Long-term test, month one: Nissan Micra comes up trumps

A supercharged 1.2-litre petrol engine gives the Micra extra muscle

A supercharged 1.2-litre petrol engine gives the Micra extra muscle

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SITTING next to me as I type, my colleague Tom Hunter is in the huff. He is writing his review of the Ferrari 458 Spider he had for the weekend (see page 10).

As is par for the course for us old-school journo types, we have spent much of the morning procrastinating rather than writing anything.

Today our delaying tactics took the shape of a ludicrous game of Top Trumps between his Italian stallion and my test car, the Nissan Micra Acenta. Tom’s not happy right now, because I won. It’s true that while the Ferrari certainly has the edge on the Micra when it comes to piffling matters such as engine power (562bhp versus 97bhp) and 0-62mph time (3.4s versus 11.3s), in terms of things like number of them you could buy with quarter of a million pounds (1 versus 18) and number of rear wipers (0-1) and other arbitrary parameters I made up, the Micra takes the crown.

Perhaps the the most impressive stat, however, was that Tom’s Ferrari loan lasted a mere 48 hours, while I have the helm of the Micra for six months – which should give me just enough time to notch up the same mileage he managed in those two days. It will also give me time to give the Micra a really thorough road test, so over the next few months, I’ll be taking the Micra shopping, doing the morning commute, seeing how it fares on the motorway and hopefully taking it on a wee holiday in the countryside.

First impressions first. This is the fourth-generation Micra, which last year received a welcome facelift, inside and out. The front now looks a touch more aggressive, chunky and keen, while inside there’s a new central console. Although it’s a small car, it doesn’t feel particularly cramped inside. The Micra makes the most of its space – even 6ft-2in Tom was comfortable with the amount of head and legroom in the back seats. That external makeover gives the Micra a sculpted, almost muscular aspect, not seen in the model’s three decades of existence.

Engine-wise, you can have any kind you like, as long as it’s a three-cylinder 1.2-litre petrol. Super-charged or naturally aspirated – that’s your choice. We (mercifully) have the supercharged version. Early impressions are that it is zippy and lively enough for the cut and thrust of city driving, but we’ll need to see how it fares on the motorway.

There are three trim levels to choose from. The Visia is the cheapest, starting as just under £10,000, but is pretty basic. The Tekna is bristling with tech such as parking sensors and electric folding mirrors, but starts at £12,950 and goes all the way up to £15,010, which is a couple of grand more than anyone should ever expect to pay for a Nissan Micra. We’ve got the Goldilocks option – the Acenta, which doesn’t cost as much as the Tekna but still includes the likes of cruise control, climate control and automatic lights and wipers.

A brief pootle to take in the sea air at Musselburgh the other week saw those wipers in action before the skies cleared, and the slippery roads made for a couple of nervous moments when I approached some roundabouts a little too enthusiastically. While the ride over potholes and cobbles is smoother than one might expect at reasonable speeds, if you put your foot down, things can get somewhat skittish. More of that in the coming months.

Final first impression – our test model came with a £450 option of metallic paint – Platinum Sage, which seems to be inspired by my granny’s bogging faux velvet sofa from the 1970s. A simple, cheaper, Ferrari-like red would certainly trump that.

VITAL STATS

Price £12,650 (£13,600 as tested)

Engine 1.2-litre petrol, 3cyl, 97bhp, 108 lb ft

Performance Max speed 112mph; 0-62mph 11.3s

Economy 65.7 combined

CO2 emissions 99g/km

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