Perhaps it was a fitting introduction to the Nissan Micra that assembled motoring scribes gazed through the glass at uShaka Marine World at the myriad sharks swimming lazily around their tank before being introduced to the car that sported, well, a ‘sharkish’ nose.
For South Africans the Micra was an all-new model from Nissan. For the world, it was the third generation of a car first launched into the Japanese market in October of 1982, boasting a body style originally penned by Fiat.
The second generation (also called the March) appeared in 1992 and introduced some safety specification not the norm on cars in this market segment and the third interation was introduced to the Japanese market in February 2002 and to the European market in early 2003.
The car was radically redesigned and featured a new, 70 mm longer wheelbase (developed with Renault) and an even more curvy exterior that was taller and slightly wider. Its most distinctive feature was a pair of prominent headlamps that extended to the wing-tops.
At this juncture it is worth dealing with the elephant – the latest, fourth generation, continues the association with Renault even more closely and calling it a Clio with a body kit is much less of an accusation than a statement of fact.
While much of that is true, Nissan has given the new car its own identity with styling reflecting the more modern trend coming from the Japanese automaker – the front of the Micra looking familial with the recently launched and updated Leaf.
The new Nissan Micra has dynamic hatchback proportions and features a sculpted body with strong and sharp character lines visible from every angle.
At the front is a shortened bonnet design and reduced A-pillar angle, while narrow headlamps stretch through the front wings and include signature LED daytime running lights on every trim level. Halogen headlamps are standard on all grades. The lights frame Nissan’s familiar ‘V-motion’ grille, reinterpreted to complete the new Micra’s front-end design.
Below the car’s sloping roofline is a character that runs the entire length of the new Micra’s body, dipping as it passes over the front door and sweeping upwards towards the rear. The black B and C-pillars create a floating roof effect, while the C-pillar is home to the discrete door handles, which provide access for rear passengers.
At the rear are new boomerang-shaped light clusters. Below, the bumper features a carbon-look finish as standard and hides the car’s exhaust pipe. Above is the sports-style rear roof spoiler, also standard to enhance aerodynamic performance. Together, these features create a recognisable motif for the back of the car.
Inside, it boasts two-tone soft-touch materials as standard across the range and the cabin is based around a T-shaped ‘gliding wing’ dashboard, with simple structures that create excellent space for the driver and front passenger.
Special attention was given to the design of the front seats in order to provide continuous back support, helping to decrease driver fatigue on long journeys. The car’s width means enhanced elbow space for rear passengers, who also benefit excellent shoulder and knee room.
In the same way as other ‘small’ cars have steadily grown in length and girth with every generation, the new Micra partly follows the trend – the revised interior not only feeling more spacious but, being more comfortable to drive as a result.
Boot capacity is a competitive 300 litres and delivered without compromising on rear passenger knee room and that expands to 1 004 litres when the 60:40 split rear seats are folded down.
Standard specification includes daytime running lights, front power windows, air-conditioning, a Bluetooth and MP3 compatible audio system, cruise control, automatic headlights and six air bags.
The Acenta adds 16-inch alloy wheels, front fog lights while the 7-inch touch-screen colour display on the allows the driver to access features such as music, messages and maps through Apple CarPlay.
Every new Micra comes with six air bags as standard, plus seat belt warnings and seat belt height adjustment for the front and rear. Isofix child seats are standard in the new Micra, including in the front passenger seat. Electronic safety systems include Vehicle Dynamic Control, Anti-locking Braking System, Electronic Brake force Distribution and Hill Start Assist.
For the time being there is only engine on offer – the three-cylinder 898 cc unit offering 66 kW at 5 500 r/min and 140 Nm at 2 250 r/min from the turbo-charged petrol engine. CO2 emissions are 115 g/km and the claimed overall fuel consumption is 5,1 l/100 km – reality being a bit tougher to beat, we bested around 5,6 l/100 km.
Sound and motion do not always correlate and the angry buzz of the sewing machine engine sounds more strained than the forward motion it is creating – I suppose ‘enthusiastic’ would be the correct adjective to use here.
Designed to be a city runabout, one should get carried away by acceleration and top speed to concentrate on the fit for task atrributes – and here the Micra does exactly what is intended of it. It is willing and able to get up to speed with accompanying traffic, find tiny little gaps in said traffic and get itself parked in width-challenged parking spaces.
A right, proper city car.
However, it more than that. The new Micra has been built on Nissan’s existing V-platform and has been significantly enhanced to deliver new levels of performance.
It provides exceptional stability and reduced body roll through corners thanks to its high body stiffness and advanced suspension. In addition, the low driving position promoted by the excellent ergonomics of the interior reduces the centre of gravity, further enhancing the secure driving feel.
Responsive and accurate steering comes from a new brushless electric power unit, and provides a high degree of manoeuvrability.
Providing you are not transporting the Springbok front row, the Micra has more than enough space to remain comfortable to be in over quite extended drive periods.
As with all other Nissan vehicles, the Nissan Micra is covered by Nissan Assured and comes with a 6-year/150,000km warranty; a 3-year/90,000km service plan; and 24/7 roadside assistance.