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Nissan Micra DIG-S road test

  • Supercharged Nissan Micra DIG-S tested
  • Excellent engine is fun and fuel efficient
  • Company car tax from just £23 per month

Does green motoring have to be boring?

Nissan doesn’t think so. The Micra DIG-S is the firm’s attempt at proving that low CO2, high MPG motoring is possible without boring drivers to sleep.

The secret behind this Micra's entertainment factor is its engine. It's a tiny 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol engine, fitted with a supercharger.

If you're wondering what that means, a supercharger is a compressor which squeezes more air into the engine. This helps create more power.

Superchargers are driven by the engine itself, so unlike an exhaust-gas driven turbocharger there is usually no delay in the delivery of power.

A pleasant side-effect of employing a supercharger is the noise it makes. It’s got a mechanical whine that sounds like a mad hybrid of a sewing machine and a jet engine. You can’t help but grin when you plant your foot on the accelerator and the car surges forwards with its distinctive engine note.

Surely this means it’s hideously inefficient?

Fortunately not. Fuel economy is a claimed 65.7mpg on the combined cycle, and the engine emits 99g/km of CO2.

In terms of performance, 97bhp and 142Nm of torque allows the Micra to sprint from 0-62mph in 11.3 seconds. Due to the way the supercharger delivers its power, however, the car feels much faster. Top speed is 112mph.

Thanks to a potential average fuel economy of 65.7mpg, and 41-litre petrol tank, the DIG-S is capable of a theoretical range of 592 miles between visits to the pumps.

Although the engine is a lively little unit, the handling isn’t what you’d call ‘sporty’. There’s a lot of body-roll through corners and the chassis gets flustered easily over bumps in the road, taking a while to settle down. It’s not a major issue, but cars such as the Suzuki Swift and Mazda2 offer far more involvement for the driver in terms of handling.

So how much does this car cost?

Company car drivers are concerned with how much their cars will cost per month. With emissions of 99g/km CO2 from its petrol engine, the DIG-S Micra sits in the 10% company car tax band. Our version is in Tekna specification, which means a P11d value of £13,595. So, on the 20% pay scale, a company car driver will be paying just £23 per month in the 2012/13 tax year and £25 per month in the year after that.

This particular model has metallic paint worth £420 and carpet mats, bringing the total P11d value up to £14,056. This doesn’t affect the monthly cost by too much at all, pushing it up by a matter of a couple of pounds over the next few years.

Wait – did you say almost £14,000 for a Micra?

It’s a lot of money for the little Nissan, but this one is in top-spec Tekna trim. That means you get a lot of nice kit, including Nissan’s Connect entertainment system with integrated sat nav, Bluetooth, six speakers and a 5” touchscreen in the dash.

You also get rear parking sensors, automatic headlamps, cruise control, climate control, 15-inch alloys, a glass roof, front electric windows and electric folding wing mirrors.

So if you’re in the market for a small hatchback with grin factor that won’t break the bank, you could do a lot worse than the Nissan Micra DIG-S.

Also consider:

Renault Clio

The Clio is a comfortable and sophisticated hatchback which offers excellent ride quality.

Ford Fiesta

Probably the most popular car in its sector, the Fiesta is easy to drive and incredibly entertaining.

Suzuki Swift

The Swift is a bit of a left-field choice but it's still very capable thanks to its fun chassis and lively engines.