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Paris show: New Micra has the edge

Watch and wait: Nissan is keen to introduce the new-generation Micra to Australia, but is currently hampered by lack of specification suitability and other factors such as pricing and supply.

Nissan’s sharp-angled, hi-tech new Micra emerges but local launch not locked in

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Nissan logo30 Sep 2016

By TERRY MARTIN

NISSAN has repositioned its Micra from cutesy to contemporary with a sharper, more aggressive design and significant technology improvements for the fifth-generation micro hatchback unveiled at the Paris motor show this week.

The Japanese manufacturer’s Australian subsidiary has not yet committed to the new Micra – but has not ruled it out, either – after recently cutting the current model from the local line-up citing issues such as its ageing platform and powertrain and lack of adequate specification compared with newer rivals such as the Holden Spark and Kia Picanto.

“If you add all that together, plus the competitive nature of that business (micro cars), it was right to make that call,” Nissan Australia Nissan managing director and CEO Richard Emery told GoAuto in April.

However, with the emergence of the redesigned hatch less than six months later, almost all of those issues have been met with the new Micra – save for the deal that Nissan Australia must cut in terms of pricing, local specification, sourcing and supply.

For now, Nissan Australia is yet to announce any decision either way, with general manager of corporate communications Peter Fadeyev telling GoAuto today that it was “too soon to discuss future model plans”.

Unquestionably, the vehicle itself looks to be a monumental improvement on the current dated model.

The technology overhaul under the ‘Nissan Intelligent Driving’ ethos includes lane departure warning – claimed to be a first in this segment – and advanced emergency braking with pedestrian recognition, which is a first for any Nissan-badged vehicle in Europe.

An intelligent around-view monitor, traffic sign recognition, high beam assist and a blind spot warning system are also included.

Lower, wider and longer than the current model, and with more interior space, ‘Micra Gen5’ also promises a more involving and sophisticated driving experience, with systems such as Active Ride Control and Active TraceControl – said to improve ride comfort and reduce understeer respectively – trickling down from the Qashqai and X-Trail SUVs.

A new brushless electric power steering system was also engineered for the new Micra, bringing claims of greater steering feel and response, while improvements in refinement were realised with special attention paid to noise insulation and aerodynamics, the latter evidenced by a 0.29Cd drag coefficient that stems from the combined roof and side spoiler.

Engine efficiency was earmarked as a “key objective” in the new Micra’s development, with a 0.9-litre three-cylinder turbo-petrol engine and a 1.5-litre turbo-diesel – both developing 90hp (67kW) – to be available at launch in Europe next March, while a 73hp (54kW) naturally aspirated 1.0-litre petrol engine will follow.

Before being discontinued, the Australian Micra used a 56kW 1.2-litre normally aspirated three-cylinder petrol engine.

The Aussie Micra was built in India – the European version is built in France – and only managed a four-star safety rating under the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP), which is a rung down from its key rivals.

Exterior design, which is based on the Nissan Sway concept unveiled at the Geneva motor show in March last year, is a key reference point for the new model.

Nissan says the Micra embodies its latest design language with “signature design cues and emotional body sculpting”. The former includes the V-motion grille and ‘floating’ roof design, while the latter is dominated by a sharp-edged character line that runs from the top the V-point on the face to the boomerang-shaped tail-lights.

The rear doorhandles are also hidden in the C-pillars for a cleaner, edgier look, while a palette of 10 exterior colours – including the ‘Energy Orange’ shown here – have been developed.

Inside, the driver sits lower in a seat that has a greater range of seat adjustment, is handed a fully adjustable steering wheel and is confronted by a gliding-wing-shaped dashboard designed to give the cabin a “light, sleek and spacious impression”.

Euro-spec cars offer an advanced six-speaker Bose sound system – including ‘virtual audio technology’ built into the driver’s seat headrest – and a 7.0-inch full-colour central display with Apple CarPlay compatibility.

In presenting the new model in Paris, Nissan Motor Company CEO Carlos Ghosn said: “When the first Micra appeared more than 30 years ago, it marked a revolution in the small hatchback segment and opened a new chapter for Nissan.

“The fifth-generation Micra is just as revolutionary, and will raise expectations for what a hatchback can, and should, deliver to its customers.”

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