Nissan Micra (2017) review: A new benchmark in C-segment tech
Whether it’s Mercedes introducing incredible self-driving tech into the E-Class – or BMW introducing gesture control into the 7 Series, there’s always new, exciting car technology on the horizon. And, in 2017, much of that cutting-edge tech is making its way into cars the majority of us can actually afford.
Which brings us nicely on to the Nissan Micra. The Japanese giant’s latest super-mini might not look that technically sophisticated, but because car tech has moved in leaps and bounds over the last few years, it comes with a range of in-car tech and autonomous features that would beat flagship saloons of just three or four years ago.
So, just how advanced the “learner driver special” is nowadays, I took the new 2017 Nissan Micra for a drive in Dubrovnik, Croatia.
Nissan Micra (2017) review: Design
Nissan says it focused on three key areas to differentiate it from the competition: “expressive design”, “uplifting interior” and “confident driving”. Let’s begin with the first of these – the car’s exterior.
From the outside at least, the 2017 Micra represents a huge improvement over its predecessor. The previous model looked like a surprised insect, but this year’s version is a far sleeker, more stylish affair. The front of the 2017 Micra features Nissan’s new V-Motion grille, and it sets up a car with more aggressive lines than last time. Nissan says there are 125 possible combinations of colours and decals, too, so it’s possible to make each car even more eye-catching.
This year’s car is lower and wider than the previous model, and it’s also moved from a C-segment car to a B-segment one. That means it’s up against cars such as the Volkswagen Polo, Vauxhall Corsa and Renault Clio.
That increased size has two very positive effects. Firstly, it makes the car squatter, improving its handling – something I’ll touch on later – but it also gives the new Micra a roomier interior. In fact, the interior of the new 2017 Nissan Micra is where you’ll find some of the biggest changes between this year’s model and the last.
Nissan Micra (2017) review: Interior
The last Nissan Micra was released six years ago, and the new interior reflects that gap in time. Although you can choose various different colours and trims, the Micra’s 7in touchscreen is an ever-present feature across the range. Just like the unit you’d find in the Nissan Leaf or even the Nissan GT-R, the Micra offers plain but intuitive menus, and couples it with a clear, uncluttered user interface. That meant navigating through the 2017 Micra’s features was straightforward and hassle-free.
Nissan Micra (2017) review: Audio and connectivity
Much of the improvement in the interior comes from the 2017 Micra’s new-found audio prowess – and especially from new headrest-mounted speaker system from Bose. After pairing my phone, which is relatively easy, I had a go on the £500 speaker system and it was actually less gimmicky than you might expect.
The idea is simple. In addition to four traditional speakers, cars with the Bose sound system come with two additional speakers, with one mounted on either side of the driver’s headrest. Nissan and Bose say they can give your music a more immersive sound, and the effect is actually rather impressive.
When listening to my own music, or Bose’s playlist of jazz and pop, I could hear the difference when the system was on or off. With the volume hiked right up, backing vocals feel like they’re behind you, and the overall soundscape really does take on a palpable, 3D feel. I also sat in the passenger seat and toggled it on and off, and found that having the system on didn’t result in poorer sound for the car’s other occupants.
Even without the Bose system enabled, though, the Micra sounds great. Two tweeters mounted on the upper dash look after the high end, while a pair of door-mounted speakers takes care of everything else.
Drums are punchy and voices are relatively clear, although they’re nothing like the glassy highs and invigorating mid-range of something such as the B&O-equipped Audi Q5 for instance. And, while it’s not too obvious most of the time, the Micra is often left short when it comes to more bass-heavy tracks.
You can either listen to the car’s built-in DAB radio, CD player or USB port, or you can pair your phone via Bluetooth. Apple CarPlay is available on the mid-range Acenta-trim Micra, but go any higher to the N-Connecta or Tekna upgrade, and you’ll end up with a NissanConnect system, which comes complete with the company’s own live-traffic apps and services. Weirdly, NissanConnect doesn’t support Apple CarPlay, so you lose out if you opt for a higher-end Micra. What’s more, none of the new Micra models currently support Android Auto.
When I asked Nissan about this, I was first told that it may be added to 2017 cars as a software update, but it then became evident that won’t be possible. It seems as though the current chipset in the 2017 Micra’s head unit isn’t compatible with Android Auto, so we’ll only see Google’s mobile OS appear in a mid-cycle model refresh, possible three or so years down the line. It’s an odd omission, particularly when the new Micra needs to appeal to young, connected buyers. Having Apple CarPlay is great, but it feels like only half the package.
