Review: Is the 2013 Nissan Micra your ideal city runabout?
Aravind Jayachandran, It goes without saying that I'm a huge petrolhead and can apparently convert all my driving emotions into words you can read.
The Nissan Micra has received a comprehensive refresh and we brought you the news just a week ago. We've also detailed the features the car comes with, the new color options and the engine lineup here. However, we've already driven the facelifted version and here is everything you need to know about it.
Is it still a girl's car?
I'm happy to say No to that question. Part of the reason why the Renault Pulse (the alter male ego of the Nisan Micra) sells is because of its looks. Renault is going to have a tough time selling the Pulse now because the new Micra looks so much better. While we make it a point not to talk about looks in detail, here are a few points worth mentioning.
1. The headlights see a major change for the good and I find myself associating the new Micra with plenty of other Nissan cars sold abroad. Complimenting the headlights is the new front grill which embodies the new Nissan 'corporate' look. The Nissan logo placed in a V-shaped chrome looks tastefully done. Sadly however, foglights are offered only on the top-end diesel model (this is actually a good thing as Nissan charged a friend INR 15,000 for the left hand side foglight - 30,000 for a set - when he crashed his Micra last year!).
[Above - The new bootlip has been bolted on to the bootlid.]
2. Moving on to the sides, you find a new set of alloy wheels which looks pretty expensive. No, Nissan won't offer the 16-inch alloys (sold abroad) even as an option.
3. At the rear, the new Micra features LED taillights which look pretty good. Another thing I found was that the bootlid of the car has a new add-on to the lip, for extra panache. This has been bolted on to the bootlid. While it may sound gimmicky, it actually manages to look good.
Overall, I'm really happy with the exteriors of the new Micra. 10/10? I should think so.
Head to Page 2 for the interiors of the new Micra.
[Note - Throughout the drive, I used the XV CVT and the XV diesel. As a result, some interior bits may or may not be available on the lower spec variants.]
The Micra was known for its good build quality and that remains. It is no where near as well built as a VW Polo though. The plastics used in the Micra will not offend anyone and yet should continue doing their job for the lifetime of the car. The door trims feature some cloth inserts in an effort to give them a 'premium' feeling and it works.
The seats of the car have been re-upholstered with some richer looking fabrics and they are pleasing to the eye, very comfortable to sit in as well.
The center console which was earlier beige in color is now finished in a piano black color and it looks good. The aircon vents have some chrome added to them, while a new music player plays AUX and USB, not to mention stream songs via Bluetooth. Get the top-end diesel and you also get a reverse camera with parking sensors.
The CVT Micra has the gear lever borrowed from the Sunny CVT/Scala CVT. It also tells you which gear you're in, in the instrument cluster.
The rest of the car is the same and Nissan has clearly taken the 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it' approach. Which is just as good because few hatchbacks in the market today can match the Micra on comfort. For the interior, I think I shall give a 8/10.
Engine and gearbox
Same engines, re-tuned for added economy. The petrol gets the X-TRONIC CVT option that we've driven on the Scala and Sunny.
Head to Page 3 to find out how the CVT and the diesel performed.
The diesel is a pain to drive in the city...
I know this from my Micra days and it's the same in the new Micra also. The clutch is pretty heavy (I would say heaviest in it's class) and the Micra's superb low-end torque does not help. When you're moving behind another vehicle at snail's pace, the car lunges forward just by releasing the clutch or shifting up to 2nd. As a result, you need to brake immediately and half-clutch so that the car doesn't stall. This act of balancing the clutch and the brake needs calf muscles the size of Australia.
If you're chauffeur driven, this shouldn't be a problem though. The Micra diesel was a strong performer and it continues to be one, even on the highway. It doesn't pin you to your seats like an i20 diesel, but it's good enough.
..while the CVT automatic cannot get enough of it
I had earlier experienced the X-TRONIC CVT gearbox developed by Nissan on the Renault Scala. It was very slow, noisy and made no sense for a rear-seat oriented sedan. With those same apprehensions, I started the CVT Micra.
Is it slow? Yes, a little bit. When you floor the car, you can hear the 3 cylinder 1.2-liter which is quite annoying. But try driving it in a relaxed manner, like how one might in city conditions, and the Micra CVT impresses.
While having a relaxed foot on the car, the Micra makes very little noise. Until 3k rpm, it is remarkably noise efficient (Nissan later told me that they've revamped the NVH of the new Micra) whilst also maintaining a good cruising speed of about 100km/h. Should you want to overtake the car in front of you though, you do need space fit enough for a Boeing 747 to take off, for the CVT gearbox doesn't fancy these maneuvers. Floor the throttle at 80km/h and you've a new way of teaching your kid to count - 80...81..82...83...83.5...
The Micra CVT is best driven relaxed. It could possibly be the best CVT I've driven and the best CVT in India. However, drawbacks of the technology haven't gone away, but they're in lesser proportions than on the Scala/Sunny AT.
Inside city conditions, the Micra CVT performs very well. From traffic lights, you can get to a decent speed without having to thrash the engine. In Start-Stop traffic, the CVT is exceptional thanks to the jerk-free nature. I can't lay enough emphasis on this, but, if you're planning of owning a CVT, you definitely need to change your driving style to a more relaxed manner. Otherwise, you're going to end up having a headache because of the constant 6,000rpm noise.
