And we seem to have done it again. We have managed to bring to you the comparison between the current cream-of-the-class Figo and its newest nemesis – the Nissan Micra before anyone else could think about it. So sit back, relax and enjoy this fistfight between a 28 year old Japanese hatchback with a proven track record VS an American baby which is not even a year old, yet seems to have taken the entire small car market by storm with its unmatched virtues. Grab your packets of popcorns, here we go.
The Micra was first introduced in Japan in the year 1982 (known as the K10 version) as a replacement to its Cherry sibling. Although the initial design of the car was very angular and straight, from its second generation K11 (1993) Avatar this car started adopting slightly curvaceous, jelly-bean styling. The next version introduced in 1997, known as the K11C went a step further and took to slightly retro styling. The K12 and K12C versions, which are replaced by the latest model on test here, carried forward the slightly retro, curvaceous styling theme, lending the Micra its unique charm.
In its latest avatar, the Micra tries to walk the tightrope between a modern, function – oriented design with a hint of retro look to maintain its identity. And should we say, it manages to do a good job of it. From the front, the Micra, with its small slit under the bonnet and the big air dam sure manages to look cute. The headlamps reminisce of Porsche lights, although there surely isn’t any connection. In profile, especially the shut lines around the rear door, strongly remind you of the Volkswagen Beetle. The big windows make it evident that the backseat will be one roomy, bright and airy place to be in. To further add to the retro look, the tail lamps have deliberately been kept very simplistic in design. Unlike the pseudo LED, multi focal lamps found in most new cars, the tail lamps of the Micra are extremely plain, and appear to have been glued on to the back of the haunches of the car. It’s a neat touch, but requires you to have a taste for design to appreciate it.
The Figo, on the other hand puts practicality, function and cost effectiveness before everything else. It’s a longish design to facilitate more room inside the cabin. Unlike the voluptuous Micra, this one is rather angular, and has flared arches to add a dash of muscle. While the Micra is decidedly feminine in its appearance, the Figo is inclined more towards the darker sex. It’s a rather conservative, please-all design – something which won’t offend anyone, even if it fails to make you drop your jaws. There is a quarter-panel in the rear window of the Figo, which adds to the ‘length’ perception about the car, and actually makes the backseat feel more airy with a bigger greenhouse. Overall, with its well weighed proportions and conformist design, the Figo creates an impression of a well built, solid and spacious car, which can never be a bad thing, especially in a market like India.
The Figo, being the unoffending, simple design it is will not affect the buying decision of those looking at a practical option in any way. The Micra, however, will appeal to those who merit distinction. The Micra definitely has more chances of gathering the attention of craning necks of the two.
Page 1 of 7 Go to next page for ‘engine – gearbox’
Engine – gearbox
The Micra is propelled by a 1198cc, 12 valve, 3-cylinder engine putting out 76PS of power at 6000rpm and 104Nm of torque a 4000 rpm. These figures match (even outclass) some other similar capacity four-cylinder engines (except, of course the class leading K-series 1.2 petrol on the Swift), and the surprising thing is that even after being a three-pot mill, this engine doesn’t create any disturbing noise. We have earlier seen how some three-cylinder engines like the one on the A-star can create excess noise which beyond a point hampers comfort. No such issues with the Micra’s engine though. Silent and refined, this Japanese mill is creamy smooth and doesn’t emanate any sound or vibes to disturb the cabin’s tranquillity.
As we realised after a short drive, however, the Micra’s engine doesn’t really have the low-end grunt which is the biggest virtue of a good city car. The rev needle of the Micra moves quite lethargically till the time it reaches 3000 counts, after which it shows some intent to climb up. Surprisingly, the car doesn’t splutter either at low revs. It doesn’t mind rolling on in low revs, but doesn’t exhibit any peppiness when given the shove lower down the rev range either. We have observed this characteristic in most of these small cars powered by 1.2-litre petrol engines. We can’t blame the manufactures for this, as they’ll always make an effort to avail the duty cut offered by the government, but these cars could definitely do with slightly bigger engines. The gearbox is slick, and at par with the class in terms of slick operation and smooth shift action. No complaints there.
Just like the Micra, the Figo too is powered by an all new 1.2-litre DuraTec engine that produces 72 horses at a slightly higher 6250 rpm and 102Nm of turning force at 4000 rpm. Just like the Micra, the Figo too starts getting into its element only after 3000 rpm, however, it feels very marginally peppier than its Japanese counterpart. Although the difference is minor, it is still perceptible which gives the Figo’s engine a slight advantage in terms of responsiveness when we compare the two.
