What is it?
This, the fourth-generation Nissan Micra, has hardly set the sales charts alight, perhaps because it comes across as a cheap product created with none of the designed-in love and fun that characterised the previous two incarnations. Three years on from launch, the Indian-built supermini gains a mid-life makeover intended to instil a touch of covetability into an otherwise white-goods product.
It's all about cosmetics and equipment, with no changes deemed necessary for a mechanical repertoire which includes a 1.2-litre, three-cylinder engine in normally aspirated 79bhp form or, with a supercharger, reconfigured as the 97bhp DIG-S.
The nose gets a Nissan Qashqai-like 'V', in chrome, cradling a Nissan badge and creating a semblance of a Nissan face in place of the unidentifiable anonymity that featured before. The front bumper and lower air intake are similarly on-brand, and a further sharpening-up aft sees the tailgate now flow tidily into the bumper below.
Inside, middle Acenta and top Tekna versions get a gloss black centre console with a new-Note-like circular cluster for the heating and air-con controls, while a display screen above is able to house sat-nav and other connected telematics. The instrument graphics are sharper, the steering wheel has a leather rim, and various flashes of chrome and silver sparkle-up the ambience. The base Visia version's cabin lacks these enhancements and remains much as before.
What's it like?
In the Tekna DIG-S we sampled, suede-like seats, keyless starting and a six-speaker Nissan Connect multimedia system lend a slightly upmarket gloss, plus you also get a folding function for the electric mirrors, a system to measure potential parking slots (but not to guide you into them) and 16in diameter alloy wheels (Acenta mdoels get 15in alloys). A glass roof, fitted to the test car, is a £500 option.
Beneath that gloss, though, lie the hard, unyielding plastics and generic design that made the current Micra so unmemorable at launch, so the impression is of a cheap car glitzed-up after the event.
These Micras are rivals for a Hyundai i20 or a Kia Rio rather than a mainstream Euromini (the new Note is intended to do that job), but the Korean cousins are capable cars these days. The Micra still lacks their design sophistication but proves a much better drive than you might expect.
It feels tough, solid and rattle-free, steers precisely and keenly, copes well with bumps and handles with fair verve. In the way that it copes with poor roads while offering an enjoyable playful balance, it has a flavour of old-school French superminis: think Peugeot 205 or orginal Renault Clio. In this commendably lightweight home (the kerb weight is just 955kg), the supercharged three-pot feels keen and revvy while pulling vigorously from quite low engine speeds and, being supercharged, suffering no response lag.
This is quite an entertaining little car and livelier than its figures suggest. All that gets in the way of a good time is the engine's infuriating reluctance to lose revs when you release the accelerator, which scuppers any chance of rapid and smooth upshifts.
Should I buy one?
The range does begin pretty cheaply with the base 1.2 at £9950, but the DIG-S Tekna looks less tempting at £14,050 – plus another thousand if you go for a CVT automatic version. The manual DIG-S's 95g/km CO2 score, and the 68.9mpg official economy that goes with it, are tempting figures, but experience suggests you'll be lucky to average 40mpg in the real world if you make use of the liveliness on offer.