Nissan Micra Shiro 1.2 DIG-S review
What is it?
Cast your mind back to the 1990s and you'll be recalling a time when the Nissan Micra was a sure-fire hit. Yes, the car's appeal did seem to be rooted in certain sections of society but the fan base was big enough to install it near the top of the sales charts. This humble Japanese supermini was as popular with little old ladies as Battenburg cake and only a well-executed turn in the road was more likely to put a smile on a driving instructor.
That was the second generation Micra, though. From that golden age, it's safe to say the car lost its way. The bug-eyed mk3 never quite took off and now we have the fourth generation model, a car designed to sell in no fewer than 160 countries worldwide. It's Nissan's attempt at pleasing all of the people all of the time. A very neat trick, if it can be pulled off.
Where does it fit?
It's the Micra Shiro special edition model we're looking at here - £13,000 of supermini, once metallic paint and some floor mats have been drafted in from the options list. At that price, climate control, parking sensors and heated seats are impressive inclusions and the rest of the options list looks fairly well-stocked too.
This particular model only comes in white, Shiro being the Japanese word for the car colour of the moment, but there's an all but identical Kuro model that comes in black. No prizes for guessing the translation.
it's not one of the more substantial cars in the class
The Micra is still a supermini, Nissan has the diminutive Pixo to fill the smaller city car role, but it's not one of the more substantial cars in the class. In fact it's decidedly compact, giving away at least 170mm in length to supermini big guns like the Ford Fiesta, Vauxhall Corsa and Volkswagen Polo.
Is it for you?
So this Micra is compact, well-equipped and decent value. It sounds like a winning combination for a small car and there's more. We've got this far without touching on Nissan's ingenious 1.2-litre DIG-S engine. It's a 3-cylinder unit with a tiny supercharger bolted on that takes power to 97hp while maintaining sparkling green credentials.
What does it do well?
It's no exaggeration to say that this engine is a bit of a star. Typically you get a slightly raucous but not unpleasant thrum from 3-cylinder engines but the noise of this one is underpinned by the tell-tale whine of a supercharger. The other hint that there's a blower under the bonnet comes when you waft the throttle - it's quick.
It's no exaggeration to say that this engine is a bit of a star
Let's put 'quick' in perspective. The DIG-S Micra takes all of 11.3s to reach 62mph but it feels strong in short bursts and will rumble on to 112mph given the room. It gives the car a nippy, alert quality around town and copes fine in the cut and thrust of the motorway.
What doesn't it do well?
The engine is a highlight but elsewhere the Micra doesn't have the sophistication of the best of its supermini rivals. It can be fun to punt about but too often the chassis feels rough around the edges - crashing and bouncing over uneven surfaces, rolling through corners. The speed-sensitive-steering is clearly tuned for an urban setting but it could still use more weight on the open road.
What's it like to live with?
It might be small but the passenger space inside the Micra is actually pretty good. The five-door body can take four adults with no need for amputations but the boot capacity of 265 litres is a little below par.
Combined cycle returns of 65.7mpg are outstanding
As we've said, there's a lot of equipment shovelled into this Shiro special edition but the upmarket specification isn't reflected in the cabin. The materials are not on the level of the top superminis with shoddy plastics and a lack of elegance in the design. The seats are too soft and lack side support while the steering wheel lacks the reach adjustment that would improve the driving position for taller drivers.
How green is it?
It's the economy and emissions that really make this Micra. Combined cycle returns of 65.7mpg are outstanding in a supermini packing 97hp and it equates to tax-friendly CO2 emissions of 99g/km. If low costs and a slightly less pollution choked planet are priorities, this car might do the trick.
Would we buy it?
The fourth generation Micra is not a return to the glory days when Nissan challenged at the top of the supermini class. It's a car designed to be cheap enough to sell globally and may well be a success on those grounds but in the UK and Europe, there are just too many better small car options.
If low costs and kit are your absolute priorities, the Micra Shiro is worth a look but we'd advise test drives in a few of the alternatives too.
First drive: Nissan Micra 1.2 DIG-S
Read Nissan car reviews
MSN Cars' best superminis