The slight difference in performance of the two engines is evident in the test figures of the two cars. The Figo is a little less than a second quicker than the Micra in its sprint to 100km/h from a standstill, while it’s also marginally quicker in its in-gear acceleration timings in 3rd and 4th gears in a benchmark run of 40 – 80km/h. Ford has always delighted users with its super slick gearboxes, and the Figo is no exception with a precise and fluid gearshift and absolutely no traces of notchiness.
So then, having compared the two engines, and their character on the paper as well as on the road, we realised that the Figo’s mill has its nose slightly ahead – at least in terms of outright performance and driveability. Another very important aspect of engine performance, that’s fuel efficiency, remains to be tested though – and it can just be the decider, so don’t draw any conclusions just yet!
Page 2 of 7Go to next page for ‘features’
The Micra comes equipped with quite a few firsts in its class. It features a driver side airbag even in the base variant – which hints at Nissan’s seriousness towards road safety. It’s a welcome move by the Japanese car major, and we would love to see all the carmakers follow suit.
Another first for the B-segment is the proximity sensing keyless entry system which does away with the requirement of having to insert a key in the door to gain access. The doors allow you access as long as you have the remote access dongle with you. This feature was earlier available in much more expensive cars like the Chevrolet Cruze and Nissan’s very own Teana.
Third unique feature of the Micra is the push button start system which doesn’t require you to insert and twist the key to turn the ignition on. The proximity sensor, on detecting the access dongle allows the cylinder to be fired up. All fancy stuff, but distinctive and refreshing enough to woo buyers. The car also comes equipped with a trip computer and an interior which is refreshingly different from any other car in the segment. Auto A/C is another great feature available higher up the variants range.
In comparison, the Figo doesn’t have any of the fancy techno gadgetry offered by the Micra. It does, however, have a trip computer in the instrumentation panel. The Figo also has a plusher looking and more comfortable interior of the two, but more on that later. The proximity sensor and push button start featured on the Micra may not have the functional edge to make an earth-shattering difference to a car, but it definitely helps the car get more ticks against the features and options list.
Page 3 of 7 Go to next page for ‘cabin comfort and ride quality’
Cabin comfort and ride quality
The Micra offers a brand new interior design which is quite a departure from the conventional interiors we’ve been witnessing on small cars in India. Just like the exterior, a curvy, curly theme has been extended into the cabin and everything from the dashboard, to the centre console, to even the door handles is a concoction of circles and round elements. As we mentioned earlier, all this put together makes for a rather feminine environment, but the good thing is, that it’s all been very well executed. The design may be different, but unlike some other similar attempts, it has not ended up looking confused. The design and layout of the interior looks tasteful, although there is a tad too much tough plastic inside the cabin for my liking. The 4-speaker music system sounds decent and has an aux-in point. There isn’t a USB connectivity feature though. The roofline is quite high, making for generous headroom, thus creating an airy and spacious cabin. The huge rear window, as we mentioned earlier, further adds to the airy feel on the back bench.
The seats of the Micra are nice and supportive – they cannot be termed class leading in terms of comfort though – the Figo being the reigning king in that department with much better seats. The Micra, with a pair of McPherson struts up front and torsion beam suspension at the rear has been set up for a soft, supple ride and this reflects in the way it absorbs bumps. I found the ride quality a little too squishy for my liking and would have wanted it to be slightly more firm and better damped. With the current setup, the car feels quite wallow-y at the rear. With plenty of room available at the back seat, however, space is not something that the passengers are ever going to complain about.
The Figo’s interior has an element of quality that’ll surprise you, especially when you come to know the price at which it offered. Not only is the overall quality of plastics and the materials used better than the Micra, the ergonomics too are spot on. We don’t like the plastic used on the music system and other elements on the centre console, but the quality of materials on the dashboard, door panels, and even the seats is very good for the class. We didn’t particularly like the red treatment to the dashboard, but thankfully it’s an option so you may go for a regulation black trim if you so wish. The aluminium finish bezels for the A/C vents, with the fake leather finish dashboard look nice. The instrument cluster too has been done nicely and features the Distance to Empty readout, which is a great value add. Figo’s steering wheel feels better to hold, and being in the overall seating position in the Fiogo somehow feels more correct.
The Figo is a revelation in the ride quality department. Ford has managed to make the Figo accomplished enough to glide over even the worst surfaces, without making the suspension overly soft. The result is a comfy ride that’s one of the best in this segment of cars. Even the legroom at the backseat is slightly more than the Micra, and probably the best in class.
