THE Nissan Micra is not a car that usually sets hearts racing. But with the latest DIG-S model, Nissan is hoping to persuade commuters that you don’t need to buy a a diesel-powered car to achieve great mileage. Its supercharger is bolted to its 1.2-litre, three-cylinder engine to squeeze as much fuel economy and power as possible out of it. (The name means Direct-Injection Gasoline – Supercharged).
This should be regarded as good news indeed in light of last week’s budget. Petrol is about to hit £1.40 per litre which means even small cars like a Micra will cost almost £60 to fill up. Excellent fuel economy then is an increasingly compelling proposition. The Micra DIG-S is capable of 65.7mpg on a combined cycle and 54.3mpg around town. Economy and emissions are improved with a stop/start system. Overall its 98hp engine emits just 99g/km of CO2 emissions, which puts it under the taxman’s radar and it is congestion charge exempt too.
So on paper things look promising. The reality is rather different. For reasons that only Nissan can explain this generation of Micra has abandoned its cartoon-like Japanese cuteness for a kind of global neutrality that’s offputting. Certainly, the interior is not as appealing as it was. The previous generation of Micra had a more interesting and youthful interior design than this one.
Amazingly it also had a higher build quality. Not only is this Micra hampered by an overuse of hard plastic which gives the impression that the car you are driving is cheaper but the dashboard lacks character, and unforgivably, we found an exposed bolt nut – for attaching and detaching the door trim – inside the door pull recess. Usually such things remain hidden from view. One can’t help feeling that this vehicle has taken a lamentable step backwards in terms of its styling.
Still the driving controls, air con and the audio/media interface are all fantastically simple to operate. Which contributes to an effortless driving experience. Driving-wise, the Micra-DIGS lacks the personality of rivals like the Fiat 500 Twinair but it does have some character and I found I grew more fond of the car over the week I drove it. This is an important point because at first the three-cylinder engine appears loud and unrefined.
The engine is noisy under hard acceleration and because you have to wind it up to get anywhere quickly, driving the Micra-DIGS can be a little tiring. Having said that it was surprisingly good fun throwing it around on country roads. But then that is not really the point. Nissan may have supercharged this engine to give it as much pep as possible, but I remind myself that economy should be my primary goal. Over time I find the engine encourages me to drive a little slower which I figure is no bad thing when you’re driving around town.
But is it fun? Maybe, if you like driving to the tune of a discordant three-cylinder engine. It is not quite as much fun to drive as some of its competitors and it isn’t as cheeky or charming either. Which leads me to an obvious conclusion. The Nissan Micra DIG-S is not be as good as some of its rivals but it may be just what frugal Micra drivers have been looking for. Cheap and cheerful transport for getting from A to B. No less, and definitely no more, than that.
THE FACTS: NISSAN MICRA DIG-S
0-62MPH: 11.3 secs
TOP SPEED: 112mph
CO2 G/KM: 99g/km
MPG COMBINED: 65.7mpg
VALUE FOR MONEY ***