowered. The problem is that you need to find more like £15,000 to buy the cheapest turbocharged petrol model, the IG-T 90. Nissan’s trim level structure is quite confusing as it runs Visia, Visia+, Acenta, N-Connecta then Tekna. Whereas you can buy a Visia-spec IG 71, the cheapest IG-T 90 is the more highly equipped Visia+. Or if you prefer diesel, for around £15,500 you can buy a 1.5 dCi Visia.

All Micras have remote central locking, automatic headlights and wipers plus front electric windows, while the Visia+ adds air-con and stop/start. It’s not until you buy an Acenta that you get alloy wheels (16-inch items) along with cruise control and a multi-function steering wheel. You’ll get sat-nav, powered rear windows, climate control and power folding door mirrors if you buy a Micra N-Connecta, while the range-topping Tekna also comes with 17-inch alloys, rear parking camera and sensors plus BOSE hi-fi.

All Micra engines should be decently economical, with petrol-engined models capable of around 60mpg, while diesels should be capable of more like 70mpg. The cheapest Micras are in insurance groups 1-5, the IG-T 90 is rated as group 3-7, but if you buy a diesel you’ll have to contend with a rating of 7-9.

Buy a Micra that’s at Acenta level or higher and you can specify one of three personalisation packs to spruce up the outside of the car. These are Exterior Pack (door mirror caps, side mouldings, front and rear bumper finishers),  Exterior Pack Plus (Exterior plus 17-inch alloy wheels with coloured inserts) or Exterior Pack Ultimate (Exterior Pack Plus along with some decals). These packs really smarten up the appearance of the Micra, with prices starting at around £300, but the bigger wheels will damage the ride even further.

Which one?

The cheapest Micras are quite basic because while they have quite a lot of safety kit they don’t have air-con and the audio system isn’t very good. As a result you’re better off buying a mid-range (Acenta) model with any of the three engines available. Only buy the diesel if you’ll be doing lots of miles though. If you’re doing occasional long-distance journeys the IG-T 90 engine will make the drive much more relaxing, but if you’re likely to be doing mainly local trips the IG 71 engine will be fine. Overall we’d say that the Micra IG-T 90 Acenta is the one to go for, but if you can’t stretch to one of these buy a Micra 1.0 (IG 71) which ideally isn’t in entry-level trim.