At an exclusive pre-launch event near Barcelona, Nissan took the unusual step of allowing us to drive two near-production prototypes of the 2017 Nissan Micra in the company of their major opposition: a 1.2-litre four-cylinder Volkswagen Polo (the class refinement standard) and a Renault Clio powered by a 0.9-litre petrol triple (the powertrain standard).
The Micras were a basic-spec 1.5-litre diesel and a mid-spec model using the same 0.9-litre turbo as the Clio.
The route was a decent test: it started with some ragged, crowned blacktop pocked with the kind of bumps you normally drive around (we didn’t), plus faster, bumpier asphalt that tested the body control over the suspension’s entire stroke. There were bumpy corners, both quick and slow, plus a fast and evil blind one with a closing radius, then a few miles of smooth motorway to test wind noise.
The Polo was soft, so it bounced rather untidily, but it was safe and quiet over broken surfaces. Its steering was nicely weighted and had that typical VW feeling of unburstability, and the four-cylinder engine was capable but definitely nothing special.