Like the Panda, the Nissan Micra
has built its reputation on simplicity and value for money. However, the supermini class has become more crowded and fiercely fought than ever, meaning the car needs to do more than be easy to use and cheap to run.
The standard version has so far failed to impress, but this supercharged DiG-S model promises to match the low emissions of the Panda TwinAir, while also giving a welcome boost to performance.
Sadly, the Micra starts off on the back foot, as the dreary exterior styling has none of the Panda’s desirability or charm. A bulbous front end and bland detailing all put a serious dent in the Micra’s appeal.
Our test car was a limited-edition Shiro model, which includes 15-inch alloy wheels and chrome accents on the grille and foglights, but even smart additions like these fail to lift the overall look.
Things improve once you climb aboard, as Nissan has thrown in a host of gadgets to compensate for the mundane styling. The Shiro gets classy extras like heated front seats, rear parking sensors and climate control, plus a clever new Parking Slot Measurement tool.
At the push of a button, this system sizes up tight parallel parking spots at the side of the road, beeping when it senses a suitable Micra-sized gap in a line of parked cars.
This lengthy kit list does make the Nissan easier to live with, but the rest of the interior is far from luxurious. Everything in the cabin feels like it has been built down to a price. The low-rent plastics and featureless dash are a real letdown after the fun-filled Panda.
None of the major controls feels as solid as those in the Fiat, while the lack of a simple 12-volt power socket on models with optional £500 sat-nav (like our test car) is a very frustrating omission. This is also why we were unable to record our usual performance data.The Micra does start to claw back some lost ground when it comes to practicality.
There’s noticeably more knee and shoulder room in the back than you get in the Fiat, while the rear seats roll forward on hinges to free up a sizeable 1,132 litres of flat-floored space.
On the road, the Nissan falls behind again. Despite having an extra cylinder and higher capacity, the DiG-S engine feels less eager at low revs, and you have to work it harder to make progress. There’s more body roll, yet the ride is more unsettled than the Fiat’s.
As a result, you’re not encouraged to access the Micra’s full performance potential, which explains why it returned 13.5mpg more than the Panda on test – but unless efficiency is your priority, it’s a hard car to recommend.
Chart position: 2WHY: The supercharged Nissan Micra matches the Panda TwinAir for economy and speed. Shiro special edition has generous standard kit and smart technology, too.