From £12,6556

Two years after launch, the fifth-gen Micra range gets a warm hatchback: the N-Sport

When the current, fifth-generation version of the Nissan Micra supermini first hit UK roads in 2017, the Nissan's appearance suggested this N-Sport might be coming.

Gone were the effete, bug-eyed curves of generations gone by, ditched for a much more edgy, wedgey, arrowhead aesthetic that, though contemporary, looked less authentic on the car, according to some estimations. Whether they seem to belong on a Micra or not, however, the car’s new youthful, sporting looks undoubtedly lend themselves to a performance makeover; and, as evidenced by this week’s road test subject, the go-faster treatment is exactly what the Micra has now got.

The N-Sport bodystyling has to translate onto the IG-T 100 engine, which perhaps is why it isn’t more visually purposeful

As part of the car’s first mid-life update, a couple of new engines have been added to the model range, with an Xtronic CVT two-pedal transmission made available in anticipation of growing interest in automatic-equipped superminis. Some equipment and trim revisions have been brought in too, which we’ll also get into over the following pages.

But it’s the Micra N-Sport that’s the headline addition. This derivative becomes the first product from the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance to feature the 1.0-litre three-cylinder version of the new petrol engine family developed in tandem with Daimler and, in 1.3-litre form, already used to power both the Nissan Qashqai and the Mercedes A-Class. It moves the Micra onto peak power of 115bhp – enough to stand comparison with cars like the Ford Fiesta ST-Line and Seat Ibiza FR. As you’re about to read, the N-Sport also benefits from changes to the technical specification of the suspension, steering and transmission, and from upgrades to the exterior styling and cabin.

Back to top

Time to find out what kind of junior driver’s car can be made from this newly assertive-looking supermini, then.

Nissan Micra design & styling

Outwardly, the N-Sport differs little from any other Micra – but, given the K14-generation model rewrote the Micra style book (sharpening the pudgy proportions while increasing both its height and length) and this latest version is a mere refresh, wholesale changes were never expected. Visual alterations are instead largely limited to carbonfibre-style finishing on the wheels and door mirrors, along with gloss-black bumper inserts, and the five-door Micra continues to disguise its rear doors by integrating its handles into the C-pillar trim.

Nissan’s engineers cannot be accused of sitting on their hands, however, because underneath the bonnet sits an all-new engine that makes this N-Sport the most powerful Micra yet. Admittedly, this is in the same vein as being the most practical Lamborghini, or the fastest snowplough, but in the context of a front-driven supermini that tips the scales at less than a tonne, 115bhp nevertheless seems promising.

An over-square three-cylinder turbocharged petrol, this 1.0-litre DIG-T unit uses a compact ‘delta’ cylinder head and spray coating for the cylinder bores (molten iron instead of solid, and far thicker, cast-iron liners), while the turbo benefits from electric actuators. Compared with the old 0.9-litre petrol, there’s also direct fuel injection, variable valve timing for intake and exhaust and a higher compression ratio, though this trio of technologies is found on the lesser – but also new, and similarly sized – 99bhp IG-T engine too. The resulting 133lb ft from 1750rpm, with 15lb ft of overboost, pushes the N-Sport into ‘warm’ supermini territory, joining the Volkswagen Up GTI, Suzuki Swift Sport and Ford Fiesta ST-Line.

The aesthetic additions N-Sport trim brings can be optioned for any 1.0-litre Micra, though the most powerful version uniquely benefits from chassis tweaks to improve the driving experience. The suspension – passively damped, and using the same MacPherson strut front and torsion beam rear architecture as any other Micra in the range – sits the car 10mm lower with firmer spring rates for greater body control.

Back to top

The electromechanical steering is also lighter and quicker, to impart a greater feeling of agility, though where most rivals have moved to better-performing discs, the rear is still braked using drums. Meanwhile, though the 99bhp Micra is offered with manual and CVT transmissions, only a six-speed manual is available for this 115bhp version.

Fitted with a new gasoline particulate filter (GPF), on 17in wheels and 205/45 tyres, the DIG-T Micra returns a WLTP combined fuel economy of 47.9mpg, with CO2 emissions of 133g/km.

The Nissan Micra range at a glance

In step with the wider supermini market, Nissan offers the Micra as a five-door hatch only. The engine line-up is mostly made up of three-cylinder petrols paired with five- or six-speed manual transmissions, depending on output. A sole four-cylinder diesel is offered with a five-speed ’box.

Visia represents the entry-level trim and Tekna crowns the range. Interior and exterior personalisation packs provide plenty of scope for customisation.

Price £19,005 | Power 115bhp | Torque 148lb ft| 0-60mph 10.2sec | 30-70mph in fourth 12.4sec | Fuel economy 33.4mpg | CO2 133g/km (WLTP) | 70-0mph 47.1m

Nissan Micra First drives