Nissan Micra (2017) review: Satnav and performance
Being in Dubrovnik meant we weren’t able to test our usual routes out on the Micra’s satnav system, but the 2017 Micra performed well with the pre-planned test route. Our route was displayed clearly on the car’s main touchscreen, and when combined with the auto-zoom function and prompt, clearly audible directions, getting from A to B was a doddle.
Nissan says the 2017 Micra has one of the best “screen-to-road times” in its class, which basically means it’s very easy to look down at the dashboard-mounted touchscreen and back up at the road. Although this sounds like a stretch, it was actually noticeable. And because it was so easy to switch focus between the road and map, I didn’t miss a Virtual Cockpit-style setup as much as I’d expected to.
The 2017 Micra doesn’t come with anything advanced as Audi’s Virtual Cockpit digital dash, but it does include a larger than average 5in “advanced driver assist” display, which sits between the rev counter and speedometer. This shows everything from turn-by turn directions to caller ID, track ID and safety-feature status.
Nissan Micra (2017) review: Drive
Nissan calls the third key philosophy for its new hatchback “catch me if you can”, or the (only slightly) less cringeworthy “confident drive”. Whatever Nissan is calling it, this new philosophy gives the 2017 Micra new features that help the driving experience along, and improve driving safety.
As I’ve already mentioned, the 2017 Micra is wider and lower than before and that already gives it a handling edge over its predecessor, but there’s tech on board that makes driving the Nissan even better. “Intelligent Ride Control” uses the engine and brakes to reduce pitching over bumps, while “Intelligent Trace Control” means the Micra is more stable in corners. The latter system works by applying the brakes to the inside wheel when cornering, helping the car to turn. I tested the system by carrying more speed into tight bends than I would otherwise, and the Micra was stable without a hint of understeer.
Nissan is offering the new 2017 Micra in three “downsized” engines, and having tried one of the petrol engines and the 1.5-litre diesel variant, I found driving the new hatchback a surprisingly pleasant experience. As you’d expect, the Micra wasn’t as exhilarating as driving something like a Nissan GTR, but pushing with the Micra was certainly fun – from the involving gear changes to the confident cornering feel.
Driving assistance and safety systems
The Micra also includes a good dollop of driving-assistance tech, and although we’ve seen similar features in other cars recently, the inclusion of so much here is a statement of intent.
In addition to lane-departure warning and correction, all models of the 2017 Micra include autonomous emergency braking (AEB) that detects pedestrians and cars – a Nissan first. If you buy the £550 Vision+ pack, you get traffic sign recognition and the “Intelligent Around View” monitor to give you 360-degree views around the car while you’re parking. You’ll also get a radar-powered blind-spot warning sensor, too, so you’ll know if you’re about to pull out on someone.
But you won’t find semi-autonomous driving aids on the new 2017 Micra. Instead, Nissan says its driverless Pro Pilot tech is coming to the new Nissan Leaf and the Qashqai first and will arrive on the Micra in a later mid-cycle refresh.
Nissan Micra (2017) review: Price
The Nissan Micra starts at £11,995 with the price steadily increasing depending on the trim you opt for. Visia+ models start at around £13,795, while the Acenta trim models cost around £15,000. Finally, the top-of-the-range Tekna Micra starts at £17,295.
Nissan is also pioneering a new usership service in Paris with the new Nissan Micra, and if it works, it could well be brought over to the UK. The main idea is simple. Two to five people share a Micra for a year and 15,000km, with each member of the scheme paying an equal amount towards cost and ownership.
Nissan says groups of friends can join and share the same car – for example, a group of housemates – but if you’re on your own, the app will help find suitable car-share partners for you. As for the process of sharing the car, Nissan’s Intelligent Get&Go app allows each owner to block out specific times, so there are no clashes or arguments.
Nissan Micra (2017) review: Verdict
The new 2017 Nissan Micra represents a huge improvement on the previous model, and that can only be a good thing. It looks more attractive, drives better, and it also benefits from several years’ worth of technological progression. But the Micra adds more than that. We’d expect a car as basic as the Micra to have basic audio and safety features, but the 2017 Micra throws in much more than I’d expected.
Whether it’s the pedestrian-friendly AEB or the handy lane departure feature, it’s clear the Micra is in the vanguard of Nissan’s drive to dominate the clever, compact car scene. It has 125 exterior colour combinations for younger, more adventurous drivers, but older buyers will also appreciate many of the car’s safety and semi-autonomous features. Nissan wants to top the B segment with the Micra, and by catering for two key demographics, it has every chance.