Amidst the flurry of cross engined variants and so called `all new versions` of existing cars with merely sticker jobs in the already crowded small hatch segment Nissan decided to inject some innovation instead, presenting the Nissan Micra 2013. How do serious car enthusiasts relate to Nissan? The iconic GT-R, okay, the dynamic Patrol and not to forget the ‘cute’ Micra! Cute no more, Nissan has given its hatch a dose of freshness in the design which is easily more than a mid – term facelift.
Nissan`s Temple Run event held at Madurai happened to be the platform to showcase what was in store with a strong emphasis on innovation and refinement. The highlight and the show stopper of the event was the New Nissan Micra X Tronic CVT. With the sky rocketing petrol prices, the demand for the frugal and fun to drive modern diesel engine cars has surged as well, Nissan presented its ‘different’ automatic, the XTronic CVT mated to a petrol engine instead. So how different is the CVT in real world and can it topple a manual transmission car`s fuel economy figures?
Readers aware of Nissan`s international car line up can quickly relate the new Micra to the Juke crossover. By merely changing the bumpers, the engine hood, headlamps and tail lamps it has completely changed the character of the design. The new design can hold itself without needing a Bollywood heartthrob to boost its sales.
The new Micra comes with new and bigger front honeycomb grille with a big Nissan logo sitting proudly on the new car, in contrast to the `cute` earlier Micra which shyly displayed its parents name with a small logo on the hood. The bigger integrated grille in the bumper is also big and wide with chrome surround pushing the triangular fog lamps to the edge in attempt to use the fog lamps as a part of design rather than purely being functional.
Nissan claims that the overall length of the car has been increased by 45mm and this only comes due to the redesigned bumpers, the bodyshell remains the same. The new angular headlamps have been nicely merged with the design leading to the A pillar. The new fenders play an important role in execution of the fresh front end by complementing the headlamps and the bumpers which have lent the Micra a smart, assertive and dynamic look.
The Micra also gets blingy looking LED tail lamps and a spoiler as well. The designers have added a lower lip to the tail gate which gives it a flush fit look with the bumper. Nissan has added a set of tastefully done smart looking alloy wheels on the XV variant and they do add to the overall flair of the new design.
Next Page for Cabin comfort and features
CABIN COMFORT AND FEATURES
Changes are not only limited to the exterior, the interiors have been given several changes as a part of the makeover. The instantly noticeable change remains the `piano` finished black central console with brushed silver surrounding, contrasting the shade of mushroom-beige dashboard. Gone are the central circular vents and are replaced by restyled square vents with a double DIN CD integrated music system below them.
The side circular air-con vents however remain unchanged. Even the glossy and enhanced look does not hide the roundish air-con control cluster with amber back lit LCD display and has been carried over from the previous version. The new dashboard design does lend the interiors a premium feel with its selection of colours and textures. The CVT variant comes with the automatic style shift lever with a thumb press `sport` button (more on that later) and has two cup holders placed ahead of it.
The door pads have premium feel suede like fabric inserts on the XV trim whereas the XL has durable looking tricot mesh woven fabric. The door arm rests have silver finish power window switch surrounds adding to the upmarket look and carry small map holder pockets. The chrome door handles also add to the premium feel inside. The steering wheel with the big boss horn pad comes with audio control buttons adding to the telephony convenience.
The instrument console now has been adorned with chrome rings taking away the drab look.The 12v power outlet is stashed away in the passenger side footwell and is not particularly easy to access unlike the USB-AUX ports below the twin glove box which fall within easy reach. We would have loved a bit more assuring build quality on the top glove box which feels a bit flimsy to operate. Surprisingly the top glove box has been omitted from the lower end XL variant.
Towards the right hand side of the steering are the ORVM controls along with the headlight level adjuster knob, which feel tiny to operate, while on the left hand side we have the backlit engine start-stop button as before. The XV variant does come with auto folding ORVMs which is a thoughtful addition. The rake adjustable steering wheel is best in its upmost position, and along with the height adjustable driver side seats, makes it easy to get comfortable behind the wheel in a jiffy.
The seats offer decent support in the right places and the all-around view is reasonably good too. Paying more attention to detail, the roof handle bars miss the hanger-stop elements. Rear seat comfort is decent and is best for two adults – third passenger becomes an uncomfortable squeeze. Adjustable head restraints complete the cabin which feels airy due to the light colors and has enough headroom to accommodate and adult of average height. The legroom again is just about enough and doesn`t get intrusive unless the front seats are moved way back. The boot at 251 litres is surprisingly spacious from what the exteriors suggest. Overall, the interiors have been freshened up with small touches and have decent levels of build quality as well.
Next page for Performance and handling
PERFORMANCE AND HANDLING
The Micra is still offered as before with the DOHC 12v 3 cylinder 1.2 petrol and the SOHC 16v 4 cylinder 1.5 diesel. Since CVT is amongst the other highlights of the new Micra, we shall focus our attention on it too.
Nissan has offered the CVT in the Sunny already, but it is a segment first offering for the Micra since no other hatch on sale currently comes with a Continuously Variable Transmission. Nissan proudly and confidently quashes the popular misconception that automatic transmissions have higher fuel consumption.
Speaking about the advanced CVT technology, Mr. Chikuya Takada, Head of Product Planning stressed on the refinement and fuel efficiency. So confident are Nissan and Takada san about the CVT that the efficiency of a Manual Transmission can be easily challenged and with the `world’s highest` gearing ratio, achieving 19.34 kmpl (Not certified by ARAI) sounds convincing! This claim sounds absolutely fantastic considering a 25 kg weight deficit over the Manual! Nissan has gone to lengths and studied over 1000 acceleration patterns while tweaking the CVT to suit the smaller Micra. So what’s a CVT really and what are its advantages?
