The all-new Nissan Micra – the fourth generation to wear the name – represents an entirely new chapter in the history of Nissan’s multi-award winning compact city car. The European city car segment is one of the most hotly contested segments in any market in the world. For this reason, Nissan Micra was conceived, from its design, engineering, powertrain and equipment levels, to make European city driving as stress-free as possible, but also to remain accessible.
A pair of brand new three-cylinder petrol engines displacing 1.2-litres power new Micra. The entry-level version is a normally aspirated entry-level 59kW (80PS) unit which produces an impressively low 115 g/km of CO2. But even this is overshadowed by the second version. This is a direct injection gasoline engine with a supercharger to boost power to 72kW (98PS). CO2 emissions, meanwhile, tumble to just 95 g/km. Such is the efficiency of these new petrol engines that new Nissan Micra will not be offered with a diesel option. The supercharged version will be introduced in Europe from spring 2011. Such low CO2 figures are normally only achieved by diesel powered cars, which command a price premium, so new Nissan Micra will deliver low emissions, but without the usual price penalty.
The model line-up is simple with just one five-door body style, two engine options and two transmission choices – either a five-speed manual or a highly advanced compact Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT).
Grades follow traditional Nissan practice with Visia followed by Acenta and then Tekna. All models have power steering, air conditioning, electric front windows and the Electronic Stability Programme (ESP) as standard – unusual in the city car segment.
Acenta adds an enhanced sound system, automatic air conditioning and a cruise control among other features, while the range-topping Tekna introduces technology seldom seen in bigger cars let alone a compact city car. As well as Nissan Connect, a combined satellite navigation and entertainment system, Tekna versions offer Parking Slot Measurement as standard.
PSM automatically measures potential parking spaces advising drivers whether the Nissan Micra will fit or not. It’s a perfect feature for a city car.
“With more than 5.65 million sales over nearly 30 years, Nissan Micra is a clear favourite with customers. New Micra will appeal to loyal Micra buyers, of course, but its stylish looks, improved quality and dynamic abilities will also appeal to new customers,” said Vincent Cobee. “The importance of a sub-100 g CO2 figure cannot be underestimated.
“We have developed an attractive car for Europe which is light but robust and which provides very competitive roominess and features, as well as top-class fuel efficiency and low emissions. The Nissan Micra is a car that is designed to make day-to-day driving in a typical European city as simple and easy as possible.”
New Nissan Micra will be sold in no fewer than 160 countries. It must appeal equally to families in Shanghai, sophisticated singles in Paris, urban trendsetters in Tokyo and more.
As Design Director for the Nissan brand, Koji Nagano, explains: “First, the car must target a very broad spectrum of people worldwide and so it must satisfy a multitude of needs in one package.
“The second challenge was designing to a class-leading quality level inside and out. Just because a car is compact it doesn’t mean customers will accept lower standards of quality – we know our customers expect nothing but the best. Our job was to raise the bar on quality while achieving our third goal… creating a compact car that boasts a special touch of design flair.”
While many of Nissan Micra’s peers from 15 years ago have grown to the extent that they are now in a sub-segment higher, new Micra has stayed true to its true city car heritage and is virtually the same size as the outgoing model. It’s a decision that makes perfect sense for a European compact city car. Overall, new Nissan Micra is slightly longer, marginally wider and a fraction lower.
From a design perspective, the key feature that defines Micra’s character is its profile and, in particular, the arched side window graphic. Central to its heritage and loved in Europe and Japan, that feature has been retained on the new car and, if anything, is accentuated by a more prominent rear spoiler integrated into the roof.
The overall shape, however, is bolder than its predecessor with a strong rounded waistline and distinctive crease above the sills. Front and rear treatments, though, are totally different.
But, the new design has not compromised on Nissan Micra’s acclaimed all-round visibility, something which is key to easy, stress-free driving in the city. As with previous generations of Micra, from the driver’s seat there is a commanding view of the road and extremities, enabling maneouvres with confidence in tight spaces.
According to Makoto Yamane, Associate Product Chief Designer: “Micra’s face is stylish and has an air of sophistication… but at the same time it is approachable, like a friend you can rely on.”
