Nissan describes its new Micra as ‘good, clean fun'. It's not a false promise

Nissan may be a little known car maker in India, but once the new Micra launches, this is set to change. We were invited to take a short drive in Nissan's new baby in Thailand. And we can tell you right away, it's just the sort of car that will appeal to a considerable section of Indian car buyers.

The new Micra doesn't make much of a first impression. Some of that silvery tinge of excitement you get looking at a new car seems to be missing and the car looks quite familiar as well. Part of this is due to the expectation we all have today that every new car should look radically different. But Nissan designers say they have stayed away from ‘edgy' styling because, according to their surveys, sharp lines and creases give a fragile image, which they wanted to avoid. Instead, Nissan has deliberately gone for a more rounded look that looks more robust. The details that stick in your mind are the attractive, high-mounted lights pods and the two-part grille. The arched profile of the cabin is something carried over from the Micra's DNA, but there is a mishmash of lines at the rear, especially near the rear spoiler and the tail-lights.

Nissan likes to describe the character of the new Micra as ‘Good, clean, fun.'

It does come across as a cute and cheerful design which will surely appeal to women.

Step into the cabin and the oval and rounded theme abounds. You get a round speedometer, a round cluster of buttons on the central console, round vents and a round steering boss. The Micra is also pretty practical. There is good amount of space for odds and ends and the door pockets are of a decent size. However, the double glovebox which is standard in the European-spec cars is missing and the Indian version only gets a single and very tiny glove compartment.

Key feature

You get a keyless entry fob that allows you to yank the door open with it still sitting in your pocket, and the motor is fired with the help of a push button. The keyless start / stop feature is in fact a key feature! It's the first for a B-segment car. And it's got electrically folding mirrors. Nissan has also offered automatic climate control, a feature that's not common among hatchbacks. There's a mini on-board computer which gives real-time fuel consumption and ‘distance-to-empty' readouts.

In fact, Nissan wants to make the feature-packed Micra one of its selling points. However, features like steering-mounted audio controls are missing for the Indian model.

Of course, features such as steering mounted controls and Bluetooth connectivity are reserved for the high-end model and in basic trim, you still get power steering and front power windows (manual at the rear). The air-con is standard but not climate control and alloys are replaced with bare-looking steel wheels.

The beige interior and generous glass make for a very airy cabin. The interior quality isn't brilliant but pretty good. The front seats are very comfortable and Nissan has consciously made the nose of the car visible from the cabin; this is apparently a common complaint from first-time drivers who will make up a fair percent of Micra buyers. At the back, headroom and legroom are surprisingly generous. The only grouse we have with the rear seat is that it's too low, flat and with little under-thigh support. Nissan needs to improve the seat squab before launching the car in India. The boot too is fairly generous but there's no split, the seat flips forward in one piece via a neat release latch

Indian entry

The new Micra may not look wildly exciting but behind its cheerful, cute lines lies solid engineering and innovation. How well Nissan tunes and adapts this car for Indian conditions remains to be seen. What we don't know is how Nissan will price the car. The sense we get is that it will be in that narrow window between the Swift and the Polo. If Nissan prices the Micra right, it has a winner on its hands.

The Micra is powered by a 1198ccc three-cylinder motor that makes 79bhp but unlike other three-cylinder motors sold in India, there is no balancer shaft used. Nissan has instead used balancer weights on the crank to cancel out vibrations, but this is not as effective a solution. The motor responds well to a jab on the accelerator and the Micra moves forward with no hesitation. Nissan says it has engineered the car with fewer parts to keep the weight down, and it sure seems to have helped.

Straightline stability on the car is impressive as well. With a wheel at each corner and most of the weight contained between the wheels, the Micra drives more like a big car than a little one. The column-mounted electric steering feels a touch vague and lifeless which will disappoint enthusiasts. However, city commuters will be thrilled by the Micra's very tight turning circle which has actually been designed keeping Indian customers in mind.

(Inputs from Vijo Varghese)

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