The Japanese firm has given its hottest Micra a bit of a facelift. Is it enough to keep up with the competition?
The changes to the Micra have helped to freshen up a versatile and likeable supermini. It has a distinctive exterior, while the interior is spacious and practical, so it remains a great small family car. However, as a hot hatch, it is a much less convincing proposition. While performance is strong, lacklustre dynamics make the 160SR a disappointing back road companion. If it’s fun you’re after, you should look elsewhere.
Drivers who are looking for a hot hatch bargain have never had it so good. Whether it’s the likes of the Fiat Panda 100HP or Ford Sportka, buyers are spoiled for choice. And, in an effort to keep up, Nissan has updated its sporty Micra 160SR.
Coming hot on the heels of the recently revealed Nissan GT-R supercar, the 160SR benefits from the same subtle facelift as the rest of the Japanese brand’s supermini line-up. So, are these changes enough to power the Micra to the top of the class?
It looks distinctive, thanks to extra chrome on the grille and reprofiled, tinted headlamp covers. There’s also a new black finish on the B-pillars. The overall shape has been left largely untouched, though – and this means you’re still getting one of the most distinctive-looking hot hatches on the market. What’s more, unlike rivals, the Nissan is available in either three or five-door bodystyles.
Inside, you’ll find the visual changes have been kept to a minimum – they are limited to a range of new trim colours. There has been an increase in the amount of hi-tech standard equipment, though – this now includes an MP3 connection, alongside Bluetooth hands-free mobile phone connectivity. Both of these handy features complement the improved stereo, which we think sounds better than on previous models. And finally, an audible speed limit warning system has been added as an extra safety aid.
Fortunately, no changes have been made to the quality plastics and solid build of the outgoing machine. The cabin is practical, too, with plenty of cubby space and a neat stowage bin located under the folding passenger seatbase. In fact, our only real complaint concerns the lack of support from the front chairs. This is particularly disappointing considering that the 160SR is a performance model.
Despite its modest 108bhp output, the 1.6-litre powerplant pulls strongly and is quite smooth. The sprint from 0-62mph is dispatched in 9.8 seconds, and best of all, the newcomer should return 42.8mpg. Refinement can be an issue, however, with both wind and engine noise becoming intrusive at motorway speeds.
The Micra is less convincing once you hit a twisty stretch of tarmac. Even though it has stiffened suspension, there is a surprising amount of body roll, while mid-corner bumps cause a great deal of kickback through the steering. Strong grip – even in the wet – compensates for this, and the brakes offer good stopping power.
As a hot hatch, this Micra is flawed. But the same engine is also available in the softer Active Luxury model. For the same £10,695, you get identical pace, better kit, similar looks and, crucially, a more composed chassis.
Rival Fiat Panda 100HP Don’t be put off by the upright looks. The tiny Italian tearaway serves up a great chassis, eager performance and an extremely practical cabin. It’s cheaper than the Micra, too. Not even the overly stiff ride and cheap-feeling interior trim can diminish its charm.