The sculptured, three-dimensional look includes a dominant grille that defines the car’s on road presence. The two-part grille is divided by the front bumper. Above the line sits a slim opening split by a chrome bar on Acenta and Tekna models and topped by an indentation housing the Nissan badge. Below the bumper, a deeper opening extends to virtually the full width of the car and houses the front number plate. On Tekna models, the grille has a distinctive chrome surround. The look is complemented by softly rounded one-piece headlamps.
As on its predecessor, raised front wings help the driver to ‘place’ the car on the road more accurately, while the low waistline also provides excellent visibility to either side.
At the rear, the deep tailgate is flanked by one-piece tail light assemblies while the bumper features a neat cutaway for the number plate. A central high mounted stop lamp is integrated into the roof spoiler.
Aerodynamics played an important role in defining the overall shape of new Nissan Micra. The roof, for example, has been embedded with boomerang-shaped grooves which help reduce resonance in the cabin, especially at higher speeds at the same time as reducing overall weight by up to 2kgs. The sleek roof design, complete with the pronounced rear spoiler, combine to minimise drag to help economy and reduce emissions.
Beneath the car, the underbody has been designed to improve airflow and maximise downforce enhancing high-speed stability. Nissan Micra’s coefficient of drag is a commendable 0.33.
All these features help to deliver a stylish vehicle of obvious quality to the global marketplace.
“That’s exactly what we have achieved,” says Yamane-san. “This design makes it a more practical car with great all-round visibility. By lowering the centre of gravity and positioning the wheels at the extreme corners of the car we have been able to stretch the wheelbase and increase the track for a bolder stance and greater stability.”
“A crucial part of the car’s enhanced road presence comes from its pronounced waistline and strong rounded contours that generate a feeling of robustness. The styling is organic – it fits you perfectly and delivers stress-free driving.”
Aiming to create the same sense of style inside the Nissan Micra as can be found outside, the design team adopted a ‘connected cocoon’ approach. One example is the dashboard design – a twin bubble theme – which matches the circular instrument binnacle with a similarly shaped glovebox ahead of the passenger. This double-layered glovebox is complemented by a large upper storage area while other small storage pockets are located throughout the car, including the centre console and doors.
Easy to read instruments are housed in three circular dials while the heating and ventilation, audio and other controls are logically placed and easy to operate.
A proportion of European customers may be downsizing into a city car if their kids have left home, for example, but they don’t want to feel that they must accept a compromise on interior space.
The clever engineering solutions provided by the V-platform means that the slightly longer wheelbase has increased interior space compared with the previous generation Nissan Micra, improving ingress and egress for all occupants. The long roof line, meanwhile, ensures that Micra offers ample rear headroom, so that new Nissan Micra’s overall interior roominess is hard to reconcile with its compact exterior dimensions.
Throughout the design process, weight saving was a key consideration and was met by reducing the number of parts at the same time as improving quality. New Nissan Micra has, on average, 18 per cent fewer components than similarly sized cars: its dashboard alone comprises 28 parts instead of more than 50.
There are no fewer than four different interior colour schemes designs to complement a bold exterior palette. Black is available across all three grades, grey on Visia and Acenta with dramatic ivory and plum interior colour schemes available on Tekna models only.
Exterior colours embrace traditional colours such as red, grey, black, white and silver with three highly individual shades: Spring Green, Tangerine and Nightshade.
Underpinning the new Nissan Micra is an equally new platform and one which, in time, will feature widely across Nissan’s global range. Not for nothing as it been christened the V-Platform, where V stands for Versatile.
Micra is its first outing, but Nissan has already announced that it will also form the basis for a new saloon and an MPV in due course.
The key elements of the V-Platform are strength and lightness. Even though it is slightly larger than the outgoing Nissan Micra – the wheelbase has grown by 20mm to 2450mm for example – the platform has been engineered to deliver optimum rigidity for excellent handling characteristics coupled with a refined ride, but at the lowest possible weight for enhanced performance, strong fuel efficiency and low emissions. These seemingly contradictory requirements had to be reconciled to achieve new Micra’s stated aim of meeting the expectations of customers who drive – and park – everyday in European cities, famed for their heavy traffic, limited parking opportunities, poor road surfaces and increased fiscal pressure on emissions.
