The entry-level 1.0-litre Micra is affordable, but certainly isn’t fast…
Nissan Micra 1.0 71PS
Engine: 1.0-litre, three-cylinder, petrol
Torque: 70lb ft
Gearbox: 5-spd manual
Kerb weight: 1037kg
Top speed: 98mph
CO2 rating: 103g/km
This new 1.0-litre Nissan Micra variant is an important addition to the range. To date, only two engines have been offered, either a 0.9-litre turbo petrol or a 1.5-litre turbodiesel. The new non-turbo 1.0-litre lowers the lead-in price for the range and, crucially, undercuts chief rivals such as the Ford Fiesta and Seat Ibiza.
Compared to the 0.9-litre, losing the turbo saves around £1,000, which counts for a lot in a car sector where every penny counts. And, on paper, the 70bhp power output doesn’t compare too badly to the 89bhp produced by both the turbo alternatives. Particularly as the lower output means the Micra 1.0-litre becomes the cheapest car in its class to insure.
However, there’s a price to be paid, in terms of performance. Or, rather, a lack of it. Now, we fully recognise that buyers of this car will be going into it with their eyes open. They won’t be expecting headline-grabbing pace and hot hatch-chasing prowess.
But when even the turbo models were earlier criticised by us for their lack of pace, it’s perhaps inevitable that performance is going to be the chief grumble of the 1.0-litre. 70bhp just doesn’t go very far in small cars these days, but more galling is the lack of a turbocharger to boost the motor’s pulling power.
In the city, it lacks off-the-line shove and low-speed vim, meaning it’s harder work than you’d think. And on the motorway, it soon gives up the fight against wind resistance, making long journeys often ones of foot-to-the-floor battles. Only if you’re really undemanding and stately will the lowest-power Micra not disappoint.
In such easygoing situations, it proves a fuss-free partner. The engine is pretty refined if you don’t rev it hard, and what performance it does have to offer is served up with decent sophistication. We liked the snappy, light-throw gearbox too, making it easy to keep the motor spinning in and around its 3,500rpm sweet spot.
It’s much nicer here than it is when you’re chasing peak power, which doesn’t arrive until a loud and noisy 6,300rpm. And if you’re planning to go overtaking in the 1.0-litre Micra, well, forget it – unless the road is very long and very well sighted indeed.
Frankly, we feel the 0.9-litre version is by far the better bet, simply because choosing the 1.0-litre would leave you with a car that most of the time is too much like hard work.
There’s a place for the 1.0-litre, as a price-busting alternative to the cheapest Fiestas and Ibizas. For buyers of such cars, the Micra will rightly appear a bit of a bargain. Our advice is to haggle hard with a dealer to try and get some money off a 0.9-litre though, and do whatever you can to make up the extra. It will be money very well spent.