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Steering, suspension and comfort

Nissan’s engineers will tell you how they aimed to perfectly combine the handling dynamism of the Fiesta with the comfort and refinement of the Polo in the new Micra.

It’s an obvious ambition but much easier to say than to achieve. In a £15,000 supermini, where adaptive chassis technology is well off the menu, that kind of breadth of ability is probably still impossible.

Suspension handles compressions quite well. If there’s pitch control going on via tweaking of the rear brakes, you can’t feel it

But as a slightly simpler attempt to split the difference between the dynamic positions of the Fiesta and Polo, the new Micra is a reasonable success; and it’s a world away from the dynamic mediocrity of the outgoing Micra.

The car certainly has many strong suits. It has good body control; robust grip levels; good high-speed stability; a fairly supple but quite sophisticated ride; agile handling; pleasant and well-weighted steering; and subtle and progressive chassis electronics.

Small cars rely on careful tuning and execution to have such a complete set of attributes, and the Micra has clearly been the recipient of both.

Around town, where superminis rule the roost, the car feels manoeuvrable and tackles junctions and roundabouts with intuitive sweetness.

Out of town, although it doesn’t quite match the ride comfort and isolation of the most grown-up compact hatchbacks (Polo, Fabia, Audi A1), there’s a pleasingly supple, settled feel to the way the car deals with back-road lumps and bumps.

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On the motorway, that big-car feel fades a little bit, although high-speed body control and straight-line stability remain fairly good for such a small car. And in response to a keener driving style, the Micra has nimble handling and clings on to a tight cornering line well, although it doesn’t have the balance, feel or fun factor of the Fiesta.

The Micra remains well within itself when being hustled along quickly, with more grip than its 89bhp engine can really test. The suspension keeps the body in check long enough for you to drive right up to the tyres’ limit of grip without destabilising the car — although that’s true of most decent small cars.

After that point, the car’s electronic traction and stability controls begin to trim engine power and trigger braking interventions with a gentle hand so as to help rather than hinder while avoiding going to panic stations. There’s plenty of grip and traction available up until that point, though.

The car’s stability electronics can be disabled via the trip computer rather than by a button. Doing so doesn’t exactly bring the car’s handling to life.

It doesn’t handle with the joie de vivre of a Fiesta, although it tolerates a provocative driving style with good fundamental stability.