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Nissan Micra 1.2 DIG-S Roadtest

The latest Nissan Micra shares the same dimensions as its predecessor.

looks good enough to entice British customers

So what, you might ask. Well, in a world where cars just get bigger and bigger with each generation, this Nissan's reluctance to pile on the pounds is to be welcomed.

The Micra class of inoffensive runabout is not the sort of thing to get you noticed, but arguably with Pearl White paintwork this new generation is a bit of a head-turner. As for being noticed, well... the company thought to provide one with a private numberplate, no doubt making it the envy of Micra drivers everywhere.

Nissan built the Micra in Britain for many years, although production has shifted from Sunderland to India to make way for the Qashqai and Juke success stories. The cost benefits of shifting production can be huge, not to mention making a single 'global' design to sell in a range of emerging markets across the world. Question is, is the Micra still up to the task of winning British customers?

To be fair, it looks good enough. Outwardly the extra lines of the bodywork and new light clusters bring the car's styling up to date, in an era of flared panelling. In 'Tekna' trim like our test car, you get 15-inch alloy wheels and a dinky roof spoiler into the bargain. In overall effect, it has lost some of the 'bulbous' curves of the 1990s in favour of a more modern stance.

A Supercharger Provides The Car's Soundtrack

But it's perhaps beneath the skin that this Micra becomes really interesting. The DIG-S engine displaces a paltry 1.2-litres via three cylinders... and the 'S' stands for 'Supercharged.' Yes, that's right, the whine of a supercharger provides the car's soundtrack. With an engine this small you'll enjoy more than 65 miles per gallon, with CO2 emissions of just 99g/km - meaning Road Tax exemption.

That forced induction provides a bit of poke, too. Work your way through the (admittedly notchy) gears and from about 2,000 revs the Micra manages a surprising burst of speed. Not sporty, but definitely welcome for the cross-town sprint. Dynamically, suspension and handling have been set for European tastes, which is to say as firm as the potholes will allow. Through the beds, the steering is and direct, which definitely places it ahead of some city car rivals that feel dull and leaden by comparison.

Importantly for an urban driver, visibility is pretty good all-round. The reversing hazards of the underground car park shouldn't prove troublesome.

It may now be recognisable worldwide, but on the inside, the Micra does a good job of hiding its 'global car' origins - European models boast an interior fit and finish given a veneer of quality. The mood lighting and soft-touch plastics deal is sweetened with toys galore: the list includes an integrated sat nav, cruise control, rear parking sensors, folding mirrors, panoramic sunroof and steering wheel controls. You could almost forget it's a small car.

Available In 5-Door Bodystyle

From now on, the Micra is only available in 5-door bodystyle, so does that make it a budget family car? Not exactly, but with the seats folded down, the boot expands to hold 605 litres of luggage nonetheless. And if you do need to put children in the back, there are ISOFIX mounts beneath the bolstering.

If there has to be an Achilles heel to all this, it's the price: with the extras fitted to our test vehicle, you'll need to find more than 14 grand to get your hands on a Micra DIG-S. Here, Nissan is hardly unique in offering a higher purchase price for a car with the lowest running costs. But in that sense the 'eco' buy is a bit of a gamble. If you have the cash up front, want miserly fuel and tax bills, and a clear conscience (about as clear as it currently can be), the Micra is undoubtedly an easy car to live with.

From the UK car buying public's perspective, with Nissan Juke and Qashqai sales headed into the stratosphere, does this destine the Micra to be an imported irrelevance? Not necessarily. With the supercharged engine, quality interior and all mod cons, it's certainly as good as some fairly slick competition - and worthy of your attention.

Posted on 12.12.2011 by Pat Holliday
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