Geneva Motor Show: Nissan Micra
Make no mistake, Nissan has big ambitions for its new Micra. The all-new model may not be much to look at, but this is a global car in the true sense of the word.
Design and engineered in Japan, but built in India, Thailand, Mexico and China, Nissan insists it has produced a car which can succeed in the price-obessesed emerging markets while at the same time competing in the hyper-competitive European supermini segment.
Beneath that unimaginative body sits Nissan's new V-Platform, conceived to be lightweight, versatile, and crucially, simple enough to be produced cheaply in huge volumes, it will underpin a three car range, including a small saloon and MPV. These may be limited to certain markets, but the Micra will be sold in 160 countries. The car retains the compact dimensions of its predecessor, being slightly wider and longer, but also a little lower. The new Micra will only be available as a five-door hatch.
Only one engine will be available from launch; an all-new 1.2-litre three cylinder petrol unit which produces 77bhp and emits 115g/km CO2. By 2012 a supercharged, direct injection version will be standard in Europe, developing 95bhp, but reducing emissions to just 95g/km CO2 thanks to improved running and stop/start.
The car will be offered with a 5-speed manual gearbox, or a new lighter and more compact version of Nissan's Continuously Variable Transmission.
The Micra is the car that Nissan believes will take its global presence to 94 per cent. Well, you wouldn't have guessed it from the styling. The car could almost be a facelift of the old model. The manufacturer has clearly decided conservative styling is the best way to ensure high volume sales around the world to people of all ages, and it may yet be proved correct.
The Micra's compact dimensions and 4.5m turning circle should ensure the car is a doddle to drive around town, and Nissan claim that the boomerang-shaped grooves in the roof reduce resonance in the cabin at speed.
Refinement will be a big issue for the Micra if Nissan hope to sell the car in Europe. The car has been designed specifically to work in the emerging markets, and then 'refined' to suit European tastes. Whether this has been successful on the road or not we will have to wait and see, but Nissan insists that the Micra can compete on comfort and drivability.
The interior is exemplifies this balancing act. The Micra is admirably spacious, seating four adults in relative comfort, but the trim cannot hide its cost saving nature. The simplified dash is clocked in hard plastics and every surface exudes the kind of robustness Asian and Indian buyers will insist upon. Whether European buyers will be persuaded by the car's hard-wearing nature remains to be seen.