The all-new 2011 Nissan Micra is a generation ahead of its main rivals.
2011 Nissan Micra Review (K13)
Nissan is a car company run by people that actually love cars (believe it or not, that's a rarity these days). The only major Japanese manufacturer that has managed to keep its soul amid the global financial crisis by building models that appeal to the heart of every car enthusiast, whilst also staying in touch with the everyday car buyer.
With the new Nissan Micra, Nissan is not taking 'no' for an answer. The model is all about delivering an affordable light car jam-packed with so many standard features that it's bound to put the competition to shame.
Most importantly though, unlike the K12 Micra the K13's exterior design is no longer a case of 'love-it-or-hate-it'. Although more conformist than ever, the new Nissan Micra now appeals to a much wider range of potential buyers and it makes Nissan Australia's ambitious target of 1,500 Micra sales per month a conceivable possibility.
The new model also covers the entire light-car segment. There are three grade variants powered by either 1.2 (ST only) or 1.5-litre (ST-L & Ti) petrol engines mated to manual or automatic transmissions.
To celebrate the launch of new Micra, Nissan brought Australia's automotive press to a roof-top car park of Docklands tourist centre in Melbourne. The infamous nonoperational Southern Star observation wheel which was meant to help attract 1.5 million visitors a year to the area has been nothing short of a disaster for Tourism Victoria, but for Nissan, it provided a rare opportunity to use a public car park for some fun.
Given how few people ever show up to the place, the two top levels of the public car park had yet to be opened. So, what better way to open them than by having a motorkhana? For those unfamiliar with the idea, it's essentially a tight racecourse constructed with witches-hats in a big empty space.
Given the Micra isn't exactly a GT-R or 370Z, the traditional Motorkhana style (or MicraKhana as Nissan called it) was adjusted to suit the car. Instead of fast cornering and switchbacks, we had ridiculously tight figure-eight courses, reverse and parallel parks plus emergency braking and a maze.
The idea was simple. Test the car in its native environment: car parks, busy streets, tight spaces and inner-city driving.
First up, a Nissan Micra Ti 1.5-litre automatic. This is the top of the range model which retails for $18,990. Not cheap, but then again it does come with pretty much everything you can think of in a light car. 15-inch alloy wheels; reversing sensors; auto folding door mirrors; intelligent key; push button engine start/stop. Just to name a few.
With 76kW and 136Nm of torque, the range-topping 1.5-litre four-cylinder Micra accelerates with reasonable pace from a standstill and also on the road, making overtaking manoeuvres an easy task. All Micra's have a turning radius of just 4.5m, so they can do tight turns pretty damn well. That figure is only beaten by the Smart ForTwo (equal to Suzuki Alto).
In the real-world, it has to be driven to be appreciated as it can manoeuvre around tight spaces with extreme ease. This is perfect for a car that is likely to spend most of its time in car parks and tight city streets. In fact, if you live in Melbourne or somewhere like Newtown in Sydney, it's ideal.
There are some rather cool features inside the new Micra too, simple but clever things. One that caught my eye was the 'smart' passenger seat. If empty, the the rear part of the seat squab can be lifted up to provide a nice little space to put anything from an iPad, handbag or book (or all). A simple and effective way to ensure what you've brought in the car with you doesn't fly around the cabin as you drive.
Nissan says one of the ways it has improved the new Micra is by building a lighter car. Not only does this mean it can be produced at a lower cost (hence cheaper to the consumers) but as the engine has to carry less load, it uses less fuel. If you also happen to care about the environment, you'll be happy to know the new Micra is 98 percent recyclable.
Sitting behind the wheel the first thing I noticed was the lack of telescopic steering wheel adjustment (pulling steering wheel towards you), which is disappointing. Nonetheless it only takes a few seconds to adjust to the car and you're off. The dashboard controls are pretty easy to manage and the seats are pretty good for the price. Thanks to the high roofline you can comfortably fit two tall adults in the rear without too many complaints.
If you're like me and can't remember important dates to save yourself, you no longer need to rely just on your iPhone's calendar. The Nissan Micra's internal computer has an anniversary reminder so you won't forget birthdays or other special days. Although, if you're as forgetful as me, you will most likely forget to program it to remind you in the first place.