Another area where the Figo scores heavily is its cavernous boot for a hatchback. It’s not too far away from being termed as a sedan’s boot. Much, much more capacious than any other hatch in its segment, the Figo’s boot would swallow all the luggage of a family of four for a weekend, and then some. The Micra’s boot in comparison is much smaller and won’t allow for much luggage.
Page 4 of 7 Go to next page for ‘performance and handling’
Performance and handling
There isn’t much to choose between the two cars in terms of engine performance on the paper, with hardly any difference in the engine specs and output figures. In the real world, however, the Figo is marginally quicker, not just through the gears, but in overtaking acceleration (single gear) as well. The difference in the sprint and roll on timings of the two cars, however, is marginal and won’t make the kind of difference that should leave someone cribbing.
The more perceptible difference, however, is in the handling department where the Figo scores highly. Both cars run on 175mm wide 14 inch wheels. However, with a 65 mm profile against the Micra’s 70mm, the Figo runs on slightly thinner tyres. That, along with a superbly set up suspension offers great poise when the car is thrown around the corners. The taut feel of the car, the tactile steering, and the solid, sturdy feel inspire confidence as you hold the car by its neck. The Figo really behaves around corners, and holds its line like a few others in its class.
The Micra too doesn’t really have any problems as regards poise and confidence. It’s just that, riding on a softer setup, it feels a bit squidgy around the bends. The Micra’s steering too is a tad light and the overall feel of the car isn’t as taut and sturdy as the Figo
3rd gear 40-80 km/h
4th gear 40-80 km/h
3rd gear 40-80km/h
4th gear 40-80km/h
0-60km/h 6.3 seconds
0-100km/h 16.1 seconds
when shown the twisties. We would have to rate a Figo slightly higher than the Micra here
Page 5 of 7 Go to next page for ‘fuel efficiency’
We have always believed that it’s very difficult to comment on the fuel efficiency of a car unless you have driven it for a very substantial distance and tanked it up multiple times. It’s tough to test the fuel efficiency of a vehicle in a short run as it varies according to traffic and road conditions. The recently introduced ARAI certified fuel efficiency figures have come across as a boon in that regard. ARAI has its own test track and testing labs to test fuel efficiency figures of new cars with more authority. These figures, although slightly on the higher side, are the best way to compare the fuel efficiencies of various cars.
The ARAI figures for the Figo and the Micra are 15.6kmpl and 18.06kmpl respectively. We know for a fact that the Figo isn’t a very frugal car, and the ARAI figures only substantiate the fact. Quite clearly, the Micra takes the top accolades in this department.
Page 6 of 7 . Go to next page for ‘verdict’
It’s a very close contest here. Both the cars have their own virtues. Acceleration performance of the two cars is almost identical with the Figo having a very marginal lead. The Figo also scores in terms of overall cabin quality, sturdy feel, handling and ride quality. On the other hand, the Micra has a better exterior styling and is resultantly a more charming car. It returns considerably better fuel efficiency which is a big factor for a customer before choosing his car in this country.
So while the Figo is a more comfortable, more spacious car with better interiors and better handling, the Micra is a more attractive car which will travel more distance per litre of fuel, saving you some money. Also, the Micra has been around for almost three decades now, while the Figo is an entirely new car and is yet to prove its durability.
Clearly, the two cars have their own virtues, making it difficult to choose the outright winner – which brings us to the price. At a base model price of Rs 3.47 lakh, the Figo is about Rs 50K cheaper than the Micra’s base variant (which doesn’t have keyless entry or push button start). The Micra, however comes equipped with a driver side airbag, which justifies the price tag a little bit. Also, the Micra is more fuel efficient, so it will help you get back your money over a period of time.
However, in the variants above the base version, the difference between the prices of the two cars opens up even more. The top end variant of the Figo 1.2 retails for Rs 4.42 lakh ex-showroom, against the Micra’s top end which is sold at Rs 5.29 lakh. That’s a difference of almost Rs 90000 – and that’s a big difference for this segment. Even with its push button start feature, Auto A/C and better fuel efficiency, we think the price is rather steep. The Figo definitely offers equal functionality and more comfort. So finally, in our assessment, we will have to rate the Figo slightly higher than the Micra.
So if you want more comfort, more legroom and good handling, choose the Figo. However, if comfort isn’t at the top of your priority list, and if you don’t mind sparing a little more money for better styling, more features and better fuel efficiency, go for the Micra.