First drive: Nissan Micra 1.2 Tekna
The last Nissan Micra's big chunky bumpers and lines looked they had been styled with a crayon rather than a designer's sharpest 3H pencil, but the early supermini sold like it was the hottest cake in the shop.
The latest version, Nissan says, is part of an ever growing group of cars described as 'global'. This means that it will be sold in the same format and style in all markets around the world in which it is offered.
This might drag up the quality of more bespoke cars in markets like China and India, but Nissan turned the equation on its head by designing a car for the emerging markets, and then furiously brushing it up for the western world.
Unfortunately, so strong is the current market that the whiff of cost-cutting is too readily distinguishable in its admirably simple interior.
The plastic in the door trims feels flimsy and as though it might suffer over a lifetime of ownership. A steering wheel that only adjusts up and down is rare these days, but not unique (the Nissan Juke is also guilty of that crime). It does make it trickier to get comfortable behind the wheel though.
Whether it is as a result of cost cutting or emissions reducing, the Micra only comes with one engine – a 79bhp 1.2-litre affair that produces 115g/km CO2 and manages 56.5mpg. Nissan will be strapping a supercharger onto it later in the summer, not to make it blisteringly quick, but to reduce emissions to 95g/km and increase efficiency to around 70mpg.
Without the supercharger the Micra is certainly not rapid – 62mph comes in 13.7 seconds. It sounds noisy and unrefined at low speeds, with the three-pot setup making far more of a rattle than four-cylinder rivals from Ford or Hyundai. However, build the revs and get some speed up and it sounds pleasingly thrummy and eager, making the driving experience a little more enjoyable. The steering and handling is set up for ease around town, and the large, airy cabin helps with visibility and means parking will be easy in tight spots. This space is evident in the back too; an adult man will be able to fit comfortably in the back seat behind a similarly sized driver.
The budgeting does not completely compromise the Micra therefore, and even has one major knock-on bonus. The UK cars come loaded with kit at the higher end of the range. Even though this top-spec Tekna costs under £12,500, it comes with plenty as standard, including a touch-screen sat nav.
It is features like this, and the competitively low starting price of £9,250, that means current Micra owners will be happy with the new car as it does everything competently, if not superbly. However, anyone who has sampled more refined rivals in the same price range like the Hyundai i20, Suzuki Swift or even a low-spec VW Polo will be disappointed.
We suspect that the supercharged engine will be the one to go for when it arrives in July, but until then it is hard to justify recommending the Micra over its rivals.