Depending on equipment level (there are five, including Youth, Racing and Mature), the Micra has most of the electronic aids found in pricier cars, including lane departure and blind spot warning, forward city braking (with optional pedestrian recognition), surround-view cameras and traffic sign recognition.
The Micra will have a specially configured version of the 89bhp 1.5-litre four-cylinder diesel found in smaller Renaults, plus a turbocharged 0.9-litre three-cylinder petrol engine of the same output. A 69bhp, non-turbo petrol triple will arrive later, and a 120bhp version of the 0.9 turbo will follow that. All engines get standard manual gearboxes, but Nissan is likely to offer a CVT auto in at least one model.
Insiders admit there will be a close underskin relationship between the Micra and the next Clio, but for now the two are built on different platforms. The two cars’ suspensions (front struts, twist beam behind) differ in detail, but even when the Clio moves to Micra hardware, Nissan engineers say enough variation will be available to provide differences in what drivers feel.
Nissan engineers have tested the Micra all over Europe to reach settings for brakes, wheel dimensions, tyre brand and size, steering and suspension rates. They have also tuned the electronic systems that govern dynamics: Active Trace Control (which uses brake applications to keep the car on line in corners) and Active Ride Control (which uses nose dive from imperceptible brake applications to improve body control over large bumps).
LAUNCH DETAILS, PRICING
Nissan will start building Micras in December and plans to have them on sale in both right and left-hand drive next March. There’s no indication of anticipated volume, but an insider revealed that Micra sales topped 170,000 a year for a while in the early 1990s.
It’s too early to discuss pricing, Nissan says, but the plan is to “compete hard” with the established players such as the Polo, which starts at about £11,500.
Q&A Norman Snowdon, Micra engineering manager
Have you reached the final dynamic spec for the Micra?
“We’re close. We’ve done a lot of testing and we’re pleased with the results. Our testing against rivals has been encouraging. There’s always more you can do, but we’re where we want to be.”
Do Micra models have a variety of damper settings?
“Just two: one for the petrol cars and one for the diesels. It’s likely we’ll have a higher-output model in future, and we’ll visit them again, but for the launch cars we think we’ve got them right.”
Would you say this was a plush car or a sporty one?
“Both, hopefully. But we’ve definitely done a lot of tyre development – there have been many iterations – and we’re especially pleased with the car’s refinement. But it’s agile, too, as our tests against competitors show.”
Is your own Micra work nearly finished?
“You’ve got to be joking! We now have 5000 people – dealers and product managers – to show the car to, and they’ll be our first line of contact with the customer. Then we’ll be paying close attention to early survey results. We’ll want to know exactly what early owners think, and react if necessary. It’ll be busy.”