Cape Town - With Nissan’s previous-generation small car soldiering on as the Micra Active (a la Polo Vivo) in the so-called lower B segment, the all-new Micra hatchback takes a leap into the upper B segment to directly take on its cousin the Renault Clio, as well as the VW Polo and Ford Fiesta.

Launched in South Africa this week, the grown-up new Micra is reinvented as a larger, classier and more technologically-advanced car, with pricing more or less on par with the opposition. The car’s metamorphosis starts with a much more palatable design than its odd-looking predecessor.

Based on the Clio and built in France, the latest Micra gets a fresh and modern ‘Eurocentric’ shape that radiates a youthful vibe. With a length of 3999mm it’s considerably larger than before too, making for a much roomier cabin. The boot’s grown to a fairly generous 300 litres, expandable to 1004 litres when the 60:40 split rear seats are folded down.

It’s under that stylish sheetmetal that an even bigger revolution’s taken place. The cabin is one of the classiest in the segment, with textures and materials that radiate the feel of a more expensive car. The dashboard has a soft-touch surface that gives off a quality feel, while the armrests get the same pleasantly spongy covering. The gadgets are also all the latest spec, with the obligatory large touchscreen and music/phone connectivity.

Ergonomically it’s a success too and this includes a height and reach-adjustable steering column which allows anyone from a ballerina to a bouncer to find a comfortable driving position. Nissan says a driver who is 2.03 metres tall can fit comfortably behind the wheel. Spec levels are very generous as well, with even the baseline Micra getting features like cruise control, automatic headlights, electronic stability control, hill start assist, ABS brakes and six airbags.

To begin with there are three Micra derivatives, all powered by the same three-cylinder turbocharged 900cc petrol engine as found in the Clio, albeit slightly downtuned to 66kW and 140Nm (the Clio packs 70kW and 150Nm). Drive is to the front wheels via a five-speed manual. Performance, given the modest engine size, is reasonably punchy; driven at the media launch in Cape Town last week, the car was able to cruise at the national speed limit with not too much effort, and even had some overtaking poke.

Accelerating from a standstill exposed a curious hesitation in the power delivery when the clutch was released, however - almost as if the traction control system was cutting in (which it wasn’t - we were driving slowly). While not a major problem it does cause some jerkiness when driving the Micra around town. Otherwise the driving experience is a pleasant one. Nissan’s compact car has a very solid feel, cruising over bumpy roads with good torsional rigidity and nary a rattle to be heard. It’s a refined little hatch too, with good noise insulation.

Three specification levels are available: Visia, Acenta and Acenta Plus. Apart from the features already mentioned above, the Visia comes standard with 15 inch steel wheels, daytime running lights, front power windows, a manual aircon, and a Bluetooth and MP3 compatible audio system.

The Acenta adds 16 inch alloy wheels and front fog lights among other features, while the Acenta Plus lays on 17” alloy wheels, a leather steering wheel and a colourful dual-tone ‘Energy Orange’ interior (pictured above). 

The Acenta and Acenta Plus also have an 18cm touch-screen colour display for music, messages and maps through Apple CarPlay in addition to the MP3, USB and Bluetooth in the Visia model.

Nissan has an extensive array of personalisation offering for the new Micra, which can be pimped-up with decals and styling packs, and the range will be expanded in 2019 with additional derivatives, starting with a cheaper 52kW one-litre normally aspirated version. 

PRICING

Micra Visia R233 500
Micra Acenta R257 400
Micra Acenta Plus R272 400

Prices include a six-year or 150 000km warranty, a three-year or 90 000km service plan and 24/7 roadside assistance.

Drive360

Follow Denis Droppa on Twitter @DenisDroppa