At the very outset it must be said that when Nissan unveiled this new generation of its popular hatchback, it very clearly said it's a new kind of Micra. This car is more premium, larger, and is meant primarily for the European market. And unlike the previous generation Micra, this one is also being built in Europe at Renault's Flins plant outside Paris, and not in the Alliance plant outside Chennai. All that pretty much is subtext for - this car isn't for the emerging markets and won't come to India. So why are we bringing you its review? Because it should. It is a change of a lifetime. We are talking about a new Micra that has grown into a modern, sporty and trendy car. What was wrong with the previous generation? Looking at global sales numbers, nothing. In six years it sold over 6 million units worldwide. But it wasn't a success in India. Compare it to the new car, and that earlier Micra comes across as cheap and simplistic.
The previous Micra was designed as a global car, and so came across as a bit low-cost - although practical and affordable. While there was really nothing wrong with it, it certainly came up short for demanding European customers. So now the new Micra is very much a different car - its attractive, sporty and much more. First of all, the new Micra is not a Renault Clio, although it would have been practical to do that considering it's also made at Flins. The side mirrors, engines and transmissions are the only parts these cousins have in common. The new Micra is based on a modified platform of Nissan's small MPV - Note which the new Micra replaces some ways in Europe. We tested the new Micra in Dubrovnik - the ancient Croatian city along the Adriatic coast, recently made famous by Shah Rukh Khan starrer Fan.
The newcomer is not only much larger the last car (in length it has grown by 170 mm to exactly 4 metres, while also lower and wider), it is also more modern in all respects. Most importantly, it does not come across as a global, low cost model for sure. Of course, that does not mean the new Micra will be more successful than its predecessor. In fact we actually believe that will not happen, because it will initially be on sale only in Europe. But it will certainly be more successful in Europe itself - a market where the B segment is the largest and where customers are more demanding than in other parts of the world. Nissan does not speak about numbers, but is clear it wants the Micra to enter the top ten sales chart. Analytical company IHS Automotive predicts sales of over 700 thousand vehicles throughout the its lifetime - which is 300,000 units more than the outgoing car did.
Given the new Micra is specifically designed or Europe then, means its chances of success are higher. The car is fresh, youthful, sporty and bold, and very modern. Even more so than its technical cousin Clio. The design is very similar to the Sway concept, as the Micra has maintained a confident front grille, headlamps, strong side line and highly placed headlights. Its soul is strengthened with ten body colours, including very lively red, orange, green or light blue. Buyers can also personalize it with decals on the bodywork and plastic inserts in the cabin. So for example, if you choose blue, you get inserts of the same colour in the centre console and all along the dashboard; also the edges of the seats are then in the same colour. The cabin palette also varies by trim or equipment packages - and there are an unbelievable 125 possible combinations. The Micra also has three new colours (red, orange and green) that use an innovative technique of tinted clear coat that highlights the sparkle of the paint. Additional space - especially in the front, make the Micra a very roomy and comfortable car. That's true in the front and rear of the cabin, but do not expect miracles. The trunk has grown to a respectable 300 litres - one of the largest in the segment. So in the European context the Micra nameplate is going from being a Polo rival to more of a Golf rival. The cabin is clean and practical and its chief highlight is the NissanConnect infotainment system, which has a 7-inch touchscreen. Our test car also had a digital DAB radio, satellite navigation, several applications and Apple CarPlay. The system also has a major USP - a 360-degree personal listening experience thanks to two speakers located in the driver seat headrest! That does provide a rather interesting and enjoyable experience to front passengers.
The new Micra also excels behind the wheel. On the winding roads of the Adriatic coast, it displayed very precise steering and very good road handling. There are two systems that improve driving characteristics. The first is the Intelligent Ride Control that improves the Micra's ride by using the engine and brakes to moderate the fore/aft pitching motion that's often felt when a car goes over larger bumps in the road. The second is the Intelligent Trace Control. When cornering, this system automatically engages and adjusts the brakes on the inside of the vehicle, and the wheels on the outside, to keep the Micra on the optimal line. That is impressive for a car in this segment really. Both systems do add to the cost of this car, but would be so great to have in Indian road and traffic conditions.
Safety features are rich for this segment. The Micra has intelligent lane intervention, intelligent emergency braking, traffic sign recognition, high beam assist, an intelligent 'around-view' monitor and blind spot warning. That's besides multiple airbags and ABS of course. Sounds like a much more premium car then doesn't it? The car's pricing in Europe remains a secret, with Nissan simply promising that it will be competitive. So how can we advocate a launch in India? Well the logic is simple - offer a different model as the regular hatchback to take on the i20, Baleno and Jazz - and bring in the Micra as a more premium, brand-shaping model. It has the potential to redefine what we call the premium hatchback in the Indian context - and create a new segment in a sense. And that's something manufacturers are falling over each other trying to do, aren't they?