Select Your City

for best experience

CarWale Team, 27-Jun-2010. Car Tested: , Version:
Views

Introduction

Nissan India Ltd. will launch the new Nissan Micra for the Indian masses on the 14th of July. They already have Ranbir Kapoor as their brand ambassador and there are already several teasers on television with the Micra. The Nissan Micra is an important car for Nissan in India and the company has a lot resting on the success of the Micra. Nissan India have gone to great lengths by doing a lot of marketing activity in shopping malls and key consumer touchpoints to promote not just the upcoming Micra, but to also spread awareness and visibility of the Nissan brand. They have also managed to cross over a thousand bookings for the Nissan Micra last week and since Nissan India started production of the Micra in May earlier this year at their swanky facility in Chennai, they should be able to cope with the initial demand spike and deliver the cars quickly.

Just to walk down memory lane for a moment, Nissan continues to have some really great cars over the last few decades. Some of their bests have been the Nissan (earlier known as Datsun) Z cars from the early 70’s. The Datsun (Fairlady) 280Z put Nissan on the world map when it came to making an exciting, affordable and reliable sports car and went a long way in establishing the fact that Japanese cars of yesteryear were as good, or better than home-bred North American or European products. Nissan, then went on to make extremely reliable and practical cars such as the Micra, Sunny and the Bluebird over the years, not forgetting the invincible off-roader,  Nissan Patrol. They have enjoyed great success in the North American market with the Maxima and now the Altima and have won accolades in most markets. And what’s Nissan without the mention of the Godzilla of sports cars – the Skyline GTR and their Z cars! It’s probably one car that can make teenagers and adults go weak in their knees – more so in full NISMO tune.



But Nissan has arrived late to the Indian car party and has now started taking slow measured steps for a long term growth plan in India. Their other arch rivals are firmly entrenched in the Indian marketplace and Nissan, although around in India from 2004, haven’t really made a dent in the Indian consumers mind. They realize as a company that the X-Trail, Teana and the 370Z are really a little overpriced (all are CBU’s) and even though they are really competent products, consumers haven’t swarmed to them like a moth to a flame. The other issue from a consumer’s perspective was the lack of a nationwide dealer network and accessibility of service – which is a critical factor when it comes to owning and maintaining an automobile.

The original Nissan Micra (also known as the March in a few markets) was introduced in October 1982. The second-generation (K11 platform) was launched in Japan in 1992, and released in Europe at the end of ‘92. The third generation of the Micra (the K12) was unveiled at the 2002 Paris Motor Show as the Nissan mm Concept. It 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’re getting in India is the fourth generation 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. Judging by the demand of over 17,000 bookings when it was launched in Thailand during the month of March this year, the Micra has started off on the right foot in Thailand. Interestingly, this is the first time a Micra will not be produced in a Nissan factory in the USA, EU and Japan. So Nissan India (Chennai plant) will be producing cars for the local Indian market and Europe.

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 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 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. So the door pads have less parts, the exhaust system is lighter than the previous-gen Micra, the fuel tank is optimized as are the suspension bits. All this weight loss goes into ensuring that the Micra is lighter to aid fuel efficiency and the bodyshell has been optimized for better torsional stiffness which helps with strength and overall agility. Although the Euro NCAP crash test results aren’t out on the Micra yet (hence no crash test video as is the usual norm), we are told that it performed quite well.

There are several small styling elements that add plenty of character to the car. For one, there are those large sparkling oval headlamps with inset indicators which flank a thin grille that has a large Nissan badge above it. There’s the bold ‘V’ that runs from the front grille and creates a slight bonnet bulge which lends the front a slight hint of muscle. There are however mixed reactions on how large the intake in the front bumper is and although it does make the car look a lot more aggressive, it doesn’t cater to everyone’s taste. That said, the rear end, especially the way the tail-lamps are integrated into the fender is a slightly retro touch but adds to the rear. However there were a few panel gaps (especially on the tailgate where it meets the left fender) and we hope that the subsequent cars will have this problem sorted out.

Benchmarks for the Micra really have been around the segment leaders – the Suzuki Swift and the Hyundai i10 and the one significant new hotseller, the Ford Figo. So it is little wonder that the Nissan Micra is very similarly sized to the Suzuki Swift in terms of overall proportion. One look at the comparision sheet below in terms of dimensions and you’ll see exactly what we mean! However, since the Micra tries and maximizes space with its wheel at each corner design and with an extremely short snout, there’s plenty of space on the inside. The Micra doesn’t come with any variant badging at the moment and Nissan are contemplating whether or not they should have any badging at all to distinguish variants. (We quite like the fact that there’s no visual clutter on the tailgate.) So how do you spot a top-end XV? It’s simple really. Look for the chrome strip on the front grille, body coloured mirrors & door handles, front fog lamps and most importantly the start / stop engine-crank button on the dash. There are no rear fog lamps on any of the trim levels. The Left side tail lamp cluster houses a reverse light and the right side cluster has a slot for the fog lamp which is blanked out at the moment. The lowest variant of the Micra (XE) is the only variant that has no wheel trim. The other trim levels (XE Plus, XL & XV) get wheel covers. All variants get 165/70 R 14 rubber and there are no alloys as standard on the XV at the moment. (Interestingly this is also the first time we’ve spotted an MRF ZVTV tyre.) The Micra is available in six colours at the moment – Sunlight Orange, Blade Silver, Storm White, Pacific Blue, Onyx Black and Brick Red.