Something that is sorely missing in the CVT is an armrest for the driver's seat. Nissan makes the Micra with front armrests in India. But instead of selling it to the good people of India, it goes to the good people elsewhere in the world. How much does it cost to have that armrest, Nissan?
Overall, there is nothing extraordinary about Nissan's engines when it comes to performance. They're run of the mill.
Head to Page 4 for the Ride and Handling.
It has four wheels and some suspension
The Micra is a car that has been designed to carry people in comfort. So I’m going to explain this in layman terms now. When you turn the steering wheel left, the car’s front wheels turn left and the car turns left. The same thing happens for the right hand side. It is also to be noted that when you don’t turn the steering, the car goes straight!
Based on that layman explanation, I’m sure you would have understood the handling of the car. However, at this point of time, I would like to introduce you to the ‘What is the most insignificant and small detail you’ve observed that is worthy of mentioning and not wasting my time’ Indian Autos Blog consumer advice. Some of the new Micras come with Maxxis tires while some with MRF. I drove the Maxxis shod Micra and it is immediately evident that the steering has a bit of weight to it at higher speeds. Where the earlier Micra’s steering would be almost dead in feel, the new Micra feels much better. I asked Nissan about this for which they tell me that no change was made in the steering of the car. It’s probably the tires then.
Summing up the handling, the Micra is a safe and predictable car so it shouldn’t shock you through the corners. It won’t surprise you either as it hasn’t been setup for the Nürburgring.
The ride quality differs from the diesel to the petrol. Since the diesel is heavier, it feels much more planted and absorbs 99% of Madurai's potholes. Genuinely good ride quality in this, almost VW like.
The CVT petrol is lighter than the diesel and it feels a bit bouncy at speeds. It is not intolerable and if you've a fully loaded car, it should compensate for the lack of weight.
Your friend once crashed a Micra because it wouldn’t stop and steer at the same time?
Yes. But I’m happy to report that Nissan have taken his advice (I would like to think of it this way) and fitted ABS on the diesel Micras as well. As a result, the new Micra's brakes are far safer than the current version.
That being said, there is no way I would call these ‘Best in Class’. They still feel short on braking power. Compare the VW Polo (which has the strongest brakes) with the Micra and you'll know what I'm talking about.
Head to Page 5 for the fuel efficiency of the diesel and the CVT automatic.
Is the new Micra as efficient as say, a windmill?
Yes, the new Micras are incredibly efficient. Nissan engineers tell me that some retuning has been done for better efficiency. They weren’t lying. Where I would normally get about 15-16km/l on an old diesel Micra, the new one averaged 19.2 km/l according to the trip computer. While it may not be accurate to the ‘T’, there is a noticeable increase in the Micra’s fuel efficiency.
Coming to the CVT petrol. I managed to get 11 km/l. After a lot of foot to the floor, the CVT comes off as a highly efficient gearbox. You can easily do better figures when you drive carefully though. This part of the technology actually works in real life.
When can I book mine?
Nissan is expected to launch the new Micra by the end of this month. It could come even sooner, mind you. The prices haven’t been announced yet but you should expect a marginal increase given that the base variant (XE) has been deleted.
What if I don’t want an automatic transmission?
Then you can get the Micra with the 5-speed manual transmission in both petrol and diesel variants. It’s the same as it was, but as I said before the fuel efficiency has improved in the new car.
I’m interested in the CVT Micra. What are my alternatives?
The top-end variant of the Hyundai i10 and the Hyundai i20 are viable competitors. Does the VW Polo GT TSI compete with the CVT Micra? Nope. The 7-speed DSG is a far superior technology, as is the turbocharged petrol engine. You should take a look at the Brio AT and Ritz AT as well.
Service and Aftersales
Nissan aftersales in India is not the by-word for 'Excellent' or 'Simply outstanding'. In fact, this is an area where Nissan competes with Skoda - The service at the dealer end is average, some spare parts are overpriced and a times you'll have to wait for two months for a part to arrive, in spite the factory being just 40km away from the workshop! A Honda/Maruti/Hyundai stands head and shoulders above a Nissan in this department in 2013.
Nissan cannot expect the sales numbers they desire if they don't revamp their aftersales support. We're told that a wider and faster dealership network isn't very far into the future.
Head to Page 6 for the final verdict.
Will I buy/recommend the new Micra?
A little bit of Yes and No. If you're planning to be chauffeur driven in your hatchback, look no further than the Micra diesel. It has everything you need and a bit more.
If you're planning to drive yourself and need a diesel hatch, the Micra is a good option, but there are better cars. The Swift is still the undisputed champion here.
If you're looking for an automatic hatch for the city, the Micra CVT comes off as a sensible buy. If it were my money though, I would rather buy the Honda Brio AT. Even if it is a segment below, I find it appealing and the traditional 5-speed AT will do well for me. Or I would spend a bit more for a VW Polo GT TSI.
What I Liked
- This is a genuine refresh and not some added chrome being stuck with cellotape and a fancy last name.
- It has been tastefully done, taking into account a few drawbacks of the earlier model.
- CVT Micra has good potential at being the ideal city runabout.
What I Disliked
- What's the harm in giving the front armrests for the CVT? Is it a crime to feel more comfortable and relaxed?
- Brakes could have improved a bit more
- Only the top-end diesel comes with reverse cam and parking sensors
Head to Page 7 for the complete image gallery