What’s Hot: Good value, tight turning circle, standard navigation
What’s Not: Old-school 4-speed auto, engine noise, no steering reach-adjustment
X-FACTOR: "Affordable" need not be synonymous with "sparse". The Micra Ti has just enough mod-cons to keep most drivers satisfied.
Vehicle Style: five-door light hatchback
Price: $16,990 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 56kW/104Nm 1.2 petrol 3cyl | 4sp automatic
Fuel Economy claimed: 6.5 l/100km | tested: 7.4 l/100km
Nissan’s Micra is a familiar face, given it’s spent nearly half a decade on sale in Australia.
That age is showing, and the little Micra isn’t without its fair share of rough edges. Compared to more refined competitors like the Mazda2 and VW Polo, it’s… well, a little agricultural.
But thanks to an extensive 2015 update, that’s now balanced out by a keener entry price. If you’re looking at the top-grade Micra Ti you’ll be pleased to note that Nissan has cut costs by $2000 to $16,990
Cheap? You bet, but what’s the catch?
Quality: This is a cheap car, and a cheap car built in India no less. Bear that in mind when you’re running your fingers over the Micra’s coarse, rock-hard cabin plastics.
But in the context of its price, cabin quality is actually pretty decent. The build is solid, there are no rattles nor squeaks and the fabric upholstery feels durable. It’s not the best interior in the segment, but it’ll probably last a while.
Comfort: Even though the driver gets adjustable seat-height as standard, at the lowest setting the driving position is still rather high.
Thankfully the Micra’s tall roof means plenty of 'head space', and those big windows offer an expansive view of the world outside.
The steering column only adjusts for angle, however, not reach. Some may find it hard to get settled behind the wheel as a result.
In the back, the Micra’s bench seat has enough space for two adults but could really do with some more under-thigh support. It’s flat and shapeless, in other words.
The outboard seats get adjustable-height headrests, but there are no bottle nor cupholders for backseaters. On the plus side, there’s ample headroom.
Equipment: While some equipment has been added , previously-standard features like climate control, keyless entry/ignition, rear parking sensors and power folding mirrors have been culled.
But on the plus side, integrated sat-nav, cruise control and a reversing camera are now standard on the Ti. You win some, you lose some.
Bluetooth phone andaudio integration remains standard and is controlled through the 5.8” touchscreen display.
The previous Micra’s Bluetooth functions were controlled through a dashboard-mounted button, so there’s definite progress made here.
Storage: The Micra can store up to 251 litres of luggage with the rear seats in place - about par with the Mazda2. That's relatively small for the segment though, with the Yaris capable of carrying 286 litres and the Honda Jazz able to take a full 350 litres without dropping the rear seats.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: The Micra Ti’s standard four-speed automatic does it no favours.
With just 56kW of power and 104Nm of torque trickling out from its 1.2 naturally-aspirated petrol three-cylinder engine, it’s in desperate need of more gear ratios to improve performance.
If Nissan could do one thing to improve the Micra, just one, it’d be to modernise its automatic gearbox option.
Its chief rival the Mitsubishi Mirage has similar levels of power and torque (57kW/100Nm), but has a CVT gearbox.
It’s far from the best CVT, but it’s a step up on the Micra’s antiquated auto. The Mazda2, on the other hand, has a thoroughly modern six-speed auto.
For now though, the Micra is stuck with a four-speed.
As a result, you’ll spend a lot of time listening to it aggressively kick down whenever the slightest incline is encountered, with an accompanying roar from the engine, or when accelerating on the move.
It is quick enough for getting around town, it has a bit of zest at lower speeds, but overtaking on the highway needs a bit of sensible forethought.
Refinement: The ageing transmission and thrashy three-pot engine conspire to make the Micra a pretty noisy place on road.
While the suspension goes about things reasonably quietly, and the ride is better than most for such a small light car, it could do with some more sound-deadening if only to calm things under the bonnet.
Ride and Handling: While not the most athletic light hatch on the market, the little Micra is actually not a bad little rig when it comes to ride and handling.
There’s enough sidewall on the Ti’s 15-inch alloys to give good compliance over bumps, while the suspension, though soft, isn’t a handicap when trying to hustle around a bend.
But what’s of more relevance to the target market is the Micra’s turning circle. It turns on a dime, virtually, thanks to a turning circle of just nine metres. Squeezing into a tight carpark? No probs.
Braking: Not the most sophisticated system with discs up front and drums at the rear, but Micra pulls up without much fuss in an emergency stop thanks to its ABS and electronic stability control systems.
ANCAP rating: 4-Stars - this model scored 31.11 out of 37 possible points.
Safety features: Standard safety features include ABS, EBD, brake assist, traction control and stability control. All passsengers receive three-point seatbelts, and crash protection is provided by front, front-side and full-length curtain airbags.
ISOFIX child seat anchorages are provided on the outboard rear seats.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/100,000km.
Service costs: Under Nissan’s Service Certainty fixed-price servicing scheme, scheduled services on the Micra are currently fixed at $243.60 for a basic service, rising to as much as $507.51 for a major service.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Mitsubishi Mirage LS hatch auto ($14,990) - The top-grade Mirage hatch manages to best the Micra Ti’s price by a full $2000, but aside from the slight driveability advantage of its CVT gearbox, it is otherwise bested by the Micra's superior handling and feature list.
Sat-nav remains off the menu, it rides poorly and its 1.2-litre four isn’t any more muscular than the Micra’s motor. This is one for bargain-seekers only. (see Mirage reviews)
Suzuki Celerio CVT auto ($13,990) - The bargain buy of the 'city car' segment, and surprisingly zesty (and enjoyable) at the wheel. It's cheap, a bit boxy looking, and the interior is not the best you'll find, but Suzuki has a good one here.
Honda Jazz VTi auto ($16,990) - The Jazz may not be tremendously exciting to drive, but with 88kW and 145Nm it’s got substantially more power and torque than the Micra.
It’s also plenty spacious, especially in the back. Its innovating rear “Magic Seats” also allows it to transform into a small van, making it the most versatile small hatch around. (see Jazz reviews)
Mazda2 Neo auto ($16,990) - slightly less powerful than the Jazz but a whole heap more fun to steer, the Mazda2 is a dynamic standout of the segment. It may lack some of the equipment of the Micra Ti at this price point, however the interior is a heck of a lot easier on the eyes. Rear passenger room is tight though. (see Mazda2 reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
If you’re willing to accept the Micra’s shortcomings in power, torque and refinement, and are looking for basic transport with a few mod-cons, you will find the Micra Ti to your liking.
It’s unashamedly simple, and the pricetag reflects that. On the plus-side, this Ti is the cheapest car in Australia with factory-fit satellite navigation.
It might have lost a few of the top-end standard features found in last year's model, but we can’t argue with its substantially sharper asking price.
If you’re after something small, manoeuvrable and cheap, but can’t bear to drive a stripped-out base model, the Micra Ti fufils that need.
- Micra ST 5spd manual - $13,490
- Micra ST 4spd automatic - $15,290
- Micra Ti 4spd automatic - $16,990
MORE: Nissan News and Reviews