There is little doubt that the Micra hatchback is perhaps the most important car among Nissan’s product line in India. Nissan had entered into the Indian market with the Teana and X-Trail. But honestly, it made negligible impact on the psyche of the Indian car buyers. But all that changed in 2010, when the Nissan Micra was launched. This marked Nissan’s foray in the highly competitive small car segment. Now in its fourth generation (worldwide), Nissan claims to have sold over 5 million units of the Micra across the globe since its introduction in 1982.
First to be introduced in India was the Nissan Micra Petrol which is available in three trim levels – base XE variant, mid-range XL variant and top-of-the-line XV variant. The base XE trim is priced at Rs 4,38,155 and goes upto Rs 5,7,2,712 for the top XV variant (ex-showroom Kolkata). We got behind the wheel of the Nissan Micra Petrol XV and drove it down Rajarhat to discover has got what it takes to topple some of its more established competitors. Read on to find out what we found out.
Design & Engineering
The Nissan Micra is a cheeky little car with adorable looks. The first time I saw it in flesh, it actually reminded me of Noddy’s car (from the cartoon strip). But jokes apart, the car looks quite refreshing. If you look at it from the front, the Nissan Micra has a well-rounded nose with a forward- thrusting grille and setback headlamp pods. The two-part black grille and the Nissan badge sitting just above the upper lip makes for a decent picture. Take a walk along the side and what you see is mostly clean flowing lines. Look at her from the rear, and design is quite refreshing and different from anything you may have seen before on the Indian roads. In the era of rebadged engineering, it is no hidden secret, that like many other car manufacturers around the globe, Nissan and Renault too share platforms and many other components. Little surprise then that the Renault Pulse is based on the Micra platform and is basically the Micra under the skin barring a few external tweaks.
The Micra’s styling was frozen after numerous customer clinics globally, and so it is ‘designed by committee’ in a sense.
Under the bonnet of the Nissan Micra is 1198cc 3-cylinder in-line petrol engine mated to a 5-speed manual transmission. The motor pumps 76PS of maximum power at 6000 rpm and 104Nm of peak torque at 4000 rpm. The suspension architecture of the Nissan Micra comprises of McPherson strut front suspension and a torsion beam rear. Ventilated disc brakes to duty on the front with drums at the rear.
Nissan has worked towards reducing the total number of components in the Micra, vis-à-vis the previous generation car, and as such is lighter into the bargain as well. The Micra petrol weighs just 945 kilos. The Micra (and the Sunny) are based on Nissan’s ‘V’ platform, and both cars benefit from the component rationalization.
Features like roof antenna and body coloured bumper comes as standard across model range. The Nissan Micra Petrol XV variant that we tested came with rear washer and wiper, body coloured outside door mirrors and door handles and rear defogger. The Nissan Micra is available in six colour schemes – Sunshine Orange, Blade Silver, Storm White, Spring Green, Onyx Black and Brick Red.
Interiors & Comfort
Once you step inside the cabin of the Nissan Micra, what would immediately strike you is the ‘round’ theme that can be seen everywhere. Round cluster of buttons on the central console, round air conditioning vents, round steering boss. The plastic that have been used in the Micra are of good quality but the greige (grey and beige) colour scheme is not quite up to my liking.
The front seats felt comfortable and also offer good visibility to the driver and front passenger. Legroom, headroom and shoulder room are decent for both front and rear occupants. The 251 litre boot is fairly generous but you don’t have an option to split the seat. However, they neatly fold forward in one piece to make more room for luggage.
The Nissan Micra Petrol XV trim that we tested came with features like a keyless entry fob that allows you to open the door while the key is still in your pocket, and the engine is ignited with the help of a push-button. This is a first in this segment. Nissan has offered power and tilt steering and digital clock as standard across the model range.
Performance & Handling
Great expectations can often lead to disappointment, but in the case of the Micra, we found it to be a car with a good blend of ride and handling. The pliant suspension is very competent over broken stretches of tarmac, and the Micra resist the urge to ‘bunny hop’ over sharp bumps, which is something we like.
The suspension is set up on the softer side, but the damping is well judged, so although you do experience some body roll while cornering, the car’s attitude remains entirely predictable. The power steering is light, but feedback is consistent in way that the Maruti Swift does not manage. In fact, Nissan has benchmarked the Swift in many areas, and we’re happy to report that the Micra rides better and has better steering, even though it doesn’t feel as involving to drive.
The engine has a typical three-cylinder thrumminess to it, but Nissan’s engineers have managed to give it an appreciably flat torque curve. There are no ‘dead spots’ in the power delivery, and the Micra has good tractability. The gearshift quality leaves something to be desired though, with an overly light and rubbery feeling through the gate, compounded by long throws.
The light build aids performance too, and while the Micra will not be the vehicle of choice for grand prix starts from a traffic light, it motors comfortably with four adults on board and the AC running. Real-world drivability is where the Nissan Micra truly scores.
The Nissan Micra Petrol boasts of an ARAI ratified fuel efficiency of 18.06kmpl and although we didn’t get a chance to do a proper mileage test, however, it’s anybody’s guess that the real world figures are usually much less. However, the Micra is actually one of the more fuel-efficient car’s we’ve tested, managing a real-world figure of 13 kmpl with AC in city traffic. This is better than most of its immediate competition, and don’t forget that the Micra manages these figures without feeling insipid either.
On the highway, you should be able to squeeze out around 16kmpl.
Today safety is an important consideration in any car not matter how small and inexpensive. The Nissan Micra Petrol comes equipped with an engine immobiliser and driver airbag as standard safety features across the model range. However, front passenger side airbag, front fog lamps and other crucial features like ABS with EBD and brake assist is not available on the base XE and mid-range XL variants, even as a cost option. The top-of-the-line XV variant that we tested gets a security alarm, front fog lamps, front passenger airbags and ABS with EBD and brake assist.
The Nissan Micra is the company’s first Indian-made vehicle. It has been positioned in the fiercely competitive and over-crowded small car segment where everyone is jostling for space and the Micra has done well to establish Nissan’s brand image among the masses in India. And while the Micra may not boast of big sales numbers like its more establish competitors like the Maruti Suzuki Swift, however, it is a cheeky little car which offers decent mileage, adequately spacious interiors, refreshing looks and boasts of a good mix of handling and ride quality. But at the end of the day, it’s a Nissan, which is a great thing in many other parts of the world, but in India, buyers largely repose their faith in Maruti Suzuki and Hyundai, particularly in this segment. So that could just spoil the party for the Micra.