Parkers overall rating: 4 out of 5 4.0
  • A choice of petrol and diesel engines
  • All models offer adequate performance
  • Our pick is the 1.0 turbo with 117hp

The Nissan Micra comes with a choice of three petrol engines and one diesel.

Petrol engines

A range of 1.0-litre three-cylinder engines are available, with or without a turbocharger fitted.

The entry-level petrol engine is the non-turbocharged 1.0-litre developing 71hp and 95Nm, which is more suited to driving in town than it is tackling faster roads and motorways.

A 0-62mph time of 16.4 seconds and top speed of 98mph means - on paper at least - this version sounds quite dreary, but it's actually quite a characterful little unit. If all you do is short urban journeys, the saving over the turbo alternative makes it an intriguing offer.

On more open highways and motorway sliproads you will notice the slower acceleration.

Opt for the turbocharged route and the lower-powered 100hp version makes light work of most situations, with a torquey mid-range power delivery and 0-62mph taking 10.9 seconds. Torque is rated at 160Nm and you’ll only wish for extra thrust if you encounter steep hills or regularly carry four passengers and luggage. Top speed is 114mph.

It’s mostly refined, lacking the loud, characterful triple-cylinder thrum you’ll find in a Peugeot or Citroen equivalent, but the level of turbo whistle filtering its way into the cabin can be quite intrusive.

Those wanting more power can opt for the 117hp version. Not only is this the most powerful engine in the range, but it also comes with a six-speed gearbox, as opposed to the 100hp’s five. Torque is also up to 180Nm with an overboost function adding an additional 20Nm for brief periods of acceleration.

As a result, the 0-62mph time drops down to 9.9 seconds and top speed climbs to 121mph.

Surprising automatic model

If you seek a Micra with an automatic gearbox, there’s one available with the 100hp petrol engine. It’s a CVT (continuously variable transmission) – a type of gearbox usually characterised by an inconsistent response and a tendency to over-rev the engine. In the Micra, though, it works surprisingly well, although 0-62mph drops to 13.0 seconds.

It’s smooth and responsive, and the engine’s power band is low enough in the rev range that the gearbox doesn’t need to send the revs up to the sky to get things moving. In fact, round town, it’s very pleasant to use – a sentence we very rarely say about CVTs!

It’s not without criticism, though. Over a certain throttle input, the gearbox defaults to ‘D-Mode’ – where it holds ratios, more like a traditional automatic. This enhances drivability when you’re pressing on, but as there’s no steering wheel paddles or position on the central shifter, you can’t select your own ratio.

There’s also an L mode (for ‘low’) intended to give the car engine braking down steep hills, but it really is too low of a ratio to be useful on all but the most intense declines. Regardless, the Micra’s CVT is a genuinely very good example of the breed  - in fact, in many ways it’s nicer to use than the slightly sloppy five-speed manual gearbox you’d get otherwise.

Diesel option available

Yes, there's only one available, but it's an admirably refined 1.5-litre dCi engine offering 90hp. This is a niche player in the UK, however, where dramatically higher finance costs limit its attractiveness (even if its 107g/km CO2 rating and 50mpg+ economy may appeal to some).

On paper, its 11.9sec 0-62mph time is average for its class, but is assisted by fulsome pulling power (220Nm of it), meaning you change gear less often. It’s certainly the more relaxed offering if you regularly venture out on the motorway.

A sweet-shifting, unobtrusive five-speed manual transmission is the only gearbox offered on the diesel.

Handling

  • A comfortable ride
  • Decent steering feel, good in corners
  • Sportier suspension for 1.0-litre 117hp N-Sport

The Nissan Micra is based on the heavily updated engineering platform of its predecessor, beefed up to improve ride and handling. It’s worked: this is a small hatchback that you’ll take pleasure driving, whether around town – where it’s nippy and easy to thread through gaps in traffic – or on the open road.

This is more than can be said of its predecessor, which emphasised cost-cutting over corner-carving. Show the new Micra a series of bends and it’s actually remarkably enjoyable to punt along, with an agile feel and tidy body control.

The steering helps here; it’s responsive and quick to react to inputs, without being a class-leader. We’d still put the evergreen Ford Fiesta and SEAT Ibiza above the Micra for outright dynamic prowess, but the Japanese car no longer falls apart at the first corner.

Nissan Micra N Sport handling

The best handling Micra will be the N-Sport model fitted with the most powerful 1.0-litre 117hp engine. Selecting this engine brings sport suspension lowered by 10mm and a quicker, more responsive steering rack. While this doesn’t transform the Micra’s handling characteristics, it certainly adds an incremental level of fun without ruining the ride.

It’s a well-judged compromise towards handling ability, with plenty of suspension travel to remain comfortable, but it lacks the final polish of the Fiesta – it compares well in regards to firmness and body control, but thumps uncomfortably when having to deal with bigger bumps. The steering may also be sharper than a regular Micra, but just lacks the weighting and precision of the Ford to be involving.