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First drive: Nissan goes mainstream with Mk4 Micra

Not so micro: New Micra is bigger and safer but cheaper than before.

Sharper pricing and more powertrain choices take Nissan’s new Micra to the masses

Nissan logo18 Nov 2010

By MARTON PETTENDY

NISSAN’S fourth-generation Micra has landed Down Under brandishing keener pricing, less effeminate styling, more technology and standard safety features, plus two engine and transmission choices across three model grades instead of just one.

To be heralded with the slogan ‘In sync with the city’ when it goes on sale nationally from December 1, the redesigned K13 Micra sets a new low price benchmark for Nissan, with the entry-level ST version of the light-sized five-door hatchback available for just $12,990 plus on-road costs, or $13,990 drive-away.

That makes the cheapest Micra Australia’s most affordable new light-car, not counting smaller five-door city-cars including Holden’s new 1.2-litre Barina Spark ($12,490 plus on-road costs) and Suzuki’s 1.0-litre Alto four-seater ($11,790 plus on-roads), as well as Proton’s pint-sized S16 sedan, which costs $11,990 drive-away in 1.3-litre guise and $12,990 drive-away with a 1.6.

For the money, the base Micra ST five-door/five-seater comes with a 1.2-litre DOHC three-cylinder petrol engine, matched with a five-speed manual transmission (a conventional four-speed automatic transmission adds $2000 to the price, at $14,990), and a generous standard equipment list.

The long-stroke 1198cc triple features a 78.0mm bore and 83.6mm stroke, and delivers 56kW at 6000rpm and 100Nm of torque from 4000rpm, which out-performs the Alto’s 50kW/90Nm 996cc triple but doesn’t quite match the performance of the Spark’s 59kW/107Nm 1206cc four.

12 center imageRunning on standard 91 RON unleaded, the Micra 1.2 manual returns official ADR 81/02 fuel consumption of 5.9 litres per 100km (6.5L/100km for the auto) – more than both the manual-only Spark (5.6L/100km) and Alto (4.8L/100km manual, 5.5L/100km auto).

It’s the same story with CO2 emissions, which are stated at 138 grams per kilometre (manual) and 154g/km (auto) – enough for the Micra to join the Alto and Spark as Nissan’s first five-star car, according to the federal government’s Green Vehicle Guide.

The base Micra ST is well specified too - especially in terms of safety - with standard electronic stability/traction control, ABS brakes and six airbags, plus air-conditioning, a full trip computer and Bluetooth phone connectivity.

Other standard features include ‘Black Sapphire’ cloth seat trim, a driver’s seat height adjuster, four adjustable head restraints (the Spark offers five), a 60/40-split folding rear seatback, remote central locking, a four-speaker CD/MP3/AM/FM sound system with steering wheel controls and a tilt-adjustable steering wheel.

For $500 less than the Micra ST price, buyers of the flagship Alto GLX ($12,490 plus on-roads) also score alloy wheels, while Spark buyers also get foglights, but the least expensive Micra offers more standard features than Australia’s most popular light-cars, including the Hyundai Getz, Toyota Yaris, Mazda2, Holden Barina and Suzuki Swift.

Both the mid-range Micra ST-L ($14,990) and top-shelf Micra Ti ($16,990) are powered by a larger 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine, mated to the same five-speed manual or, for the same $2000 premium, four-speed automatic gearboxes.

With almost-square 78.0x78.4mm cylinder dimensions, the 1498cc engine offers 75kW at 6000rpm and 136Nm at 4000rpm, making it only slightly more powerful than the outgoing Micra’s sole 72kW/137Nm 1.4-litre engine. The Micra 1.5s return 6.5L/100km (manual) and 6.6L/100km (auto), while emitting a respective 153 and 156g/km.

Instead of the Micra ST’s 14x5.5-inch steel wheels with 165/70 R14 tyres, the ST-L runs larger 15x5.5-inch wheels with 175/60 R15 tyres and the Ti rides on alloy wheels of the same size.

Apart from a larger engine and wheels, ST-L also customers gain automatic on/off headlights and rear power windows.

In addition, buyers of the flagship Ti score a driver’s armrest, climate-control, keyless push-button starting, an integrated front-seat bag holder, power-folding body-coloured door mirrors, body-coloured door-handles, front foglights, a chromed lower grille surround and rear parking sensors, which are optional on the ST and ST-L.

Options across the range include boot storage bags, a boot-lip protector, carpet floor mats, first-aid kit, kick plate set, mud flaps, bonnet and headlight protectors, a bike carrier, roof bars, a roof spoiler and metallic exterior paint. Of the 10 paint colours available (more than any other light-car), just two are non-metallic.

In line with its most direct light-car rivals, Alto Mk4 measures 3780mm long (280mm longer than the Alto), 1665mm wide, 1525mm high and rides on a 2435mm wheelbase, with kerb weights ranging between 942kg (ST manual) and 997kg (Ti auto), making it larger both outside and in yet lighter than the superseded model.

The K13 employs solid torsion beam rear suspension with coil springs, MacPherson strut front suspension with an anti-roll bar and coil springs, rack-and-pinion power steering, ventilated front brake discs and drum rear brakes.

At just nine metres, the Micra’s turning circle betters its most direct rivals and matches the Alto, Smart ForTwo and K12 Micra. Fuel capacity is just 41 litres and a full-size spare is fitted.

The Micra hatch is the first model to appear on Nissan’s new global ‘V’ platform and will be sold in more than 160 markets globally. It was unveiled at the Geneva motor show in March and launched the same month in Thailand, where the Micra will be built for Australia and Japan for the first time.

2011 Nissan Micrapricing:
ST 1.2L$12,990
ST 1.2L (a)$14,990
ST-L 1.5L$14,990
ST-L 1.5L (a)$16,990
Ti 1.5L&nbsp $16,990
Ti 1.5L (a)$18,990

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