Weight savings on the platform have been mirrored by judicious weight cuts elsewhere: the 41 litre fuel tank, for example, is 2.2kgs lighter than that in the outgoing Nissan Micra; the exhaust system no longer has a central silencer, reducing weight by 3.2kgs and the front suspension system is lighter by 9kgs.
Similarly the seats are lighter, the dashboard uses fewer parts and the engines smaller. Even the roof panel is lighter by 2kgs. Overall new Nissan Micra boasts a kerb weight starting at just 915 kgs, 35 kgs less than its predecessor.
The K12 Micra was well respected for its handling and ride compromise and Nissan’s engineers felt that was an obvious place to start when creating its successor. New Nissan Micra, therefore, has a similar suspension layout with an independent front end by MacPherson struts with coil springs and a compact torsion beam rear axle designed to minimise intrusion into the luggage area.
Both suspension systems are mounted on sub frames to help isolate road noise, vibration and harshness and there’s an anti-roll bar at either end. And, the Micra’s suspension, steering and brake set-ups have tuned by Nissan’s European engineers to meet the needs of customers whose day-to-day driving will be at higher average speeds and on smoother roads than those in other regions where Nissan Micra will be sold.
But because the V platform is more rigid than before, the suspension can work more efficiently to provide more accurate steering with greater feel and precision while there’s less dive under braking and pitch under acceleration. Particular attention has been paid to bump absorption – thanks to the adoption of long stroke suspension travel – Micra rides exceptionally well over even the most challenging of road surfaces.
Best of all, Nissan Micra’s characteristic agility and responsiveness have all been preserved, indeed enhanced by the chassis’ light weight, to provide a genuine dynamic driving experience.
Electric power steering is standard on all models, and helps provide Micra with a class-leading turning circle of just 4.65m for the ultimate manoeuvrability in tight city streets.
The car is designed to absorb the forces of a frontal impact, thanks to the sophisticated crumple zone at the front of the car, while maintaining the integrity of the cabin thanks to a highly reinforced body shell.
Standard safety equipment includes the braking system which features discs at the front and drums behind, with ABS, EBD and Brake Assist. Nissan Micra also has dual front airbags, curtain and side airbags, as well as pretensioner seatbelts. Active safety is reinforced with the fitment of Electronic Stability Programme (ESP) across all grades, which intervenes to cut power and even brakes individual wheels when sensors detect that stability or grip is critical.
Nissan’s commitment to reducing the environmental impact of its products and activities can be clearly seen in the fact that 98 per cent of the materials used in Micra’s construction are recyclable – a factor which is likely to be increasingly important as legislators throughout the world consider steps to protect the environment.
Nissan Micra’s drivetrain choice is simplicity itself: in Europe the car will be offered with two engine and two transmission options. The car will be petrol only, with power coming from an all-new three-cylinder 1.2-litre engine available in two states of tune and mated to either a five-speed manual or a new developed Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT).
The decision to offer only petrol engines and not diesels is the result of detailed market and customer analysis, showing that European small car buyers must pay a significant premium for low levels of CO2 – usually by buying a diesel variant. Nissan decided that the ideal solution was an advanced petrol engine, balancing power, torque, consumption and emissions which would be offered as part of a simple powertrain line up, meaning customers no longer have to pay a premium to drive a city car with lower CO2 – this option would be standard..
At launch, the lead-in 59kW (80PS) version will produce just 115 g/km of CO2.
Good though these figures are, even they are overshadowed by the second version of the engine. This highly advanced direct injection unit uses a supercharger to boost power to 72kW (98PS) and torque to 142Nm, and to cut CO2 emissions to 95g/km – it’s an exceptional achievement for a petrol engine. The introduction of this engine in Europe will follow in Spring 2011.
Both engines comply with Nissan’s Pure Drive philosophy, the discreet blue and silver badge signifying an engine that emits less than 130 g/km.
“Producing just 115 g/km of CO2, the standard engine is among the cleanest engines in the world. But by producing well under 100 g/km allied to strong economy and spirited performance, the supercharged direct injection version will set a new benchmark for modern engine technology when it arrives in early 2011.”
