New Nissan Micra is a small wonder

The best thing about the new Nissan Micra is that it doesn’t look like a Nissan Micra. The word, “cute” was often used to describe the previous iteration. To me it was just ugly — a giant toadstool on wheels.

The new Micra, thankfully, shares none of that DNA. This is a lovely car, its sleek lines giving it a clean, sporty look. You have to wonder why they didn’t launch it as a new range to make a clear break from the baggage of old.

It also comes with a generous set of features normally associated with more “grownup” vehicles. The Bose audio system is a thing of beauty, as is the whole infotainment system — which even has an option of turning on a forward facing camera for parking.

Other features include smart (keyless) entry, a push-start button, rear parking sensors, automatic folding exterior mirrors, an intelligent around-view monitor, a moving object detection system and a blind spot warning. The Tekna model of the new Micra adds in LED headlights and front fog lights, automatic air conditioner and automatic headlight levelling. The boot is also generous.

The hard suspension and great cornering make the Micra really good to drive, but not if you are a passenger. Without a steering wheel to hold on to, the bumps and jars are tough to take.

Small seats in the back are also difficult if you intend to seat people with knees — but this is not much different from its competitors.

That said, this car would be brilliant if it wasn’t for one small thing: the engine. It suffers from a lack of personality on the lower revs; second gear has a noticeable flat spot — so much so that you feel like the Little Engine That Could. You can imagine the car geeing itself up with, “I think I can, I think I can.” I caught myself encouraging it on a couple of occasions.

But this is all forgiven once the turbo kicks in. It has great, responsive handling and is a fun drive. The turbo means it rapidly picks up speed and the steering doesn’t veer under acceleration (a problem for cars that aren’t well balanced). The six-speed gearbox makes longer trips comfortable, and there is still a bit of power in reserve should you need to overtake.

All this means petrol consumption goes up — ranging at about nine to 11 litres per 100km — in town, because you need to accelerate through the dead spot until the turbo kicks in.

We tested the Turbo Tekna 84kw, which also comes with a pretty hefty price tag of R330 000 and some change. At that price you can start considering the Ford Fiesta, VW Golf or Polo.

This is the Micra’s biggest problem. It is an aggressive car with all the extras that you would need — and more cup holders than seems reasonable — but why would you buy it over a VW?

But if you worship at the altar of Nissan, then the company has finally built something small that isn’t boring or just plain ugly.

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