Car Test   R0312
February 2003
  Nissan Micra
Printer Friendly Page Featured model: 1.2SX 3door
Bigger superminis, like the latest Fiesta, Polo/ Fabia and Rover 25 (the car that started the trend) are all very well, but they weigh more. The Japanese have proved less willing to up-size the Yans, Jazz and most recently, this Nissan Micra have all concentrated on maximizing interior adaptability within more compact kerb length.
   The Micra is, in fact, a shade shorter than its predecessor, but it's taller, like so many nowadays. It retains a dome-shape roofline that works wonders for a tall driver, but it's not so good behind. Sitting in the back is poorer in other ways, too: the seat feels lumpy and unsupportive, there’s not much foot warmth and when the seat is slid fully forwards, legroom disappears entirely behind even average- sized front occupants.
   In fairness, setting the back seat midway delivers a good compromise deal, with 94/64cm of typical legroom/ kneeroom (enough for youngsters) and a generous 365litres (13cu ft) behind. The three-door has rear side-storage boxes that will take a two-pint milk carton, and there’s also a sizeable facia box and an under-seat bin, up front. So, its adaptability makes the Micra more accommodating than its size might suggest.
   It has a good driving position with precise major controls, and this 1.2 version gives sprightly overtaking ability if you let it rev. It also drives into bends with aplomb and the steering transforms itself from very light when parking, to well-measured resistance when pressing on. It doesn’t smooth out the rough bits like a Polo/ Fabia, but it steers and rides better than a Jazz.
   Presumably, you’re reading this report because you quite like the Micra’s looks. This new model is trying to establish a following with a chummy personality of its own. Indeed, it can be quite chatty, with a whole series of visual and audible reminders that makes you feel it’s trying to be your pal. You may find all those bleeps and display messages endearing, or you may feel you want to wring it neck!
   Yes, at times it can take too much upon itself - the brakes tend to be over-servoed, the SX heater’s automatic temperature control is very iffy and the automatic rain sensor can’t get the hang of very fine rain.
   There are some useful driver aids, though: a pulse wipe that responds with a double sweep, a wash of the screen glass before the wiper kicks in and “see-me-home” head lamps (after locking up) are all appreciated. There’s a multi function display, the speedo has two trip-mileage recorders, there’s an ideal left-foot space beside the clutch and, in terms of equipment-for-the-price, the Micra undercuts most alternatives except the Hyundai Getz; the SE is particularly impressive in this respect.
   Some of the trim details are disappointing, however. The facia is hard plastic, the rear load cover looks and fits crudely and one of the car’s window weather-strips come adrift. The car is very vulnerable to parking scuffs, and the spare wheel is of the temporary “space-saver” type. The dials are clear, but the tacho was 200rpm adrift and we couldn’t see the figures behind the air-con’s information “porthole” because of reflections.
  considering size, price and rivals
Overtaking Ability
Fuel Economy
  • concealed storage under front passenger's cushion
  • double-sweep in response to pulse-wipe
  • considerable front headroom
  • generous range of driver aids
  • rear wiper misses the top of the glass
  • no front seatbelt height adjusters
  • centre vents flop out of adjustment
  • no scuff protection strips on doors or bumpers
The Micra feels in its element as a shorter-journey runabout; it’s nippy, reasonably frugal and compact. Ride comfort, noise control and rear seating are less than the best on longer trips, however, when there’s a certain subdued frenzy that can be tiresome. Automatic devotees should also note that to get the same sort of (continuously variable) transmission as the old Micra, they should now consider a Honda Jazz

engine 1240cc, 4-cylinder, petrol; 80bhp at 5200rpm, 81 lb ft at 3600rpm; chain-driven double overhead camshafts, 16 valves   transmission 5-speed manual, front-wheel drive; 20.2mph/1000rpm in 5th, 16.1 in 4th
suspension front: independent damper/struts with integral coil springs
rear: torsion beam (dead) axle, trailing arms, coil springs
  steering electric power assistance; 3.2 turns lock-to-lock; 9.5m diameter turning circle between kerbs (14.6m for one turn of the wheel)
brakes ventilated discs front, drums rear, with brake assist/ABS standard (on all versions)   wheels/tyres 5.5in alloy with 175/60R15H tyres (steel on SE); temporary-use spare

body mid-priced, 3- and 5-door supermini   trim levels E, S, SE, SX, SVE
engines petrol: 4cylinder/1.0 litre/65bhp, 4/1.24/80, 4/1.4/88
diesel: 4/1.45/65
  drive 5-speed manual; front-wheel drive (4-speed stepped automatic with torque converter optional on petrol 1.2 and 1.4)

