The original Nissan Micra (also known as March in a few markets) was introduced in October 1982. Nissan Micra's second-generation (K11 platform) was launched in Japan in 1992, and released in Europe at the end of ‘92. The third generation of the Nissan Micra (the K12) was unveiled at the 2002 Paris Motor Show as the Nissan mm Concept. The Micra K12 was introduced to the Japanese market in late 2002 and reached European shores only in early 2003 and saw a facelift in 2007. What we’ve got in India is the fourth generation Nissan Micra which is built on Nissan's new V Platform and will be sold in more than 160 countries. In all, Nissan has sold 5.65million Micra’s in over 25 years! The new Micra production hubs will be Thailand, China, India (Chennai) and Mexico.
Nissan Micra - Design
The first thing that really strikes you about the Nissan Micra is just how much better it looks in the flesh. The Micra has quite a few interesting styling touches and one of these is the twin boomerangs on the roof and the slightly raised rear which you can’t really make out in most photographs. In truth, the Nissan Micra does have some interesting lines and looks a whole lot better in person than in pictures. There’s a reason for those twin boomerangs too – they not only strengthen the Micra's roof considerably but save on putting a deadener in the roof which just adds to weight. In fact, Nissan have worked really hard on dropping the weight of the Micra by optimizing parts.
Nissan Micra - Interiors
Step into the Nissan Micra and you’ll find a fairly airy environment - even on the lower spec cars with the black interiors. Like we’ve mentioned earlier, the Nissan Micra is available in four variants - XE, XE Plus, XL and XV. The Micra XV is the variant with all the bells and whistles and is available with a grayish-beige interior finish. The plastic quality is really quite good, and the fit and finish on the dashboard trim bits are fairly consistent.
Nissan has paid special attention to the Micra's materials by finishing them in a matt finish which they call MicroGrain. This really ensures that the plastic trim bits don’t have a shiny cheap look to them and is really all about visual and tactile appeal. We quite like the black finish of the lower Micra variants which will no doubt be easier to maintain and won’t show up mud spots and stains easily. The doorpads are a simple affair and we quite like the easy to grab door handles - which are finished in chrome on the XV variant.
The driver’s seat and the passenger seat of Micra are extremely comfortable places to be in. Seats are large and supportive and are well suited for even large frames. However, there is no seat height adjust on any of the Micra versions - even on the top end Micra XV where we’d expect one. While we don’t think this should be a problem, since the Micra has excellent visibility and a short snout, some really short drivers may just have an issue. The rear seat of Micra is comfortable too and the car is roomier inside than it looks at first sight. Even someone as tall as six feet will have a good four inches of headroom to spare when seated at the rear.
Nissan Micra - Engine, Transmission
The Nissan Micra is the first car to have a HR12DE engine, which has a cubic capacity of 1198cc. This three cylinder petrol engine churns out 75bhp at 6000rpm and produces a maximum torque of 104Nm at 4000rpm. Just for those of you who’d like to know, the bore is 78mm and the stroke is 83.6mm. Add one more cylinder and you have the HR16DE engine which is basically a 1.6-litre engine that Nissan will use on its other international models. Nissan engine designers have succeeded in keeping the NVH levels low, especially while idling – which is generally the issue with most of the three cylinder engines as the vibration levels are higher due to balance issues. These new engine blocks are now machined by a method called bore circularity which has helped reduce friction by 20% if compared to a conventional four-cylinder engine. This helps to increase the power output, fuel efficiency and even the life of the engine; which in short makes the engine rev freely while making it quicker and reliable too.
Nissan has got the gearing of the Micra spot-on for city as well as highway driving. The gear knob is just the right size and gearshifts as reported earlier are short, making quick shifts easier. The Micra in international markets comes with an autobox in the form of a CVT (continuously variable transmission) designed specifically for this petrol engine. Nissan, at present has no plans to get the CVT, but we believe it will be an excellent option for city drivers as it reduces driver fatigue and make the Nissan Micra even more of an urban car than it already is. We strongly believe that Nissan India should look at a CVT option and even though the numbers may not be very attractive, we think it would be a killer package.
Nissan Micra - Driving Dynamics
The Micra feels nimble and light to drive which is a real boon in urban traffic conditions. The combination of a light steering, short and positive gearshifts, light clutch action and a peppy engine make the Nissan Micra quite an ideal urban commuter. The ride of the hatch is well composed at low and high speeds, and the cabin is fairly well insulated from the outside noise. However, it doesn’t insulate you from the outside world as some other European hatchbacks do. Drive it around tight corners quickly, and your confidence does reduce a little if you’re used to larger Euro hatches. There’s no perceivable shortage of grip but it does have a little body roll and this is because the car suspension is tuned more towards ride comfort over outright handling. To our dismay, the steering doesn’t weigh up at higher speeds as much as we’d like and it feels a little artificial and this could also boil down to the fact that the Micra is a much lighter car. The brake pedal on the Micra has fairly good feel and they bite progressively. Our test car wasn’t a top of the line (we got the XL trim), so it lacked ABS, EBD and BA. However, in our braking test, the Micra came to a complete standstill from a speed of 80kph in just 34.8m in less than ideal test conditions and felt confident throughout the few hard braking runs we did . The 165/70 R14 MRF ZVTV tyres (a new tread pattern from MRF) on our test car ran fairly quiet and had good wet weather traction too.
Nissan Micra - Overall Evaluation
The Nissan Micra is a very competent and well engineered product. It has all the right ingredients to make it the next big thing in the hatch segment. To start with, it is Japanese it is spacious, comes loaded with technology & safety features and is a no-nonsense, easy to drive urban commuter. It is on par with its competitors when it comes to performance as well. Being Japanese, we expect it to be hassle-free to run and own and we expect the Micra to be low on maintenance costs. As regards the dealers for the car, Nissan India is already tying up with dealers across the country. The company has opened five new dealerships recently in Ludhiana, Gurgaon, Calicut, Jalandhar and Surat and plans to have more than 30 dealers by end of this fiscal year.