Pizzazz, but power disappoints

Nissan's new Micra Accenta Plus Tech comes with vibrant interior materials, like the burnt orange cloth seats and multi-coloured dashboard. (Picture: Supplied)
Nissan's new Micra Accenta Plus Tech comes with vibrant interior materials, like the burnt orange cloth seats and multi-coloured dashboard. (Picture: Supplied)

Nissan’s little city slicker, the Micra, has undergone a complete styling overhaul, inside and out. It’s a more modern look that should boost the Micra’s chances to better compete against its many rivals (Ford Fiesta, Toyota Yaris and VW Polo among these) in the highly competitive B-segment.

finweek tested the top-of-the-range Micra Acenta Plus Tech, a small car with many of the bells and whistles found in larger premium vehicles.

New, angular form

Gone is the somewhat rounded, froggy look of its predecessor. Now it’s a sharper-looking, contemporary styled city car with sleeker, flowing lines. 

The front features a shortened bonnet, reduced A-pillar angle and narrow headlamps that frame the reinterpreted ‘V-motion’ grille. A sweeping roofline, integrated rear door handles, rear roof spoiler and new boomerang-shaped tail lights complete the more angular design.

The fifth-generation Micra is also slightly longer and wider, boosting both passenger and boot space.

Upmarket interior

The interior too has been completely restyled. The Micra Acenta Plus Tech comes with vibrant interior materials, like the burnt orange cloth seats and multi-coloured dashboard.

Leather makes an appearance on the gear knob, handbrake and multi-function button steering wheel, the latter also adjustable for reach and height. 

It’s a well-built little car and even the synthetic materials used are of a really good quality; all of which lend a premium feel to this characterful hatch.

There are plenty of premium bits in this little city car and pretty much everything comes standard. Fog lights, daytime running lights, front power windows, cruise control, automatic headlights, six airbags, start button, auto locking and 4-speaker audio system are among these. 

Plug in your smartphone and connectivity is covered. A 7-inch colour touchscreen allows access to features such as music, messages and maps through Apple CarPlay, in addition to MP3, USB and Bluetooth. And activating Siri for voice control instructions is a mere press of a button on the steering wheel. Integration is seamless.

Also standard is Nissan’s intelligent mobility technology features. Driving aids include forward collusion prevention, blind-spot warning and 360-degree cameras that create forward, rear and bird’s- eye views to make parking easy.

And a smaller 5-inch Nissan Advanced Drive Assist Display, located on the dashboard in the driver’s line of sight, provides drivers with key information about the car and journey.

Aside from all the tech and driving aids, the car offers a high level of safety features. Six airbags, ABS braking, electronic stability control, Isofix child seat mounts and hill start assist are among these.

Aside from premium offerings, it’s also a very functional space. The hatch’s cabin provides adequate leg- and headroom for rear passengers and the boot is decently sized. 

A handy feature is the intelligent key system that allows you to unlock or lock the doors by pressing the black button on the door or tailgate.

Driving dynamics

The Micra Acenta Plus Tech comes with larger 17-inch alloy wheels that help to make it really solid on the road. Steering is responsive and well-weighted, the lower positioned figure-hugging seats comfy, and the firmish, yet comfortable, ride is composed. It’s nicely planted, and fairly agile around corners.

A quality build brings with it no squeaks or rattles, and a well-insulated cabin provides first-rate protection from wind and road noise. 

On to the nitty gritty. Performance.

Small, turbo-powered engines offer enhanced performance while maintaining fuel efficiency. Of late, these engines are pretty much standard fare in the small-car segments. Some engines, though, are more proficient than others.

The Micra’s 1-litre, 3-cylinder turbo petrol engine, which is paired to a 5-speed manual transmission, is accomplished on the flat.

But the kicker is its performance on inclines. There’s plenty of downshifting needed to maintain power, but even second gear – where you expect to get much of the low-end torque – comes with turbo lag and failed to impress. And it’s an engine that is extremely high revving.

That said, gear changing is fluid and fuel efficiency did not disappoint. The car was driven energetically in urban traffic, and up some hilly terrain, and still managed to post 5.7 litres/100km. More eye-popping was the 4.0 litres/100km achieved on the straight and downhill during a dose of open road driving. Impressive stuff. 

Still, it’s a bit of a gulp when you find out the price. Yes, it has all the bells and whistles not often offered as standard in small cars, and is a quality buy for sure, but at over R300 000, it’s no budget buy. 

I concluded the test feeling somewhat ambivalent about the Nissan Micra Acenta Plus Tech. While the quality build and sturdy feel of the car on the road is a huge plus, I am not convinced that all the premium offerings and tech make up for its lukewarm performance. I was by no means expecting a blistering performance, but if truth be told, I expected more.

This article originally appeared in the 7 November edition of finweek magazine. Buy and download the magazine here or subscribe to our newsletter here

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