Johannesburg - Nissan South Africa has been rather quiet on the passenger car front of late, but the company is about to embark on a product offensive that will see almost its entire range upgraded within the next six months.

First out the starting blocks is the Nissan Micra Active, which is a facelifted version of the third-generation hatch that was launched here back in 2011. But wait! I hear you protest, where’s that stylish new version that was launched overseas a while back? The good news is that the all-new Clio-based Micra is still on course for SA, due early next year, but while that one will go up against Polo, Fiesta and friends in the upper B-segment, the ‘Active’ that you see here will tackle the lower end of the small car market. Think of it as Nissan’s Vivo.

The facelift has done it some good favours, with that dowdy looking front end having undergone a complete redesign complete with sharper looking headlights and a new grille with Nissan’s ‘V’ motif, and while alterations are less subtle at the back, it does get new taillight innards and a sharper looking bumper.

Inside the central part of the dashboard has been redesigned, with those round air vents making way for a square design, while the instrument cluster has been refreshed and the seats are upholstered in a new dark fabric.
There’s only one model grade on offer, it’s priced at R159 900 and it’s got all the basic bells and whistles that you’d want at this level, including an aircon, audio system with Bluetooth streaming capability, front electric windows, central locking, height-adjustable steering, dual front airbags and ABS. 

Yet Nissan reckons the biggest selling point will be its “best in class” 3-year/90 000km service plan, which will certainly work in your favour if you’re a high-miler. It’s also sold with an impressive six-year/150 000km warranty.

Though the standard kit should satisfy most needs, Nissan is offering a range of options, one of which is a touchscreen infotainment system that will initially be fitted as standard as a “launch special” of sorts. Nissan didn’t specify exactly when the offer will end, but said it should apply for about three months. After that the system, which includes TomTom satnav with live traffic updates and a built-in hard drive, will cost around R8500.

That same sum will also get you the optional ‘Trend Setter’ exterior accessory package, which includes black alloy wheels, a rear spoiler, chrome-tipped exhaust and mud guards. 

Other options include a reverse camera, rear parking sensors and tyre pressure monitoring.

There is only one engine option this time though, with the previous 1.5-litre engine falling away, leaving only the familiar 56kW/104Nm 1.2-litre, three-cylinder normally aspirated petrol option that formed the mainstay of the previous range.

We’ll have to wait until the road test to deliver a full assessment, but on our short Joburg launch route the car felt generally agreeable and easy to drive, although the engine was bogged down by the aircon to a notable degree.

Here’s where the Micra could lose out to stronger-performing rivals such as the turbocharged Renault Sandero and 1.5-litre Toyota Etios. That said, the Nissan’s after sales deal, generous spec and slightly lower price could certainly outweigh the performance deficit in the minds of many buyers in this segment.

CarPower/TorqueService PlanPrice
Nissan Micra 1.2 Active56kW/104Nm3yr/90 000kmR159 900
Renault Sandero 0.9T Expression66kW/135Nm2yr/30 000kmR164 900
Toyota Etios hatch 1.5 Xi66kW/132Nm2yr/30 000kmR165 500
Kia Picanto 1.2 Street61kW/122NmOptionalR165 995
Suzuki Swift 1.2 GL63kW/113Nm2yr/30 000kmR169 900
VW Polo Vivo 1.4 Conceptline55kW/132NmOptionalR173 800

IOL Motoring