In Nissan speak, the CVT skillfully uses the engine’s “best” parts, meaning the electronic brain constantly trying to maintain the engine speed-gearing ratio combination in the optimum range that offers the best of the both worlds in terms of engine responsiveness and fuel efficiency. Obviously there is a clever brain to make the best use of the 77 PS and 104 Nm of torque. The biggest advantage that a CVT holds over a regular automatic or even the 7 speed dual clutch direct shift gearbox is, wide gear ratio and step less transition since it has no cogs!!
The Nissan`s CVT has evolved so much that it can interpret drivers commands through the inputs received at the accelerator pedal and steering inputs alike. While the drive from the picturesque Meenaxi temple to the Vaigai dam, the Micra got good opportunities to stretch it legs. Even at triple digit speeds and with steady throttle inputs the ECU tweaked the CVT ratio such that the engine was merrily spinning around 2500 rpm, impressive!
Slot in the D and starting off, the CVT takes off what feels like an Automatic while the ECU works towards providing best possible ratio depending on the throttle position. Keeping an eye on the tachometer, it’s evident that the CVT seamlessly `upshifts` to a higher ratio at around 2000-2500 rpm again depending on the gradient and throttle inputs, the word seamless finds a special mention in the entire CVT operation throughout. It virtually eliminates rubber band effect acceleration of the Automatics and stays predictive most of the times.
However, petrol heads that we are, we always want that extra punch available and for those reasons Nissan has provided a small `Sport` button on the drive selector lever. The sport mode is also indicated in the dash when active and what it predominantly does is switch to a lower ratio at higher rpm than what’s good for the fuel economy, that’s why Takada san points out to remember and switch it off when not required.
While pottering around town in traffic, the CVT makes driving a child’s play and thoroughly effortless as well as enjoyable. On the open stretches and highways, things turn against it slightly where the engine could have used some more power. From standstill, floor that throttle and the tachometer needle promptly swings upto 5500 rpm and stays put until you lift off before settling to a lower optimum ratio.
To understand how the CVT reacts, we activated the `Sport` mode while cruising steady at 60 kmph and we saw the transmission stepdown without any jerks thereby raising the revs by about 1500 rpm and providing the added zest in acceleration. With a full complement of passengers and twisty uphill sections, the limitations of this three pot motor surfaces where it begs for more power. The 1.2L motor while maintaining a vibe free nature does get vocal at full chat, it recorded 85 db on our flat out acceleration runs and does sound a bit harsh in the upper half of rev range.
The 1.5 diesel on the other hand is a proven performer and does get the job done without complaints or any hiccups. Despite being towards larger side of the engine capacity for a hatchback, the gearing seems to be tuned towards fuel efficiency yet again. The motor develops 64 PS of power at 4000 rpm but 160 NM of torque at a lowly 2000 rpm gives it a good potency.
While driving, the torque kick-in is evident at the said rpm and to keep things merry, the Micra is happiest when the revs are kept above 2000. Coupled with a springy yet light clutch and a light to operate gearbox, the Micra feels happiest on highways.
Driving the diesel engine Micra within the city can get tiresome for the tender wristed at times with the relatively heavy steering wheel. With all that additional weight of the oil-burner on the front wheels, the Micra could have been effortless to drive with some more power assistance dialed in especially at low speeds. Also, the brakes on the Micra seem to have grabby nature on the Diesel variant. The brakes on the test car seemed to be somewhat lacking response for the initial part of the pedal travel and suddenly bit in with some more pressure, this is I believe just a part where one needs to get used to.
Coming back to the CVT, the electric power steering is purely fun to use, so much so that it makes you eager to twirl the wheel at every possible opportunity. What adds to the fun factor is that it gives a good feedback from the front end and is predictable unlike the usual traits associated with electrically assisted wheels. Thus, the CVT makes the city driving an enjoyment rather than a chore! The brakes feel more reassuring and adequate on the CVT as well as the manual Petrol variants, unlike their grabby behavior on the diesel.
The ride quality of the Micras in all engine configurations is well sprung and damped. Minor to medium road imperfections and undulations are not much of a bother. The only bit of bother is when its driven carelessly over larger potholes, where it reacts with a vocal thud. Push it a bit hard around turns and the Micra rolls considerably and is best suited to docile approach around bends, fair enough, as it’s not intended to be a hot hatch.
Next page for Verdict and technical specifications
Summing it up, after a few hours behind the wheel of the Micra has left me impressed already. The Micra nearly ticks all the boxes to make it one desirable city hatch. To be more specific, with the convenience of the brilliant CVT, fantastic fuel economy from an automatic, fun and ease of use within the city and a fresh facelift one can’t really go wrong with the new Micra. If priced competitively, Nissan has a winner on their hands.
XL, XL (O)
XL, XL (O), XV, XV P
DOHC 12 Valve 3 Cyl
SOHC 16 Valve 4 Cyl
|Max Power (PS/ rpm)|
76 @ 6000
77 @ 6000
64 @ 6000
|Max Torque (nm/ rpm)|
104 @ 4000
160 @ 2000
Electric Power assisted Rack and Pinion
|Minimum Turning Radius|
14 x 5.5 J Steel – XE XL XV
165/70 R14 – XE, XL, XV
|Overall length (mm)|
|Overall width (mm)|
|Overall height (mm)|
|Ground clearance (mm)|
|Boot Space (litres)|
|Fuel consumption (kpl)|
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