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Nissan Micra 1.2 Acenta

Click to view picture gallery“Theres a touch of the Henry Ford
  about Nissan
s latest Micra — its
  sold in the millions; there
s just one
  body style and there
s only one
  engine choice. However, unlike the
  Model T, the new Micra is available
  in a range of colours, including
  Henry’s favourite

SUPERMINIS HAVE BEEN GETTING LARGER and more sophisticated for a long time now. Just take a look at the latest Ford Fiesta it drives like a medium-size hatchback and is knocking on the door of being a medium-size car in terms of size.

Against this backdrop, Nissan is taking the supermini back to basics with its all-new fourth-generation Micra. It's small significantly shorter and narrower than the Fiesta and it's priced at the bargain end of the spectrum: just 9,250 will buy you a new Micra.

Nissan is stripping things back in terms of choice too. There's only one body style (a five-door hatch there's no three-door in this new generation) and only one engine.

That sole engine is a 1.2-litre petrol three-cylinder unit with 78bhp. A supercharged version of this engine will arrive in summer 2011, offering more power (96bhp) and even better CO2 emissions (of just 95g/km).

Cabin space — never a
 strong suit in the old
is much better
in the new one.
Extra wheelbase length
means there’s more
space for rear
passengers but the
luggage capacity of 265
litres is about average
for the class..
You know that the engine is one cylinder short of a four-square picnic as soon as you start it up. The offbeat sound of the three-cylinder engine has character but after a while you start to feel it's just crude.

Even pootling around town it's unrefined, and at higher revs on A-roads and motorways, it's noisy, plain and simple.

On the plus side, the manual transmission is pleasantly light and easy to use. You can buy a CVT automatic transmission version but it really saps the performance out of the engine and makes progress even buzzier.

Things aren't class-leading in the ride and handling departments either. Around town things aren't too bad, but poor road surfaces leave you shuddering in your seat. Cornering is a somewhat loose affair, with over-light steering and lots of body roll. Stability control is standard though a very good thing.

Cabin space never a strong suit in the old Micra is much better in the new one. Extra wheelbase length means there's more space for rear passengers but the luggage capacity of 265 litres (605 with the seats folded) is about average for the class. Cabin quality isn't that great, though, with lots of cheap-feeling plastic around.

Nissan claims, somewhat bizarrely, that the number one concern of supermini buyers is parking. So it fits a PSM 'parking advisor' on the Tekna grade basically a detection device that measures whether gaps in lines of parked cars are big enough for the Micra to fit in. But if parking really is that important to buyers, why doesn't Nissan offer PSM as an option on all versions? For the record, parking is also made easier by the tight turning circle and light steering.

You've probably guessed by now that the Micra isn't a great class-leader. What it does offer is a fairly likeable, perfectly adequate package at keen prices. The range starts at 9,250 for the basic 1.2 Visia. The price rises to 10,850 for the most popular Acenta version (with alloy wheels, cruise control, electric mirrors, climate control and split rear seats).

The plushest Micra of the lot, the Tekna, will cost you 12,350 but that does come with parking assist, automatic headlamps and wipers, touch-screen SatNav and a chrome grille. If you want CVT automatic (believe me, you don't!), the premium is 950.

Incidentally, the new Micra is no longer built in Sunderland. Having screwed together almost 2.5 million Micras to date, the northeast factory has switched over to making the new Juke instead. The Mk4 Micra is actually put together in India. Chris Rees

Nissan Micra 1.2 Acenta | 10,850
Maximum speed: 106mph | 0-62mph: 13.7 seconds | Overall MPG: 56.5mpg
Power: 78bhp | Torque: 81lb ft | CO2 115g/km