Verdict on CVT auto version of new supermini
It’s easy to see why Nissan has played it safe with the Micra. Unlike the firm’s distinctive crossover models, the new city car sticks to a tried-and-tested formula of low running costs and value for money. It’s adequate, but the lack of ambition shows in the dull design and low-rent cabin. It may be efficient, but the CVT is too noisy and slow out of town, and trails the class leaders.
Is the new Nissan Micra destined to be an automatic success? We drove the manual version back in Issue 1,146, so how does this CVT-equipped model compare?
First impressions are mixed. The auto is visually identical to its manual counterpart, and the design is hardly striking. Part of the problem is the fact that this is a ‘global’ car, so the conservative styling is understandable, given its scope – the Micra is being sold in 160 different countries.
Video: watch CarBuyer's video review of the Nissan Micra
Yet it feels like a step in the wrong direction. Where the previous model was quirky and cute, the newcomer struggles to make an impression. The tall body does mean the interior is roomier, but it doesn’t give the Micra much kerbside appeal – a key route to sales success in this highly competitive sector of the market.
Car group tests
- Nissan Micra (Mk2, 1992-2002) icon review
- New Nissan Micra N-Sport 2019 review
- Long-term test review: Nissan Micra
- Nissan Micra Acenta 1.0 petrol 2017 review
Used car tests
It’s a similar story inside. Our mid-range Acenta offers a strange mixture of hi-tech kit, such as cruise and climate control, surrounded by cheap and scratchy interior plastics.
The roofline and wheelbase are longer than on the previous model, so there is plenty of room for passengers in the back, and the 265-litre boot is impressive considering the Micra’s compact dimensions. Plus, the rear seats fold flat, allowing owners to carry bulky items with relative ease.
There’s clever technology at work, too, as the car uses Nissan’s new V-platform, which is lighter and stiffer than ever. Add the chirpy three-cylinder petrol engine, and the Micra claims 52.3mpg fuel economy and 126g/km CO2 emissions – impressive figures for an auto.
On the road, however, the drivetrain struggles. The CVT gearbox is noisy and strained, and the underpowered engine is best suited to use around town, with the benchmark 0-62mph sprint taking nearly 15 seconds. A supercharged version, due in the summer, should be considerably quicker.
The light steering is also tuned with city driving in mind, as is the class-leading 4.65-metre turning circle, which is really useful for completing tight manoeuvres. Yet even though it’s been tweaked for UK roads, the ride is jittery and the car crashes over larger bumps.
The Micra auto makes sense on paper, but its cheap feel and lack of character could be big handicaps to long-term success.