Nissan has introduced a new 1.0-litre 3-cylinder turbopetrol engine, as well as a few other specification upgrades, to its Micra compact hatchback. We drove the new 84 kW Turbo derivative in Johannesburg to see how it performs...
The new engine is a product of Nissan's co-operation with Daimler AG (including Mercedes-Benz and Smart) and has powered Nissan's compact hatchback in the UK since early 2019. Now it has finally made its way to South Africa and joins the Micra line-up alongside the well-known 0.9-litre derivatives. The powerplant produces peak torque of 180 Nm (up to 200 Nm on overboost) and has a claimed fuel efficiency of 5.0 L/100 km.
In order to make the Micra more appealing, Nissan has lowered its ride height by 10 mm. The firm has also tuned the hatchback's suspension and quickened the steering to improve handling and give the 84 kW Turbo more edginess and a fun-to-drive character so sorely lacking in the segment.
The final addition is a Bose personal sound system, which produces a more voluminous and generally higher-quality audio output.
How does the new engine perform?
The new 1.0 turbo will be sold alongside the 0.9-litre model.
Well, it’s definitely more energetic than the older 0.9-litre unit... It offers commendable mid-range acceleration and once the 84 kW Turbo derivative reaches the national speed limit, its motor doesn’t need to be continuously worked to remain in the sweet spot. There is a bit of dead spot right at the bottom of the rev range (something that haunts most small-capacity turbos). Until the turbo kicks in, you (kind of) feel like you’re hovering. We were travelling with 3 people on board and at 1.6 km above sea level, so there was bound to be some lethargy as the engine spooled up its turbo.
The new 6-speed manual gearbox, meanwhile, is a quick- and solid-shifting unit. There’s nice weight to each shift and a natural action to finding each of the gears. Having a 6th gear really helps out the fuel economy on those dual carriageways, when you’re cruising at 80 kph. The same goes for freeways, where the 84 kW Turbo seems happy to cruise at 120 kph in 6th and still has a bit to spare if you need to overtake slower vehicles.
The suspension changes
The drive is more sporty but not uncomfortable as a result.
The 10 mm drop coincides with some suspension fine-tuning. The changes are felt most when you’re swinging across an intersection or tackling a roundabout. The front end turns in more crisply than before and with the lower centre of gravity limits body roll. The ride is firmer, but not unpleasant, so there’s no real downside to it. The faster steering is well-weighted and, generally speaking, Nissan is one of the better exponents of steering feel.
The only real change on the tech side is the introduction of the Bose audio system, which includes the fitment of better speakers in the Micra's doors and dashboard. There are also 2 special speakers fitted into the driver’s headrest, which certainly improves the volume and clarity of the sound and allows you to adjust the direction of the sound (you can toggle between surround mode or driver-focused settings).
A pair of speakers are fitted in the driver's headrest to enhance the sound experience.
As for the rest of the kit, the infotainment system is fully functional, replete with Apple Carplay and Android Auto compatibility. The instrument cluster is analogue with a digital information display (trip computer) between the dials. It’s all fairly standard for the segment without shooting the lights out.
We drove the Tekna and Tekna Plus derivatives, which are at the upper end of the price range, during the launch event. There are no changes to the original car’s interior, but it’s worth doing a recap on the Micra's comfort levels... It’s roomy up front and the Nissan notably features more soft-touch surfaces on its dash than most of its competitors. Rear legroom is a little on the tight side, but perfectly acceptable for adults on shorter journeys (provided front occupants are willing to nudge forward). The load bay has a claimed capacity of 300 litres, which is average for this segment.
Top-spec Tekna Plus gets lots of soft-touch and leather bits.
The new 1.0 litre doesn’t need to be worked as hard as the 0.9 litre, but even if there’s a dead spot right at the bottom of the rev range (that can leave you hanging at rolling speeds), the engine (and its 6-speed 'box) improves the Micra substantially. A CVT is likely to join the range in 2020.
The upgrades to the suspension represent a painless gain – the Micra feels appreciably sportier to drive but not at the cost of ride comfort. Improved outputs of 84 kW and 180 Nm are, of course, welcome, but the motor doesn’t deliver quite enough to get the most out of what the chassis offers.
Meanwhile, the new upgraded audio system could be a solid drawcard for younger buyers, especially with the Bose labelling on the headrests.
When it comes to value for money, the Micra is in the ballpark with the Volkswagen Polo, Ford Fiesta and Mazda2, which is esteemed company, to say the least. The Nissan’s got all the safety and tech features you want in this segment and the exterior and interior designs are both appealing.
Its competitors do, however, make better use of their motors' performance capabilities/feel more energetic to drive. Now, if Nissan could get hold of the 1.3-litre turbo unit that it has access to thanks to its venture with Mercedes-Benz (A200 engine). That would be a very different story!
Micra 84 kW Turbo Acenta Plus R305 900
Micra 84 kW Turbo Tekna R326 300
Micra 84 kW Turbo Tekna Plus R336 900