HOW THE MICRA 1.2 COMPARES engine (cyl/cc/bhp) revs at 70mph (rpm) 30-70 through gears (sec) 30-70mph in 4th/5th gears (sec) fuel (mpg/CO2) brakes from 50mph (kg/m) maximum legroom - front (cm) typical leg/kneeroom - rear (cm) steering turns/circle (m) overall length (cm)
Nissan Micra 1.2 4/1240/80 3470 12.9 20.3/29.2 43.5/143 11/28 104 102/73# 3.2/9.5 372
Ford Fiesta 1.4 4/1388/80 3290 14.1 21.3/32.7 38.5/158 18/26.5 108 98/71 2.8/10.2 392
Honda Jazz 1.4 4/1329/82 3400 12.7 20.3/27.1 45.5/134 14/27 107 95/74 3.6/10.1 383
Toyota Yaris 1.3 4/1299/85 3400 12.0 21.6/29.7 44/144 18/24.5 105 102/70 3.2/10.2 360
Hyundai Getz 1.3 4/1341/81 3180 13.8 23.5/34.1 39/150 10/27 104 94/72 3.0/10.3 381
previous Micra 1.4 (auto) 4/1348/82 2640 12.1 auto/ 41/155 18/25.5 100 92/67 2.8/10.6 375
  # rear seat folded

Good pedal layout and precise gear change. Reasonable driving seat support with cushion (only) height adjustment, plus wheel rake resetting, too. “Intelligent key”, plus several audible warnings overwhelm technophobes. Sensible wash/wipe arrangements
Very different in character from the old Micra - much more agile, with impressive electrically assisted steering that performs better than most. It’s so responsive that you over-steer at first. Shorter length and excellent turning circle help parking.
Sharper handling results in an abrupt, noisier ride over indifferent secondary roads, but underlying body control/ damping is good. SX climate control disappoints an “auto”, but gives even, stratified flow on “manual”. Raucous past 55mph but sweet, flexible at lower speeds - a good town car.

Being more compact gives this 80bhp Micra the accelerative edge over some bigger rivals - see table. Unlikely to do as well with latest auto gearbox, however - unlike previous CVT version.
  acceleration in seconds through gears* 4th gear 5th gear
  20-40mph 3.8 9.9 14.5
  30-50mph 4.8 9.6 13.8
  40-60mph 6.0 9.7 14.2
  50-70mph 8.1 10.7 15.4
  30-70mph 12.9 20.3 29.2
  max speed in each gear (* using 5500rpm for best acceleration)
     gear      1st*      2nd*      3rd*      4th*      5th
     speed (mph)      25      45      66      89      105 (5200rpm)

On the better side of class average, although previous Micra owners won’t notice any improvement on manual; auto will be worse. Car’s trip computer agreed with Nissan’s “official” mpg figures - pity they’re both 10-12 per-cent optimistic!
  type of use (air conditioning off) AA test (mpg) 
    urban (17mph average/heavy traffic) 30
    suburban (27mph average/6.4 miles from cold start) 38
    motorway (70mph cruising) 38
    cross-country (brisk driving/20 miles from cold start) 45.5
    rural (gentle driving/20 miles from cold start) 54
    overall mpg 43.5
    realistic tank capacity/range 40/380
    official mpg (urban/extra urban/combined) 38.2/55.4/47.9
    CO2 emissions 143g/km
    car tax band B

Yet to be NCAP tested, Micra has an impressive tally of injury-prevention features as standard, plus brake-assist/ABS. However, results are indifferent with too sharp a response in normal check- braking. Rear head restraints flush with backrest.
  from 50mph (with brake assist/ABS)
This model has not yet been
tested by EURO NCAP
pedal load     stopping distance
unhurried 10kg     30.5m
sudden 11kg     28m best stop
+ 4kg 15kg     28.5m
fade resistance/consistency    
Euro NCAP = European New Car Assessment Programme: independent crash safety tests evaluating protection for occupants and pedestrians in an offset frontal collision, side impacts and pedestrian strike conditions
click here for more NCAP details/test results etc.

Useful features include sliding back seat, but its cushion is fixed, so extended load area not flat. Plenty of oddments slots, but door receptacles very narrow. There’s good load space behind the back seat, set half way, but no leg-room when it’s fully forward.
  in centimetres (3-door hatchback)
  length 372
  width - including mirrors 192
    - mirrors folded 166
  height 154
  load sill height (inside/outside) 20/65
  turns lock-to-lock 3.2
  turning circle (metres) 9.5
  easy to park/garage?
  front - legroom 84-104
    - headroom 100-105§
  rear - typical legroom Nil-102~
    - typical kneeroom 50-73~
    - headroom 88§
    - hiproom 123
  load area(all seats in use)
  load space
(litres/cu ft)
  load length 44to66~-127#
  load length to facia No
  load width 101-122
  load height (to shelf/top of aperture) 63/95
§ no sunroof  ~ rear seat fully forwards/rearwards  # rear seat folded

Keyless locking isn’t without it’s complication, but useful in a crowded handbag. The small door - release buttons must be pressed (with handset in close proximity) to lock/ unlock. E version has remote handset control (no hardship) with electric tailgate release.
central locking  
remote control  
remote window closing  
alarm (perimeter + interior)  
self-locking (static + drive off)   
two-stage unlocking   
attack-resistant glass   
keyless locks   
AA load area security rating
=standard    =option    =not available
NCSR - "theft of" not available
NCSR - "theft from" not available
NCSR = New Car Security Ratings: a 1 to 5 star system which rates anti-theft protection, both of the car itself and the theft of valuables from within the car
Visit for more details
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