Talking of iPhones, even the base model Micra comes with Bluetooth connectivity (it would be nice if it also had Bluetooth audio-streaming) and is capable of being hooked up to the car's auxiliary input so you can listen to your favourite tunes very easily (if for some odd reason you still use CDs, it can also play that too).
Having completed the first part of the course, my co-driver and I drove downstairs to enter a crazy maze created with nothing but tape. The idea was simple, finish the maze as fast as you can and don't hit any poles. This resulted in lots of handbrake turns around tight corners with the car's electric stability control having a panic attack.
Not exactly the sort of thing you'd do in a public carpark on a regular basis, but hey, if you ever feel the need to pull the handbrake and slide around a tight carpark pole at 40km/h, I can assure you the new Micra is more than capable of the task (although it's onboard safety computer will have a mini hissy-fit).
Last but most importantly we swapped out of the 1.5 four-cylinder into the 56kW 1.2 three-cylinder Micra and headed towards Melbourne CBD to conduct a real-world driving test. With just 100Nm of torque the 1.2-litre engine is not as smooth as its bigger brother, but it's more efficient. Using just 5.9-litre of fuel per 100km (manual) compared to 6.5L/100km for the 1.5 (manual). So if you're mostly just zipping around the city, it'll do fine.
The boot isn't all that spacious but 60:40 split fold rear seats allow you to make good use of the Micra's little space. As far as interior-practicality goes, the Micra still trails the Honda Jazz's (but it's also much cheaper).
It's hard to review a car like the Micra without treating it like your own. In and around Melbourne CBD it's easy to say the Micra is ideal, but so are pretty much all the cars in its class. Sure it turns a bit sharper and comes with more standard features, but if that's not enough to convince you, how would one pick it from the competition?
The answer is pretty simple. Take it for a test drive and you'll notice pretty darn quickly that the new Nissan Micra is a generation ahead of its main rivals. It's quieter, smoother, easier to drive and comes with all the latest technology and safety gear. It's also rather cheap.
One of the reasons it's cheaper than before is due to its country of origin. Unlike the previous generation Japanese built Micra, the new one comes from Thailand. Not that there is anything wrong with that. In fact, Nissan is so confident of the car's quality that the Japanese themselves also source the Micra from there (and believe me, they are far more picky when it comes to cars than you and I).
The new Micra measures 3780mm long, 1665mm wide and 1525mm high. It's sold in over 160 countries, so if you're an avid traveller of places relatively unseen, you're more likely to find a Nissan Micra than a Big Mac (sold in 125 countries).
Whilst the K13 Nissan Micra is brand new, rivals like the Hyundai Getz, Suzuki Swift, Toyota Yaris and Mitsubishi Colt (which are all great choices in their own right) have been around for many, many years. So whilst the others go through their runout phase, Nissan has the upper hand.
As it stands now, if you're thinking about buying a new light car you'd be mad not to put the new Nissan Micra at the very top of your list.
2011 Nissan Micra Equipement List:
- 1.2-litre three-cylinder engine
- 5-speed manual gearbox
- 14-inch steel wheels
- 165/70 R14 tyres
- Full size spare wheel
- Body coloured bumpers
- Chrome radiator grille
- Body coloured powered electric door mirrors
- Front disc brakes
- Black body side moulding
- AM/FM radio with CD and MP3 and Aux-in
- Four speakers
- Steering wheel audio controls
- Bluetooth connectivity
- Tilting steering column
- Power Steering
- Drive computer (inc Temp gauge)
- Air conditioning
- Front power windows with one-touch driver’s side
- Remote central locking with speed sensing auto lock function
- 60/40-rear seat split
- Cloth seats
- Driver seat height adjustable
- Boot tonneau cover
- 5 Cup holders
- 6 Airbags
- Vehicle Dynamic Control
- Anti-Lock Brakes
- EBD with Brake Assist
- Three-point seatbelts for five seats (front with load limiter and pretensioner)
As above plus:
- 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine
- 15-inch steel wheels with full covers
- 175/60 R16 tyres
- Auto headlamps on/off
- Front and rear power windows
As above plus:
- 15-inch alloy wheels
- Reversing sensors
- Front fog lamps
- Auto folding door mirrors
- Body coloured exterior door handles
- Intelligent Key
- Push button engine start/stop
- Fully automatic climate control air conditioning
- Driver armrest
- Passenger seat bag holder
- 6-speaker stereo
- Upgraded cloth trim
- Chrome grille surround