Cute gets contemporary

Jun 30, 2013, 09:15 IST | Amit Chhangani

With a new-gen design and a CVT auto option thrown in, the new Nissan Micra is definitely more than just a facelift. Amit Chhangani finds out how well it works in its new avatar

Amidst the flurry of innumerable variants and so called ‘all new’ versions of existing cars featuring sticker jobs, Nissan decided to actually inject some more function in its refreshed Micra. Equipped with the convenience of modern X-Tronic CVT seen earlier in the Sunny, the Micra, in its new incarnation is all set to take on the hatchback segment with a reinvigorated zest.

The design of the Micra has been given a comprehensive makeover by Nissan. From the earlier ‘cute’ to a more ‘contemporary’ template, the Micra sheds its retro elements to adorn a more ‘today’ look. Changes include a new front honeycomb grille with a big Nissan logo, new headlamps, new position for the fog-lamps and a flashy new set of LED tail lamps among others. All this, along with changes made to the bumpers, engine hood and fenders has changed the Micra’s character substantially.

The new dashboard design lends the interior a premium look with its selection of colours and textures

Changes are not limited only to the exterior though; the interiors have been altered as well. The instantly noticeable change remains the ‘piano’ finished black central console with brushed silver surrounding. Gone are the central circular vents and are replaced by restyled square vents with a double DIN CD integrated music system below them.

Engine responsiveness and fuel efficiency are two advantages that the car offers

The new dashboard design lends the interior a premium look with its selection of colours and textures. The CVT variant comes with the automatic style shift lever with a thumb press ‘sport’ button and has two cup holders placed ahead of it. The 12v power outlet is stashed away in the passenger side footwell and is not particularly easy to access unlike the USB-AUX ports below the twin glove box which fall within easy reach. The rake adjustable steering wheel is best in its upmost position, and along with the height adjustable driver side seats, makes it easy to get comfortable behind the wheel in a jiffy.

The car has shelved its earlier retro elements to don a more ‘today’s’ look

The seats offer decent support in the right places and the all-around view is reasonably good too. Rear seat comfort is decent and is best for two adults — third passenger becomes an uncomfortable squeeze. Adjustable head restraints complete the cabin which feels airy due to the light colours and has enough headroom to accommodate an adult of average height. The legroom again is just about enough unless the front seats are moved way back. The boot at 251 litres is quite spacious as against what the exteriors suggest. Overall, the interiors have been freshened up with small touches and have decent levels of build quality as well.

On the engine front, the Micra is still offered as before with the DOHC 12v 3 cylinder 1.2 petrol and the SOHC 16v 4 cylinder 1.5 diesel. The newly introduced X-Tronic CVT uses the engine’s electronic brain to maintain the engine speed-gearing ratio combination in the optimum range that offers the best of the both worlds in terms of engine responsiveness and fuel efficiency.

The biggest advantage that a CVT holds over a regular automatic is, wide gear ratio and step less transition since it has no cogs. Keeping an eye on the tachometer, it’s evident that the CVT seamlessly upshifts to a higher ratio at around 2000-2500 rpm again depending on the gradient and throttle inputs. The word seamless should find a special mention in the CVT operation throughout. It virtually eliminates the rubber band effect experienced during acceleration in automatics and stays predictive most of the time.

Nissan has provided a small ‘Sport’ button on the drive selector lever. The sport mode is also indicated in the dash when active and what it predominantly does is switch to a lower ratio at higher rpm than what’s good for the fuel economy for that extra thrust during acceleration.

To understand how the CVT reacts, we activated the ‘Sport’ mode while cruising steady at 60 kmph and we saw the transmission stepdown without any jerks thereby raising the revs by about 1500 rpm and providing the added zest in acceleration.

The 1.5 diesel, on the other hand, is a proven performer and does get the job done without complaints or any hiccups. Despite being towards larger side of the engine capacity for a hatchback, the gearing seems to be tuned towards fuel efficiency. The motor develops 64 PS of power at 4000 rpm but 160 NM of torque at a lowly 2000 rpm gives it a good punch.

The ride quality of the Micras in all engine configurations is well sprung and damped. Minor to medium road imperfections and undulations are not much of a bother. The only bit of difficulty is when it’s driven carelessly over larger potholes, where it reacts with a vocal thud. Push it a bit hard around corners and the Micra rolls considerably. Its best suited to docile approach around bends – fair enough, as it’s not intended to be a hot hatch.

All in all, after its relatively quiet opening innings in India, the Micra has presented itself in a more approachable avatar this time around. It nearly ticks all the boxes to make it one desirable city hatch. To be more specific, with the convenience of the brilliant CVT, fantastic fuel economy from an automatic, ease of use within the city and a fresh facelift one can’t really go wrong with the new Micra. If priced competitively, Nissan should have a successful product at hand. 

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