Nissan Makes a B-Line with New Micra Range

And on the Nissan Micra launch in Cape Town one did: the belly dancer at the Turkish restaurant was deemed ‘unsuitable’ for the female members of our group, and the night driving route in the city and around the peninsula, was deemed ‘dangerous’.

But Michele Lupini and I, sharing first a Micra with the new 1.2-litre 3-cylinder engine before swopping to a 1.5-litre four-pot after waffles and coffee in Fish Hoek had little reason to whine, both in terms of the urban route or the cars provided to negotiate it. In fact, the late-afternoon though dusk and into the night drive from our hotel and along the Atlantic seaboard was a particularly pleasing one: the sky was clear, the weather warm and the view magnificent. The Micra proved ideal for narrow streets and perfectly encapsulated the launch theme: in sync with the city.

This is the fourth generation car to carry the Micra name, though it is only the second to reach our shores. Launched here as something of a boutique hatch at the end of 2005, its pricing proved too high for its dinky size and relatively prosaic badge and it never sold in great numbers, and has been all but unavailable for the last year or so.

The new car takes a completely different approach and aims to provide high value and pricewise it goes toe to toe with the dominant players in the segment: VW’s Polo Vivo and the Ford Figo. Of course, the Nissan is a lot more modern in design age (both its rivals are spruced up and down-specced versions of older cars) and is particularly impressive in terms of packaging. Sure, occasionally my knuckles brushed Michele’s right patella when selecting first gear, but he’s a large fellow and likes to stretch out…and he could generally do so.

With four airbags (except for the entry-level model), a full-house of braking aids and decent headlights, we had few safety concerns. As the Gautenger on the crew I was really enjoying the atmosphere, as we threaded our way through to the False Bay side and into less upmarket addresses than Hout Bay and Llandudno. But even here the lack of litter was a marvellous novelty, and even their Blue Collar suburbs looked to be a whole lot cleaner (and better-maintained) than some of Joburg’s so-called upmarket areas.

These observations were secondary to my thoughts on the car, which felt surprisingly lively, and it has been put on a strict diet, tipping the scales about 100 kilos below some rivals. The clutch is a little too light and the steering feedback minimal but Nissan claim overall consumption of just 5.2 litre per 100 for this powerplant. The driving computer was indicating higher than that, but not by much.  

Overall, the car is a characterful little number and while you wouldn’t call it pretty (how could it be,  with those bulgy eyes and guppy mouth?), it does stands out. Aimed more at the girly market, it isn’t macho by any stretch of the imagination but the target market will appreciate its generous storage solutions and nimble road manners.

Pricing starts at R108 400 for the 1.2 Visia, which means foregoing the side airbags as well as air conditioning and sound system, with the flagship 1.5 Tekna costing R143 400. A 1.5 turbodiesel – not available at the launch – and two higher-specced versions of the 1.2 complete the range. All models are five-doors and drive the front wheels via a five-speed manual box, so no automatic or sedan, though both are possibilities in the future.

Rounding off what was a truly cosmopolitan affair as far as launches go, is the fact that the Micra is made in India. Something which I’m sure my ungracious media colleague would’ve had something to say about too.