The opportunity to take a spin in the new Nissan Micra Tekna triggered a train of thought that took me back to another time and another place. Almost 15 years ago to be approximate.
Back then, with three young children, I was facing the harsh reality of imminent redundancy and the need to service a mortgage, provide for the family and seek out regular employment.
In the past, such a daunting task would not have appeared so daunting. Jobs for a middle-aged professional in the media were easier to come by, as long as a degree of flexibility could be accommodated. However, for the first time in my life, I wasn’t going to factor in long commutes from Bath to London and we all agreed that the family needed the stability of a breadwinner who lived and worked in the same place.
That severely limited the opportunities for a journalist with a background in newspapers, magazines and television. To live and work in Bath and Bristol, I was going to have to broaden my horizons, skill wise. So, nothing ventured, I prepared to park my ambitions to be director general of the BBC before I was 45, and embrace whatever the universe sent.
Things moved fast. I took a call from a friend of a friend, who told me that a local supermarket chain based in Bristol was looking for a new head of PR. The salary was negotiable; the hours were regular and with the job came a company car. One thing followed another and, after the interview, I reported back that I was expecting a positive response. Cue for much celebrations in the Ferguson household. And as the reverberations from the champagne and fireworks dulled slightly, almost as an aside, my wife asked about the company car. “Oh they told me,” I said. “It’s a Nissan Micra.”
There was a silence you could have cut with a knife. “No way”, she responded. “No way. You are not going to collect the kids from school in a Nissan Micra.”
Reflecting back on that moment, I wonder if that was the instant the seeds of our forthcoming divorce were sown.
Long story short, my new career in the retail food industry was aborted and I reverted to commuting again. The point being, in that age the middle-aged man driving a Nissan Micra was considered to be a social and professional failure. In much the same way as Hondas and Toyotas were judged in a more class-conscious century to be a sign of status dive, so was the Nissan.
That was then and this is now. The subsequent evolution of the hot hatch has spawned a new series of little cars that look and perform with style and distinction quite unthinkable back then.
Two days with this Micra, I have to report, were two days of unbounded joy. Freed from the snobbery of a bygone age, I took delight in striding across the car park towards this Micra proudly and confidently knowing that where once there might have been ridicule and sneers from peers, this attitude is now replaced with one of admiration and envy.
The Micra Tekna does everything you want a little car to do, and much, much more. For starters, it is a joy just to sit behind the wheel, enjoying an unrivalled view that almost takes one on a 360-degree panorama of the scenery, fellow road users and potential hazards. Such a position enhances the feeling of safety and security that once would have seemed at odds with such a wee car. The electronic stability programme, six airbags and ABS with brake assist and electronic brake force distribution, were never tested to their limits, but the confidence they instil seem to insinuate themselves through the driving experience.
Sharp and responsive on acceleration, controlled and robust in braking, the Micra Tekna dares you to find a tight situation it doesn’t have an answer to. In our short time together, I didn’t have the advantage of a long-haul journey to judge it by, but in a capital city littered with the aftermath of major tram works, random traffic flow changes and daily pop-up closed lanes, the Micra was the car I wanted to be in.
The suspension (independent MacPherson strut, coil springs at the front and torsion beam axle at the rear) replaces the experience of rattling over some of Auld Reekie’s cobbled byways with something that almost felt like gliding, or hovering.
Sometimes designers have to compromise with engineers in the competition to produce performance like this, but the styling of this Micra sells no-one short – the interior positively purrs with a combination of leather, suede, chrome and mesh seat fabric, and the climate control with its gloss black centre console, is the sort of feature that would wink confidently if it had less class.
Reversing into tight parking spaces, which is what most city street parkers are faced with every night, is made a hundred times easier with electric speed-sensitive power steering, a turning circle of just 9.3 metres and rear parking sensors, which I would lobby loudly for as an alternative to the rear view camera currently offered the Micra’s larger stable mate, the Note.
In terms of performance, the manufacturers boast a consumption of 53.3 mpg for urban driving, stretching to a hugely impressive 76.3 on the combined cycle. To be honest, this wasn’t tested scientifically.
I just loved every minute I spent driving this little car. I found myself looking forward to opportunities to take a trip, and on journeys with time in hand took slightly longer detours just to spend extra moments in its company.
It was with a heavy heart I parted company, sincerely hoping that one day the relationship might be renewed. And, 15 years on, with possible redundancy looming again, I’m very much open to any offers, particularly from the retail food trade if this particular Micra is part of the package.
Car Nissan Micra Tekna 1.2 DIG-S
Engine 1.2l petrol, 3cyl, supercharged, 97bhp, 108 lb ft
Performance Max speed 112mph; 0-62mph 11.4s
CO2 emissions 99g/km