Interiors

Step into the 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 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 have adopted a twin bubble dashboard design which no doubt, helps them lower manufacturing costs when doing a right and left hand drive variant, since the glovebox ‘bubble’ area and the instrument cluster area are identical in size and positioning which means that Nissan can use a single type of dashboard.

Nissan has paid special attention to the 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 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 side doorpad gets power window controls as well as a central-locking switch. The driver’s side power window is a one-touch express down/up. There are cupholders and a cubbyhole ahead of the shifter for knickknacks as well as a large bottle holder (for rear passenger use) behind the handbrake. The Micra has twin-gloveboxes with a central open storage area which will come in handy to store plenty of odds and ends.



The driver’s seat and the passenger seat 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 models – even on the top end 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 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. However, all variants of the Micra lack adjustable rear headrests and the lower variants don’t even get the shaped headrests in the seat-back squab which the XV has. The Micra really is better off as a comfortable four-seater and squeezing in three well-fed people in the rear will be a little uncomfortable and quite cramped.

The center console houses an in-dash CD/MP3 radio receiver with an Aux-In so you can hook up your MP3 player or iPod. All variants, except the base XE, get this audio kit with four speakers (in the doors) as standard. Just below the Audio system are the air-conditioning controls. In the XV it’s a delightful circular themed affair with a display in the center to tell you what the automatic climate control is doing. It’s a rather friendly looking, easy to use, unit with large clearly marked buttons, which will be a hit – especially with the geriatric. The air-con vents are circular and can be shut to stop airflow. Thanks to their circular shape and position, they provide a vortex of air to the rear seats and help cool the cabin effectively. A few things we really missed on the inside were the fact that no trim levels comes with seatback pockets, rear door pockets and  vanity mirror on the sun visors. The 226 litre boot is quite usable (the XV has a parcel tray and a boot lamp) and has a fairly low loading height. The rear seatback folds forward to make more room, but there is no split rear seat which would have increased flexibility.

Powertrain

The new Nissan Micra comes with an all new 1198cc, three-cylinder DOHC petrol engine (HR12DE) which puts out all of 75bhp at 6000rpm and 104nm of torque at 4000rpm. The car is currently mated to a five-speed manual transmission and Nissan is going to wait and watch before they commit to launching a CVT variant in India. However, there is a diesel engine on the cards and it should be out in a year’s time. Nissan decided to go with a three-cylinder engine in the Micra because they claim that there’s twenty percent lower friction than a four cylinder and has better thermal efficiency to boot. You can still hear the three-cylinder thum although there’s no typical vibration that filters through – which is typical of three cylinder engines. This is thanks to the fact that they’ve put in an outer-balancer on the crank pulley which has a slightly oval motion that reduces the vertical vibration caused by the piston movement. Although you can see some engine vibration at idle, there’s really nothing felt while driving or even when it’s just idling.

The Micra engine can get buzzy at full revs and there’s also a flat spot between 2000 – 3000rpm which is somewhat more pronounced in the second gear. The Micra cruises comfortably at 80kph doing just 2500rpm and 100kph at 3000rpm in the fifth gear.  The five speed manual transmission is quite precise and slots in easily. It’s light and easy to go up and down the ‘box. The shifter is also nice to the touch and is fairly meaty to hold. We, however, found that there was a slight notchiness in the downshift from third to second and we’ll wait for our press demonstrator which we will roadtest to see if this notchiness is present. Nissan claim a fuel efficiency (ARAI tested) of 18.06kmpl but we’ll keep you posted on this figure when we put the car through a full performance test which will include our fuel efficiency run.

Driving Dynamics

The New Nissan Micra based on the new V platform really aims to deliver what Nissan engineers call the Micra DNA which consists of three key points – easy to drive and park, reliability and overall user friendliness. It’s a car that’s really designed to combat the heavily congested city streets and is designed to deliver a driving experience which is a little less stressful in the Micra. So to start with, all variants of the Micra (XE, XE Plus, XL and the top-of-the-line XV) all come with an electric assist power steering as standard which really does make driving in the city so much easier. It also adjusts for tilt across all models and comes with a driver’s side Airbag as standard too. However, only the top-end XV gets a front passenger Airbag. Visibility is excellent all around with a slim A-pillar and even when you look back there’s no obstruction from the C-pillar making the glass area almost wraparound like. The sideview mirrors (electric adjust and auto fold are only on the XV) are large and provide for good visibility and there’s not too much of a blindspot.

