Nissan Micra 1.2 CVT

We travel to Asia to drive the new Thai-built Micra, featuring new fuel-efficient three-cylinder engine

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.0 out of 5

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To design a car that’s affordable in developing markets, certain compromises have to be made. And that’s something that was evident in the cheap-feeling interior of our Thai-spec test car. But as far as the driving experience is concerned the Micra is as easy to use as ever - just don’t expect anything sporty. The new three-cylinder engine copes well with the 890kg kerbweight, while the CVT gearbox is smooth but noisy and emphasizes the Micra’s lack of pace. However, with UK cars getting retuned suspension, tweaked steering feel and an overhauled interior, plus a 98bhp supercharged engine on the way, the new Micra should sell well… As long as the price is right.

From Sunderland to South-East Asia, the Micra is on the move! An all-new version of the popular supermini has arrived and Auto Express travelled to Thailand, where it began production last month, to be the first behind the wheel.

Dubbed Nissan’s 'Global Compact Car', the new Micra will no longer be built in North-East England, but in Thailand, China, India and Mexico and sold in 160 countries worldwide.

Video: watch CarBuyer's video review of the Nissan Micra

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A hot topic at the Micra’s unveil at Geneva this year was its middle-of the-road looks. Gone is the cute styling from the current car – replaced instead by a less polarizing, generic design. But this is a car that needs a broader appeal if it’s to succeed.

The interior is spacious but the plastics in our Thai-spec test car were hard and scratchy. European Micras will get a upgraded interior however, featuring higher-quality soft-touch materials when they goes on sale in November.

Debuting is a trio of new technology - a three-cylinder 1.2-litre engine, a CVT gearbox and the all-new 'V' platform, which will underpin both a saloon version of the Micra and the replacement for the Note. The all-new three-cylinder engine comes as a 78bhp naturally-aspirated unit, or will later be offered with a supercharger bolted on, direct injection and stop-start to deliver 97bhp while producing only 95g/km of CO2.

We drove the less powerful engine hooked-up to the CVT gearbox – a surprisingly smooth combination on light throttle inputs, with a classic three-cylinder 'thrum' as the revs rise. But put your foot down and the wail from the gearbox is unbearable, plus the acceleration is woeful. We'd stick with the five-speed manual which makes the most of what little performance is on offer.

As you'd expect the Micra’s forte is its ease of use. The steering is fingertip light and a class-topping turning circle of 4.5 metres makes it perfect for negotiating busy town centres. A spongy suspension setup makes it surprisingly comfortable in a straight line but the trade-off is significant body roll in the corners. It's hard to read too much into out test car’s driving characteristics though as UK-spec cars will feature retuned suspension, a lower ride height and softer compound tyres.

Rival: Ford Fiesta
Just like the Micra, the current Fiesta and the new Focus, due later this year, are global cars for Ford – the only problem for the Blue Oval is getting US buyers to overcome their aversion to small cars.

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