NISSAN MICRA 1.3 SLX
Nissan's new baby, the Micra, was launched a couple of weeks ago with one of the largest, and most effective, advertising campaigns to be seen in a long time, a torrent of adverts across all media which is indicative of the importance which Nissan attach to this first of a new generation of city cars to hit our streets.
Frequently, such high profile campaigns are just hyperbolae for fairly average products but not in this case. Just one day with the Micra convinced me that it's a delight of a car and well deserving of the accolade " 1993 European Car of the Year " which it received even before being seen in the U.K.
There is a friendliness and character to the car which will doubtless change the image that it's predecessor had of being a car bought mainly by older drivers and driving schools.
The new Micra still has the easy driveability of it's forebear but now adds superior performance, a cheeky style and a large dose of outright fun to the equation, all features that I am sure will attract many younger drivers, it could even become the cult car of the nineties such is it's lively personality.
An attractive, pear shaped, body comes in both 3 and 5 door versions, with 4 trim levels and 2 engine choices - 1 and 1.3 litre - ranging from under £6,000 to over £9,000. I drove the 1.3 litre SLX, the top of the range car and found it to be very roomy, the " wheel at each corner " long wheelbase making for very good interior space and comfortable seating for five.
Visibilty is very good thanks to the large areas of glass and the large doors make for easy access.
Well trimmed internally, the cabin is a smooth blend of multiple curves including a semi-circular instrument pod.
The seats are comfortable and generally supportive but the front seats, while very adjustable, suffer slightly from that bane of small cars, being a bit short of thigh support. The rear seats are split 60/40 and make a good size boot into a very commodious one.
The steering wheel is tilt adjustable so a good driving position can be easily obtained. The equipment package is very impressive on this top model with power steering, electric front windows, a manual sunroof, central locking and an RDS stereo, all standard.
Like the adverts have said the Micra is a super city car, light to drive, easily parked, able to nip through traffic and this nippiness really becomes a treat out of town for the little car revels in twisty country roads, it's easily placed, taut, responsive and feels composed and safe no matter how hard pushed. The Micra can be as volatile as a teenager or as prim and proper as your maiden aunt.
The 1275cc, 16 valve, double overhead cam, engine pushes the car along in a very sprightly manner, it's free revving yet still quiet and economical and mated to a delightful five speed gearbox. At 70 mph it's turning over at barely 3, 000 rpm yet with bags of punch for overtaking, the faster it goes the better it feels and still returns remarkable fuel consumption figures.
For maximum excitement in the minimum package the Micra stands near the best in it's class. In a small footprint it offers great space, flexibility and is just plain fun to drive.
First Published 1993 - Article © Graham Benge 2007