The steering feels really good to hold and has grips on the 10/2 position and is slightly dished out. Although it feels great to hold, it does somewhat feels a tad too large. Even though the horn button on the steering is light and easy to use, we found that the horn itself is quite weak and the Micra desperately needs to have dual horns to cope with our country’s driving conditions. The instrument cluster is a fairly straightforward simple to read affair. There’s a speedometer that takes centerstage and the tachometer to its left. On the right of the speedometer are warning lights and a digital display which show the odometer and trip readings in addition to distance to empty and a real time fuel economy readout. This ‘Drive Computer’ as Nissan likes to call it, is a standard feature across all trim levels.

Cranking up the XV is a very un-hatch like experience. Here’s why. To begin with, the Intelligent Key (yes, it’s only on the XV trim) can nestle in your pocket and all you do is approach the car and open the door. Once in the car you’ll need to depress the clutch and hit the Start/Stop button to crank the engine. It’s a feature that’s unique to the segment and no other small car has this. On the move, the Nissan Micra is really quite refined and smooth. There’s almost no suspension noise that filters through, except when taking really large potholes and bumps. However, you will feel them more than you would in a European hatch and this is largely because of the fact that the Micra is much lighter in terms of build. The suspension is tuned for comfort and the Indian Micra has different suspension tuning than any of the other world-Micra’s to enable it to tackle bad roads and deliver a supple, comfortable and consistent ride quality. The car isn’t in the same league when it comes to handling at three digit speeds as some of the German cars are, but then the Micra’s environment is really city roads where it does quite well without shaking up its occupants even on bad surfaces.  

The brakes on the car take a little getting used to. There is plenty of stopping power but there’s very poor pedal feel – almost soggy. This worked fairly well in stop start conditions where a little extra pressure on the pedal didn’t bring the car to a halt in a lurch, but brought it to rest in a slightly more composed manner. On the highway is where you need to keep this in mind and just hit the pedal a little harder. Mind you, there’s plenty of bite and the XV comes with ABS, EBD and Brake Assist. The other thing that we found was that there’s far less clutch pedal travel than what one is used to in other cars. It’s fairly light and easy, however, the pedal travel does take a little getting used to. The one other thing we missed was an actual dead pedal, even though Nissan has a slightly raised area next to the clutch to rest your foot on. Everything about the Micra is light and easy to use. The electric assist power steering is light at city speeds and does weigh up well on the highway at three digit speeds. The car is really quite happy being driven at 60kph in the fifth with a full compliment of passengers and doesn’t really struggle to accelerate as we’d thought it would. Out on the open road, the Micra is comfortable cruising in the fifth at 80kph with the engine turning over at 2500rpm and 100kph is just at 3000 rpm. Nissan India claims a fuel efficiency of 18.1kmpl as per the ARAI Indian driving cycle test.

Overall Evaluation

Nissan India have quite a winner on their hands with the Micra. The Nissan Micra has seen over 800,000kms of testing all over the world which is roughly like driving twenty times around the earth. However, India testing largely for suspension and final packaging, we are told, has been about 20,000kms. They’ve benchmarked themselves against the biggest sellers in the segment and this is really their first important offensive in India. They’ve put in a lot of segment first features like the Intelligent Key, Push Button Start/Stop and auto folding electric mirrors. There could be a CVT in the pipeline but Nissan India want to wait and watch on how this car does before they really launch an automatic. They also have plans for a diesel variant but not immediately. They will also be bringing out a sedan next year based on the V platform. And, also in the offing, will be the MPV that they will produce with Ashok Leyland which may just rival the Innova.

Sales and service will be the key challenges for Nissan in India since at the moment they only have 11 dealers and at the time of launch on the 14th of July, they will have 20 dealers. At the end of the fiscal year they’ll have about 40 dealers and their plan is to have a hundred dealer principles by 2013, so there could be more than a hundred Nissan outlets. The standard warranty for the Micra at the moment seems to be 24months / 50000kms although the final warranty policy will be announced at the time of launch. The Micra is typically Japanese in the fact that it is practical, user friendly, easy to drive and easy to maintain. But it all boils down to pricing! Nissan have a winner on their hands if they can price the Micra between 3.5 – 5 Lakhs (ex-showroom XE to XV). This will really make it quite competitive and will possibly bring in significant numbers for Nissan immediately. We’d recommend buying the XL or the more expensive XV since it comes with all the creature comforts. Let’s not forget the Toyota Etios is just around the corner and Nissan needs to get as many Micra’s on the road as quickly as possible. We hope this is the next big wave in the Indian hatch market – the MicraWave!

Photos

Quick Research

  • Go

Ask the Experts

1800 2090 230

(Toll free)