The new-gen Micra is a classy little car in 84 kW form. Here we measure it against the Volkswagen Polo 1.0 TSI Highline and the Ford Fiesta 1.0T Titanium.
Nissan’s new and improved Micra 84 kW Turbo has addressed the major issue affecting the little car – a lack of urge.
The latest-gen Micra was well-received when it was launched in mid-2018 and this past March it was one of 12 AutoTrader Car of the Year finalists put through their paces by the SA Guild of Motoring Journalists. The Micra impressed with its smooth composure and high-quality of finishes, but it was clearly lacking in power – the 900 cc triple, producing 66 kW, was not going to cut it in a car weighing over 1050 kg.
Just over a month ago, Nissan rectified that with a new model known as the Nissan Micra 84 kW Turbo – available in Acenta Plus, Tekna and Tekna Plus trim. The car that the motoring journalists drove for the 2019 COTY was the 66 kW Acenta Plus, which now costs R295 400. Interestingly, the new 84 kW Acenta Plus costs R305 900 and it comes with a host of changes that extend well beyond the engine upgrade. At a premium of just R10 500, that extra punch and finesse is a massive bargain!
The new engine
The new 3-cylinder engine displaces 999 cc and features direct petrol injection into the cylinder, rather than multi-point injection into the inlet manifold. It also features a so-called “delta head”, which means that the cylinder head has an integrated exhaust manifold, and this makes the little engine easier to package in the confined slope-nose of the Micra. Other hi-tech features on the engine include special low-friction coating of the cylinder bores, a technology that was apparently perfected on the high-performance Nissan GT-R.
Only a manual, so far
In South Africa the new engine is only available so far with a six-speed manual gearbox driving the front wheels. The 84 kW output is an increase of 18 kW over the 900 cc three-cylinder’s 66lW that was the only engine available in the Micra until now. The 66 kW versions still continue in the Micra range, however, as cheaper models.
The first thing you notice about the new 84 kW Micra Turbo is that it looks sleeker and more purposeful. It takes a while to sink in that the car rides substantially lower than before. The suspension has been revised for the more powerful car with stiffer springs and dampers, and the ride height has dropped by 10 mm. The steering rack has also been revised to provide quicker steering.
What this means on the road
The extra urge is palpable. An increase of 18 kW represents a power hike of some 27 %, over the 66 kW version, and the increase in torque is big too – it’s up from 140 to 180 Nm, and torque peak is between 1 750 rpm and 4 000 rpm, so it’s in a very useable rev range. However, when pulling away on gradients it is still sometimes necessary to wind the revs up a bit before easing out the clutch, so while the power delivery is much improved, it’s still not perfect for a city car.
Much sharper ride and handling
The revised suspension has in fact changed the whole feel of the car. It obviously benefits from a very solid body shell and the lower suspension together with the quicker steering rack makes the whole car more precise to place. It was also interesting that despite low profile tyres in 205/45 R17 sizing on funky alloy rims, and stiffer spring, the ride quality remains very good.
Performance and consumption
Outright performance sees the 0-100 km/h time claimed in 9,9 seconds along with a top speed of 195 km/h. Average fuel consumption is claimed at a very idealised 5,0 litres/100 km, but we reckon that if you use that turbo boost frequently you are likely to achieve figures in the 6.5 to 7,0 litres/100 km region. These little 1,0-litre triples give great consumption cruising on the open road, but when you have to use that turbo boost, consumption does suffer.
Good standard equipment level
Even in the (entry level) Acenta Plus form, the Micra 84 kW Turbo comes with a good level of standard gear, including rear park sensors, automatic folding wing mirrors, a surround view monitor, moving object detection and blind-spot warning. The pricier Tekna gets LED headlights, climate control, and automatic head light levelling. The Tekna Plus gets dual-tone leather upholstery and heated seats.
And a serious sound system, boom, boom’
Both the Tekna and Tekna Plus models come with a Bose Personal audio system which is a very upmarket sound system for a car in this rice league. This system includes some funky headrest-mounted speakers. That sound system accounts for the rather big price discrepancy between the Acenta Plus, and the Tekna and Tekna Plus models (these sell for R326 300 and R336 900).