“It is with this overall performance in mind that we took the decision, quite early in the development of the new Micra, to eschew diesel engines for Europe and to offer two motors which were developed with European needs in mind. Our new petrol units produce diesel-like economy and emissions with petrol performance and refinement… and they are cheaper to buy than an equivalent diesel and notably lighter. Put simply, they offer the best of all worlds,” said Pierre Loing.
As the designation implies, the HR12DE units are closely related to the respected four-cylinder HR16 petrol engine found in Note, Juke and Qashqai.
Both engines displace 1,198cc and are lightweight, compact and highly efficient 12-valve units. Careful design has ensured that inherent imbalances expected from a three-cylinder engine have been overcome: idle vibration, for example, has been eradicated by the inclusion of an offset counter weight on the crank pulley generating an oval motion which cancels out the vertical vibration caused by piston travel. As a result, the HD12 unit has NVH levels expected from a four-cylinder unit.
As well as benefiting from being lighter and more compact for easier packaging, with fewer moving parts the three-cylinder unit lowers internal friction and improves thermal efficiency. Low friction techniques include circular bore pistons, the adoption of a hydrogen-free diamond-like carbon (DLC) coating for the piston rings and a variable displacement oil pump. Together these elements help to reduce friction by up to 30 per cent, compared with conventional four-cylinder engines with similar performance levels.
Other technologies designed to maximise fuel efficiency include valve timing control (VTC) with eco-mode, exhaust gas recirculation for improved combustion, low friction water and oil pumps, high tumble pistons and a high compression ratio.
The normally aspirated HR12DE version produces power and torque figures of 59kW (80PS) at 6,000 rpm and 110Nm at 4,000 rpm for a maximum speed of 170km/h and 0-100km/h in 13.7 seconds. Combined consumption is 5.0l/100kms (CVT: 5.4l/km) while CO2 emissions are 115 g/km for the manual version and 125 g/km for the CVT model.
Power and torque figures for the supercharged version will be 72kW (98PS) and 142Nm, while CO2 emissions will be 95 g/km for the manual version and 118 g/km for the CVT model (figures subject to homologation).
These figures represent an average 25 per cent improvement in fuel economy over the outgoing 1.2-litre Nissan Micra while emissions are a remarkable 75 per cent lower than levels emitted just five years ago.
The standard transmission in both versions is a precise five-speed manual gearbox driving the front wheels but new Micra will also be available with a highly sophisticated CVT. This brand new transmission adopts a number of advanced technologies – it’s the world’s first CVT with a sub-planetary gear system for example – for the ultimate in smooth efficiency.
It also boasts the world’s highest transmission ratio – 7.3:1 – allowing the transmission to deliver an enviable combination of good low speed response with strong high speed economy.
The adoption of a sub-planetary gear allows the use of smaller pulleys which means there’s a greater distance between the pulleys and the oil surface in the transmission. This results in a reduction in the amount of oil ‘stirred’ by moving parts which, in turn, means less friction.
Smaller components including an ultra flat torque convertor results in a unit that’s 10 per cent more compact and some 13 per cent lighter than previous systems.
Equipment and model lines
Just like its predecessors new Nissan Micra is generously equipped as standard as well as introducing a number of innovative items of equipment which are designed to make city driving less demanding – and none more so than an advanced parking aid.
While such items have undoubted showroom appeal, they have only found their way onto Micra’s specification lists because they will all make the typical European Micra owner’s day-to-day life in the city simpler and easier.
Micra follows Nissan’s now familiar model grade line-up starting with Visia and then moving through Acenta before arriving at the top Tekna version.
Externally the versions differ in subtle ways: Visia has 14 inch steel wheels, and black doors handles and mirrors while Acenta has 15 inch steel wheels, a black B-pillar between front end rear doors, body coloured handles and mirrors and a chrome flash on the grille. Tekna variants can be identified by the chrome surround on the lower air intakes, front fog lamps and 15-inch alloy wheels.
All Nissan Micra models have a full complement of active and passive safety equipment with ESP standard across the entire range. Every Nissan Micra has front, side and curtain airbags, head restraints in the rear and anti-lock brakes. Automatic speed sensitive door locking is also standard.
