FIRST DRIVE | 2019 Nissan Micra gets more spring in its step
When Nissan launched the new-generation Micra in SA in 2018, the range was initially available only in 900cc turbo derivatives with outputs of 66kW and 140Nm.
The company has now added more power to the equation with the introduction of a new 1.0l turbo engine in a bid to lure buyers away from rival B-segment hatchbacks such as the VW Polo and Ford Fiesta. The gutsier new Micra joins the existing 66kW versions and is available in three trim levels: Acenta Plus, Tekna and Tekna Plus, starting at R305,900, which is a R10,000 jump over the range-topping 66kW model.
Like its smaller cousin, the engine’s also a three-cylinder unit but the increased cubic capacity puts more spring in the Micra’s step in the form of 84kW and 180Nm. This snips the 0-100km/h time to a claimed 9.9 seconds — an improvement of 2.2 seconds — while the more powerful engine is also said to be less thirsty, sipping 5.0l per 100km vs the smaller engine’s 5.2l.
Drive is to the front wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox, offering an additional gear over the 66kW versions. There is no automatic version on the cards for now.
Spec levels across the board are generous, with even the baseline Micra 66kW Visia getting features such as cruise control, automatic headlights, electronic stability control, hill-start assist, ABS brakes and six airbags.
Perching 10mm lower than the 66kW model on a tweaked suspension gives the more powerful new Micra better handling and more styling swagger, while sharper steering makes the car more agile and fun to drive.
The 84kW versions come standard with smart keyless entry and push-start button, rear parking sensors, automatic folding exterior mirrors, leather steering wheel and shift lever, Intelligent Around View Monitor, Moving Object Detection and blind-spot warning.
The 84kW Tekna adds LED headlights and front fog lights, automatic air conditioner and automatic headlight levelling, while the range-topping Tekna Plus also gets “Invigorating Red” interior personalisation, leather heated seats and “Enigma Black” exterior colour.
An 18cm touchscreen colour infotainment system compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is standard in all the 84kW models. The Tekna and Tekna Plus also have a premium Bose audio system with an amplifier under the driver’s seat and a speaker in the driver’s headrest.
I drove the new Micra at its media launch in Joburg, and with its extra voema it scampered through suburbia with a satisfyingly brisk feel. The car scoots along with decent vigour once in its power band but the little turbo engine needs some revs to avoid bogging down with turbo lag. In stop-start driving this can become a bit of a chore, though the clutch and gearshifts are at least nice and light.
A rumble through the concrete jungle and some open roads delivered a frugal 5.6l/100km fuel average, not too far off Nissan’s claim.
The best part of the Micra is how refined and sophisticated it is for a compact hatch, and the textures and materials in the range-topping Tekna Plus derivative make it feel like a more expensive car.
It’s roomy for a B-segment car too, and full-sized adults can sit side by side without bashing elbows. The boot’s a generous 300l in size, expandable to 1,004l with the rear seats flipped down.
Micra 66kW Turbo Visia: R252,800
Micra 66kW Turbo Acenta: R279,400
Micra 66kW Turbo Acenta Plus: R295,400
Micra 84kW Turbo Acenta Plus: R305,900
Micra 84kW Turbo Tekna: R326,300
Micra 84kW Turbo Tekna Plus: R336,900
Prices include a six-year/150,000km warranty and three-year/90,000km service plan.