As before, the Micra ‘s neatly-integrated infotainment system is compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The Micra has reasonable rear leg and headroom, and the boot is well- sized at a claimed 300 litres, expanding to 956 litres with the rear backrest folded flat. This good capacity is due in part to the fact that only a space-saver spare is fitted. We would have preferred a full-size spare wheel.
The Nissan Micra 84 kW is a big step forward for the Micra nameplate. The changes we have mentioned go a long way to addressing the previous power shortfall, while the sportier suspension is a huge surprise in that it doesn’t seem to negatively impact on ride quality. At R305 900 the 84 kW Turbo Acenta Plus is the Micra model we’d go for. This includes Nissan’s very impressive 6-year/150 000 km warranty and 3-year/90 000 km service plan.
Competitor 1. Volkswagen Polo 1.0 TSI Highline. The Volkswagen Polo has long been the benchmark in this segment, which could be described as “premium-level entry hatchbacks” because as things evolve, these cars are coming with more and more kit as standard equipment. The Polo in this form uses a three-cylinder direct-injection turbo petrol engine that produces 85 kW and 200 Nm of torque. It comes with a six-speed manual gearbox, although there is a more pricey “automatic” version that uses the 7-speed DSG dual clutch gearbox. These gearboxes have impressive performance, in many ways superior to a manual gearbox, but they have been known to give trouble.
Performance-wise the Polo 1.0 TSI Highline is rated with a 0-100 kmh time of 9,5 seconds and a top speed of 200 km/h, and fuel consumption is rated at an impressive 4,7 litres/100 km (again, add on up to 2 litres per 100 km to get a “real world” figure.) The engine is particularly impressive as far as torque is concerned on the open road.
The VW is beautifully built, well-equipped and, depending on the wheels fitted, enjoys a fantastic ride quality. Its big advantage in this class of car is rear passenger space, which is huge! Price for the 1.0 TSI Highline manual is R311 800. The warranty is 4-years/120 000 km and the service plan is 4-years/60 000 km.
Competitor 2. Ford Fiesta 1.0 T Titanium. The latest version of the Ford Fiesta is a class act. It’s stylish, well-built and has an impressive ride quality and accurate steering. This model is fitted with the 92 kW version of Ford’s famous, award-winning EcoBoost triple-cylinder engine. The 998 cc unit was introduced some years ago and it quickly gained a reputation for excellent fuel consumption, not always that well-founded. A figure of 4,3 litres/100 km is claimed, although owners generally report figures in the 6,0 to 7,0 litres/100 km range. Possibly this is because the torque at 170 Nm is not as impressive as its competitors here.
Ford was one of the first manufacturers to recognise the importance of turning motorcars into social-media and connectivity hubs, and the Fiesta has the Ford Synch infotainment system which is state-of-the-art. In this regard you may find the following very interesting: Citroen C3 vs Ford Fiesta vs Volkswagen Polo: which one has the best infotainment system? The materials used in the cabin are a step up from previous Fiestas, and so is the styling.
Price for the Ford Fiesta 1.0T Titanium is R322 000. Warranty is 4-years/120 000 km and the service plan is 4-years/60 000 km.
It’s a close one. The addition of 27 % more power has elevated the Nissan Micra to being a very serious player in the premium-entry hatchback league. Yet performance from all three of these 1,0-litre triples is so similar that this shouldn’t be too much of a consideration. It has to be said, though, that the Volkswagen has the edge on torque, and thus, drivability.
Making a choice here is largely about identifying where your priorities lie in a fully-equipped small, quality car. If its space you want you should look no further than the Polo. If it’s a crisp all-rounder with a delightful power delivery, then you should go with the Fiesta.
And if style is your thing, you should look no further than the Micra 84 kW Acenta Plus. Our only reservation is that it may lag just a bit in terms of ultimate low-end torque.
But on the other hand, that new handling package, coupled to the excellent build quality and the extremely elegant interior trim is enticing. Ultimately it’s the superior warranty and service plan, coupled to the lowest list price, that swings it for the Nissan in this comparison. Second by a whisker is the VW Polo, and in an almost photo-finish in third place is the Ford Fiesta. It’s that close!