The new 2017 Nissan Micra shows how far car tech has come

When you think of the Motor Show, you usually think of some of the most exciting, futuristic cars in the world – and this year’s Paris Motor Show has delivered them in spades. Whether it’s the new Mercedes Generation GQ, the Renault Trezor concept or countless others, motor shows are full of some of the most techy, innovative cars you’ll see. However the 2016 Paris Motor Show has also seen another revolution in tech, and it comes in the form of the 2017 Nissan Micra.

What? Bear with me. When we talk about technology in cars, cutting-edge features such as heads-up displays and autonomous capabilities only exist in the top-end of the automotive sector. Cars like the Mercedes S-Class and the Volvo XC90 are incredible feats of engineering, but they’re pioneers for early adopters, and they usually cost the price of a small house. The hugely popular Micra sits on the very opposite end of the scale, but the latest version of Nissan’s budget hatchback comes with some sophisticated tech, and it shows just how far even the most affordable vehicles have become.

Some perspective

The last Micra was released around six years ago, and that’s a long time in the fast-paced world of tech. Although that might be a reasonable amount of time between car updates, in the same time period Apple has released more than ten iPhone models. Because of that, the new Micra features technology we wouldn’t have dreamed about six years ago in any car – let alone a budget hatch.


Technology to enhance the driving experience

The Micra is one of the most important cars in Nissan’s portfolio, simply because of the huge numbers it sells. That means every aspect of the design has been considered and evaluated countless times. “The Micra is a very important car for Europe, a very important car for Nissan,” Martin Boutard, Nissan’s V-Platform product specialist, tells me. “We’ve put a lot of energy, a lot of thoughts, of thinking and emotions to get this car right for the market.”

That means the new Micra looks very different from the outside, but it also means the Nissan’s interior benefits from an increased amount of space – and six years of technological progression. “There is a lot of technology available but it’s very simple to use,” says Boutard, and the Nissan Micra features Apple CarPlay and a 7in TFT screen – but also a more unusual-looking sound system.


The new Micra is available with Bose-made, headrest-mounted speakers – just like an Audi R8 – and Boutard explained the reasons why the hatch had to have them. “We know that our customers are always connected, and they also listen to a lot of music. And we didn’t want them to get in the car and feel disconnected,” he explains. “It delivers a very visual and impactful feeling, which is really pleasant – and we’ll make it affordable compared to the usual premium sound systems.”

Getting two speakers into a headrest isn’t as simple as it sounds, and Martin Boutard says there was a lot of work and planning involved. “You need to get the discussion early enough in the development of the car,” says Boutard. “And it was very difficult to put a complex, heavy system in a small car. ”

Safety in technology

Of course, there’s more to driving than entertainment, so the new Nissan Micra benefits from a range of systems to make it safer too. The new hatch is the first in its class to come with autonomous emergency braking (AEB), which identifies pedestrians as well as vehicles, and it also comes with semi-autonomous features such as lane-departure prevention.

However, while the new Micra shares a few Telsa-esque features, Boutard wasn’t so sure about following the same over-the-air update strategy as Elon Musk. When I asked him whether the Micra’s systems will be updated regularly, I was told that things were pretty open, although there were no plans to update them just yet.

Price vs Technology

Carmakers have access to a huge range of tech, and getting the balance between technology and price is one of the challenges that every carmaker must tackle – and it’s even more important for budget cars. That meant Nissan has to decide what to add and what to keep out of the Micra. “At the very early stages of the product, we thought ‘we want to generate three consecutive emotions with the car,’” explains Boutard.


“The first thing is ‘I see it, I want it’. This is why we’ve changed the proportions of the car and worked a lot on the design and the integration. The second is ‘when I get into the car, this is my space’,” says Boutard. “At home I listen to music, I am connected with my devices, so this is what we wanted to create.

“And the third one is ‘catch me if you can’, so some pleasure to drive but always with the best guarantee of safety,” he says. “Every feature and piece of tech we’ve put into this car is supporting one of these three emotions that we want to generate.”

The future of cars

Interestingly, the Micra isn’t available in a hybrid variant right now either. The reason? According to Boutard, the hatchback market doesn’t have enough demand for a hybrid Micra yet – but Nissan will keep an eye on things.

Although the Micra isn’t the most advanced car I’ve ever seen, it’s fascinating to see just how much technology is now available in one of the most popular and most affordable cars on the market. We expect to see features such as AEB and CarPlay in executive, high-end saloons – but the fact they’re available in a Micra shows the increasing role that technology plays in cars, and how we now expect it. 

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