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Car reviews - Nissan - Micra - Super S 3-dr hatch

Our Opinion

We like
Super S standard features, sporty seats, excellent grip, good steering and handling, great economy, versatile body
Room for improvement
Parts can be expensive, ride is a little firm

20 Jun 2003

THE Nissan Micra's time may yet come. When launched in Australia in mid-1995, the former European Car Of The Year offered sparkling performance, exceptional fuel economy, excellent handling and funky styling.

But the British-built Nissan could not compete in the cut-throat price war against cheaper rivals like the Hyundai Excel and it had quietly disappeared by early 1998.

Today, however, the beleaguered Micra represents giant value. And, generally, owners are charmed by this little car.

The secret is in the driving and clever packaging. Even a brief experience should reveal this is no Ford Festiva. Its punchy performance is a cross between the zippy mini-car and the smooth, easy cruising of something quite bigger.

On the open road, the Micra seems grown-up as it is largely free from mechanical buzz and engine noise.

The base Micra LX and sporty Super S (sounds like Cooper S to some) are three-door hatchbacks that bracket the mid-range, five- door SLX.

In August, 1996, a Series II Micra appeared featuring revised wheel and interior trim, colour range, grille and some mechanical changes for greater refinement.

The Micra's stylish interior best reflects its Euro heritage with reverse-position wiper and indicator stalks, a low dash cowl and a pod-like binnacle featuring basic but concise instrumentation.

Deep side windows and an upright seating position afford excellent views for easy, confident city parking.

The seats, especially the Super S's larger units, are comfortable and supportive, and the ride is quite smooth.

Although revvy, the 1.3-litre unit is also quite torquey and responsive. With a heady 55kW, the Micra's engine has little trouble propelling the lightweight body.

The five-speed manual works harmoniously with the clutch to encourage smooth, quick shifting. It adds to the fun factor, as does the excellent CVT continuously variable transmission found in some SLX Micras, instead of a normal automatic.

Using two variable-diameter pulleys connected by a steel belt, the CVT better suits a small capacity engine because it finds the right rpm, then holds it, as the car accelerates. A conventional automatic struggles to do this.

The benefits are two-fold. A CVT Micra SLX can surge away from traffic lights with unexpected verve and deliver great fuel economy doing it - 6.3L/100km on the city cycle.

Clever design also lifts the Micra above the mundane. Nissan was allegedly inspired by the legendary Mini. The tall Micra also pre-dated the current penchant for high-shaped cars.

For a light car, the front occupants have plenty of head, leg and shoulder room. But knee room is limited in the back.

The boot is quite small but lower the split/fold rear seats and a useable load area appears, helped by the high ceiling.

Micra owners enjoy typical Nissan reliability. Many are still covered under the factory-backed, three-year warranty.

The Super S standard sliding sunroof can sheer off its railing and is costly to repair. CVT automatics require specific service intervals so make sure you get a service record.

Parts can be costly and often need to be imported from the Sunderland plant in England.

The Micra has a special quality not really seen in small cars since the days of the Mini.

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