Nissan Micra : Detailed Review

Nissan's first small car for India, namely the Micra is all set to compete in the already overloaded small car market. We take a look to see if this little hatch packs enough punch.

Slated for launch by mid-July this year, the Nissan Micra has been on the cards for a while now and the best thing about it is that the Japanese manufacturer is coming in with the latest generation of the car that has enjoyed huge success all over the world in the small car space. They've teased us with images and kept the hype up with small bits of news time and again but now it's finally here. Nissan even displayed the car in showrooms by the end of May and opened bookings for those who were willing to take the risk and put down the Rs 50,000 booking amount without even knowing the actual price of the car. Well, the Micra has already been booked by over a 1000 people and the one thing that they're all dying to know is whether it was a bad call. Before we start off with any details then, all you pre-order people can breathe a sigh of relief because judging by the short drive that we had in Chennai, it sure seems worth having taken all that risk!


Design Impressions



By now almost everyone's seen what the car looks like and in the flesh; it looks pretty cute in an inexplicable way actually. You see, we generally associate 'cute' with either feminine or animal-cute designs. But the Micra can't really be placed as feminine or masculine even, but it's certainly not half-way in between either. There's just this very nice feel you get when you look at the car and that emotion just gets further deepened when you take a closer look at how well the Micra has been put together. Panel gaps and shutlines are minimal and the quality of the car's assembly is phenomenal. The multi-grain plastic dash works well to look good and at the same time, keeps reflections low. The design theme overall - whether on the outside or in the cabin, is clearly round. Starting from the headlamps, tail lamps to the centre console that houses the music system and air-con controls are all shaped to be round. Quality of the fabric is pretty neat too - even on the base variant. There are a few bits that we didn't really like much, but we'll come to that a little bit later.



Variants and Features



Speaking of variants though, the Micra will be available in three. Starting off the range will be the base XE variant and when we say base, that's exactly what we mean. We're talking about no wheel covers, no tachometer, no parcel shelf, no music system, no power windows, no central locking, no ABS and no fog lamps. Even the seats are different - the front buckets have integrated headrests while the rear bench well, is exactly that - a bench, with absolutely no form factor. Next in line is the XL which slots between the XE and the top-of-the-line XV variants. This one comes with power windows front and rear, a nice music system, remote keyless entry and even includes a tachometer. The XV though, quite naturally comes loaded with goodies - intelligent key with push button ignition, fog lamps, climate control and electrically adjustable mirrors. It also has a front passenger airbag and ABS, EBD and brake assistance - the other two variants just get the driver airbag. All in all, the top variants is what will attract buyers the most, provided of course that it isn't exorbitantly priced, which we hope, for Nissan's sake it isn't!











So that's the equipment list, but not all's hunky dory with the Micra. First up and the thing that you notice the most when you get into the driver's seat is the Nissan logo on the steering wheel - it's moulded into the plastic instead of being a chrome badge even on the XV, giving the wheel itself a rather tacky look. Then there's the lack of storage space in the car for knick-knacks - the glove box is located way below on the passenger side and can fit only a few papers and a tiny medical kit. The XV does come with an additional box on top but it isn't really worth talking about either. The rear bench on the base XE variant has almost no thigh support and that translates to an uncomfortable ride if you're going to be sitting there for a while. Oh, and you can very well forget about carrying any bottles in the Micra because there's no space to keep them - except for the two cup holders that generally get blocked by the gear lever and the lone example between the front seats for the rear passengers.





It isn't as bad as it seems though, especially when you start the engine and get driving. Under the Micra's cute hood is a 1198cc three-cylinder petrol engine that has sound pedigree on paper - 76PS @ 6000rpm and 104Nm @ 4000rpm. Nissan has done a good job with tuning the engine and has matched it well with the 5 speed manual gearbox to make the Micra peppy and very driveable. Driving deep within the heart of Chennai, with traffic spewing around on both sides the Micra didn't once seem like it needed more potential on the engine front and that has a lot to do with how the Micra is built. For starters, the new Micra has lesser components as a whole than the previous generation Micra and that really is the beauty of the V Platform that forms the basis of this new small car. A reduction in the number of components not only brings the weight of the car down, but also brings down manufacturing costs and complications. Another unique feature that Nissan ushers in with the Micra is the boomerang groove in the roof that strengthens the top without employing any extra reinforcing elements that would have further added weight and elevated the car's centre of gravity. The same theme of cutting down on components also extends to the engine which features an offset crank and a low friction oil pump. To all those who're still wondering why Nissan chose to go for a three-pot powerplant instead of a four cylinder, the Japanese manufacturer claims their engine cuts down frictional losses by up to 20 percent and thermal losses by 2 percent. And to keep the naturally unbalanced vibes from the three-pot in check is an outer balancer on the crankshaft. That makes the Micra's engine one of the most smooth and refined engines among its overcrowded segment.


First impressions



It's pretty obvious by now that the Micra had given us a rather good first impression but it didn't quite stop there. One of the biggest requirements in today's small cars is a spacious cabin and space, the Micra has plenty of! With the car's wheels pushed as far out to the corners as possible the occupants are left with a whole lot of room on the inside. Even with the front seats liberating enough knee room for a six-footer the rear bench had enough space to accommodate one more, and that speaks loads of the Micra's ability to be a competent car for a family of five. The seats both front and rear seem comfortable even for long drives, at least on the top end XV variant and the suspension setup helps things further. Not only does the Micra absorb all bumps and grinds with ease, it even handles rather well - with its low weight and flat stance making for some sharp cornering abilities for a small car. Nissan has managed to achieve a 96 percent localisation with the Micra out of which 87 percent of the components will be entirely made in India. The deficit 9 percent will be coming in from China and Thailand. That seems like it should help out quite a bit in keeping the Micra's price tag in check. The Micra officially launches in mid-July and it certainly has the goods to seriously worry the competition. There's probably just one missing link in the chain and that's the price. We think it will be available between Rs 3.5 to 5 lakh and if it is so, Nissan has a winner just waiting to be unleashed.





Recommended Variant : Micra XL Diesel

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