Also standard are power steering with a tilt adjustable column, remote central locking, a trip computer and electric front windows.
Practical features include a neat bag holder incorporated into the front passenger seat to prevent luggage rolling around the cabin when the car is on the move. The seat squab is hinged in the middle allowing the rearmost section to be folded over onto the front leaving a well into which handbags or shopping bags can be lowered.
Acenta, likely to be the biggest seller, adds automatic air conditioning, cruise control with speed limiter, electric door mirrors, a front armrest and height adjustable driver’s seat. The steering wheel and gearshift knob are leather covered while the in-car entertainment system is upgraded to include a CD player with Aux-in facility and four loudspeakers. It also includes Bluetooth connectivity for mobile phone use.
Tekna models introduce Nissan Connect to the Micra, a fully integrated entertainment and information package incorporating touch screen satellite navigation via a five inch colour screen, Bluetooth for mobile phone connectivity and audio streaming from a suitable device, Aux-in and USB slots, plus a six loudspeaker system.
The navigation system uses clear street mapping rather than the more basic turn-by-turn guides of cheaper systems and can be programmed in any of nine languages including Russian. The maps, which can easily be updated via an SD card, cover Western Europe, Eastern Europe and Russia.
By integrating information from positioning sensors and vehicle speed, the system does not suffer from loss of signal when driven through a tunnel or when ‘hidden’ by high rise city buildings.
The system also incorporates TMC (Traffic Message Channel) which uses a second radio tuner to receive traffic flow information and news of incidents on major routes. By processing this real time traffic data, the system can suggest alternative quicker routes as appropriate, thus saving time and cutting emissions.
Standard on Tekna, Nissan Connect is available as an option on Acenta versions.
Also standard are automatic headlights and wipers, electrically folding mirrors linked to the optional Intelligent Key system – still a rare feature in the city car segment – with a smart push button engine start and stop function, and a comprehensive matrix information dashboard display. As well as providing information on fuel consumption, driving range, outside temperature and so on, it can also be programmed so that the Nissan Micra wishes its owner a happy birthday on the appropriate date.
Another example of how Nissan has pioneered the fitment of relevant technology on new Nissan Micra is the innovative and easy to use Parking Slot Measurement (PSM) system. It is standard on Tekna and optional on Acenta grades.
Reflecting Nissan Micra’s likely role as a city car, PSM helps a driver establish whether a parking space is big enough for the car. As the driver eases alongside a space he or she activates PSM via a push button on the dash and then selects the appropriate turn signal to tell the system which side of the car it should be checking.
Assuming the car’s speed is below 25 km/h, sensors then scan the space telling the driver whether it’s suitable or not via a dashboard display. The display will suggest it’s ‘OK’ if the space is more than 100cms longer than the car, ‘DIFFICULT’ if it’s between 60 to 99cms longer than the car, and ‘NOT ADVISED’ if it’s less than 60cms. It’s then up to the driver to decide whether to park or not…
Those tolerance levels can be adjusted to reflect the driver confidence and skill – Amateur, Normal and Expert – while the sensors are accurate enough to spot small obstacles such as bollards, traffic cones and so forth. When PSM is specified it comes complete with traditional reversing sensors which operate whenever reverse is selected and give both audible and visual warnings. Nissan Micra is the only car in its class to offer PSM.
Among the options, one of the most popular will undoubtedly be a glass roof covering the entire front half of the car virtually from the leading edge of the windscreen back to the B-pillars and extending virtually the entire width of the car. Transforming the interior of Micra by bathing it in natural light, the roof also features an integrated inner curtain for when the sun gets too hot for comfort.
“Nissan Micra is a small car that thinks big, but has been conceived to feature innovations which ease the stress and increase the enjoyment of daily town driving. Items such as the glass roof are usually only found on premium B-segment cars, while you’ll have to move to much bigger and more expensive cars to find advanced technology like PSM.”
“But, as ever with Nissan, none of the features found either as standard or an option on Micra can be considered frivolous. Every technical advance – be it PSM or automatic lights, Connect or Bluetooth connectivity – is featured on Nissan Micra because it helps its driver,” said Vincent Wijnen.