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Driven: Nissan Micra now fit to fight

Micra-scope: The new Nissan Micra is launching with a choice of three variants starting with the ST manual for $13,490 before on-road costs.

Nissan has sharpened the value as well as the styling of its ageing baby Micra

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Nissan logo24 Apr 2015

NISSAN’S long-awaited Micra facelift has finally surfaced in Australia – more than two years after the first pictures of it were released – with pricing and features designed to make a splash in the Micro (sub-B) segment.

According to Nissan Australia managing director and CEO, Richard Emery, the combination of an over-supply of the outgoing model, combined with a dogged determination to bring in precisely the right content, delayed the K13 Series II version’s local launch until now.

“We had too many of the earlier one,” Mr Emery admitted, referring to the massive stockpile of unsold vehicles that Nissan has only recently traded its way through, “and we could have done it earlier.

“But I must say I was being stubborn about what we wanted to do in terms of pricing and spec and model line-up. The one thing I’ve learned is don’t agree with anything until you’re happy with it. So we probably could have done it six months earlier in terms of our stock of the old model, but I wanted to make sure that we got (it) right before I said yes, because I didn’t want to bring in a car that wasn’t going to be competitive.” The frank assessment underlines Mr Emery’s take-no-prisoners approach to boosting Nissan’s sales and profitability, which has already seen the elimination of the Micra’s slow-selling Almera sedan sibling mid last year.

As he discussed exclusively with GoAuto more than one year ago, improving the model mix and eliminating duplication has been a cornerstone to the company’s reversal of fortune over recent months, which has seen Nissan record a 20 per cent volume jump year-on-year to leapfrog Ford for the number five position.

In the case of the Micra, that means paring back variants to just two the base ST manual from an unchanged $13,490 plus on-road costs (or $1800 more for the automatic version), and the auto-only Ti from $16,990 plus on-road costs. The mid-spec ST-L has been deleted.

With up to 80 per cent of buyers expected to choose the ST, Nissan is the first importer to bite the bullet in the Micro class by specifying cruise control as standard equipment – a significant step, as popular models from the next class up such as the Mazda2 Neo do not offer it in their entry-level variants.

Other ST additions include powered (rather than manual) rear windows, integrated Bluetooth telephony with audio streaming, and USB connectivity.

The Ti, which is now $2000 cheaper than before, scores these too for the first time, along with satellite navigation, a rear view camera, and upgraded cloth trim. The electric folding mirrors, climate control, rear parking sensors and a handbag holder that were previously available are now no longer included. The Micra flagship also features front foglights, automatic headlights, rear spoiler, 15-inch alloy wheels and LED tail-lights.

The latter is one way of picking new from old, along with the revised rear valance panel between them, while up front trainspotters should easily notice the sleeker headlights, larger corporate grille, redesigned bonnet and reshaped bumper.

Inside, the alterations run to the upgraded audio system, squared-off rather than round vent outlets, minor instrument panel alterations, different seat trim and better plastic quality.

The 1198cc 1.2-litre HR2DE normally aspirated three-cylinder petrol engine remains the same, as does the five-speed automatic or four-speed automatic alternative. Power is rated at 56kW at 6000rpm, and the 104Nm torque maximum kicks in at 4000rpm. Combined average fuel consumption is 5.9 litres per 100 kilometres (6.5L/100km for the auto), while the carbon dioxide emissions average is 138g/km (auto: 154g/km).

No changes have been made to the MacPherson struts up front, torsion beam rear suspension, or electric rack and pinion steering systems.

A four-star ANCAP crash-test rater, the facelifted Micra is built in India. The previous version, which was launched in late 2010, was also sourced from the same plant, as well as from Indonesia and Thailand, while the short-lived K12 from December 2007 came from Japan. The K11 sold in Australia between mid 1995 and late 1997 was sourced from the United Kingdom.

Thailand, Mexico and China supply Micras to the rest of the world.

The Micra currently slugs it out with the Fiat 500 for the best-of-the-rest spot in a category dominated by Mitsubishi’s Mirage. The Micra has found 229 homes in 2015 thus far, versus 227 for the Fiat and 985 for the Mirage.

The 2014 stats tell the story better the Mirage finished third (2419) behind the 500 (2995), with the Mirage decimating the field (6478).

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