Nissan Micra

The brief was simple: transport two people and their luggage across France cheaply, efficiently and in comfort. Low European diesel prices and high fuel economy meant an oil-burner was the obvious choice - but surely not a Nissan Micra?

  • Frugal fuel economy, keyless entry system, high standard spec, styling, continental cruising
  • Motorway steering problem, unrefined engine at low speeds, too many warning beeps
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The brief was simple: transport two people and their luggage across France cheaply, efficiently and in comfort. Low European diesel prices and high fuel economy meant an oil-burner was the obvious choice - but surely not a Nissan Micra?
That was the suggestion made by art editor Darren Wilson, who has been running Auto Express's long-term Micra 1.5 dCi SX for the past four months. He assured me it was perfectly capable on the motorway, and the derv consumption defied the laws of physics. After overcoming my scepticism of taking on a 1,000-mile trip in a supermini, I set off at the wheel of the Paprika-coloured Nissan. So did cruising the Continent confirm the Micra's quality, or make us curse its shortcomings?
The good news is OE04 VXW passed every test with flying colours. Coping superbly with the French autoroute between Dover and the famous Le Mans race circuit, the Micra completed its journey with ease, including a photocall at the historic Mont St Michel in north-west France (image).
By far the most satisfying aspect of the trip was totting up the fuel costs. Despite a relatively high continental cruising speed, the average of 54.3mpg was impressive. On its usual city trips in London, economy often creeps above 60mpg, making the overall consumption a penny-pinching 58.7mpg. But our Micra is no stranger to long journeys. In its first five days with us, the car completed a 900-mile jaunt with another colleague. And it recently went to Cornwall and back in our special eco road test (Issue 833). It's hard to ignore how frugal this Micra is, and the savings mount up over a high mileage.
Given the fuel efficiency, we could forgive the 82bhp 1.5-litre dCi powerplant a few faults, yet it demands few compromises. It lacks refinement at idle, sending vibrations through the steering wheel and gearknob, but while it isn't the quietest diesel unit on the market, it offers decent performance. The Micra is also nippy around town, and only begins to feel lacklustre at higher speeds.
It's on motorways that the Nissan's only mechanical problem has become apparent. The fault causes the steering to pull to the left under braking, then back to the right under acceleration. Local dealer Ancaster in Penge, south east London, failed to find anything amiss - but we're sure something is wrong, so further investigation is needed.
Otherwise, our time with the Micra has proved stress-free. Nearly everyone has commented on how spacious the interior is, with the sliding rear seat making the boot a useful size with two on board. Even tall drivers have lots of headroom, while the armrest on the offside door is perfectly placed - this has to be one of the most comfortable superminis on the market. However, we've got a theory as to why the cabin area is so lofty - the Micra's suspension sometimes feels firm enough for bumps to bounce you right out of your seat! One young passenger regularly complains about the Nissan's jumpy ride quality. He asks: "When are you getting a new car? This one's too hard!" Not bad judgement for a four-year-old...
We have no complaints about the Intelligent Key system, though. The benefit of the doors un-locking as you approach with the fob in your pocket is clear when you are weighed down with shopping. Add digital climate control to the standard kit, and our SX car is the spec to go for.
Over the coming months, we look forward to many more miles in our thrifty supermini, but is it the perfect cruiser? Not quite - although it's certainly one of the most financially sensible.

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