The recipe for a convincing warm hatch can be a tricky one to execute. Just as important as a balanced, responsive chassis is an engine capable of compensating for a lack of outright pace with a sense of bold, effervescent character.
A 123bhp Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiesta or Seat Ibiza with VW Group’s 113bhp 1.0 TSI engine are fine examples of how these ingredients can be combined successfully. As well as their strong performance (relative to the wider class), their powerplants foster a good level of driver engagement.
The N-Sport’s new 1.0-litre triple doesn’t quite lend itself as convincingly to that art. This is an engine missing the whimsical levity of its more popular rivals, and a forgettable soundtrack hardly encourages the driver to let the tachometer spin all the way out to the limiter. That and a resolutely damp throttle response were chief gripes among our testers.
But though there can be a degree of grumbling and coughing at low crank speeds, and a noticeable amount of lag to overcome, reasonable mid-range performance helps the Micra keep its head just above water. A recorded 30-70mph time of 9.4sec places the Nissan just ahead of the 123bhp Fiesta Titanium (9.6sec) road tested in 2017. The Nissan also exhibited greater in-gear tractability than its major rival – in fourth gear dispatching 30-70mph in 12.4sec versus the Fiesta’s 14.8sec.