We drive the face-lifted Nissan Micra in the temple city of Madurai to see whether the refreshed version has what it takes to bring a bit of cheer to Nissan’s sales figures.
Over the years, I’ve been witness to several kinds of drive programs for new cars – exotic destinations, beaches, night drives, jungle safaris, race tracks, the works. However, this was a new one – a Temple Run. As the name implies, the idea for this drive was based on the popular game Temple Run, which requires you to survive the perils of the journey en route to a temple.
And while our journey wasn’t any more perilous than normal, the location of Madurai was perfect – a city known both for its grand temples, and, of course, its history. Having existed for over 2,000 years, it was the perfect place for us ignorant hacks to get a lesson in divinity.
Now, I’m not a religious person. Having hailed from an ultra-religious family perhaps drove me away from religion completely. So, for me, the basic attraction of the trip was the car. The Nissan Micra had a reasonably successful start to its career in India – the product was impressive, and customers were interested in it. But, for a variety of reasons, the Micra lost steam midway. So, does this face-lifted version have what it takes to revise the market sentiment and make the Micra reappear on the radar?
Well, to answer that question, let’s look at the major changes that the car features in its newest avatar. Firstly, the revised front end is a major improvement to the looks of the Micra. The new stately front-end design transforms the appearance of the whole car. It suddenly looks much more confident, not to mention far more attractive. The minor changes to the rear end do play a role here, but, mostly, the credit goes to the front end with its Samurai helmet inspired upward moustache in the front grille. Pus, the revised alloy wheels look good.
One of the other weakest points of the Micra has been the interiors. While they were good quality, they were bland and lacked flair. However, even here, Nissan has made tremendous improvements – with the new piano black gloss trim around the center console, and the fabric on the door pads, giving the interiors a far more premium look. And this really elevates the cabin of the Nissan Micra from drab to rather impressive. Of course, you also get increased equipment, such as Bluetooth and USB connectivity on all trim levels, and a rear view camera on select models.
When it comes to the driving experience, the Micra offers more or less the same as what the pre-facelift version offered – solid, reliable motoring, which serves the daily grind very well. The car is easy to drive, comfortable, and stress free. The 1.5 litre diesel engine once again proves its versatility – offering tractability and decent performance in both city and highway conditions, coupled with good fuel efficiency. However, the Nissan Micra could certainly do with additional damping to attenuate the engine noise, which, at higher rpm’s, is too intrusive. Other than that, the car is a breeze to drive – the controls are light, it’s easy to handle, and the driving experience is pleasing.
However, one of the focus points of the presentation by Nissan was the CVT transmission offered with the petrol engine. Nissan is touting it as one of the most efficient engine-gearbox combos in its segment. In my experience though, the CVT fails to live up to its promise. As with my previous experiences with CVT transmissions, there is far too much lag in response and the power delivery is too lethargic. The rubber band effect, which is a signature problem with CVT transmissions, only seems exaggerated in this case because of the low torque output of the 1.2 litre petrol engine.
However, the diesel Nissan Micra makes a very strong case for itself in our market. The car is well built, attractive, spacious, and well equipped – giving it all the qualities it needs for greater success. All it needs now is a sustained push from Nissan to establish the product firmly in the market and sort out the patchy dealer experience.
So, the Nissan Micra has the potential to be a strong player in its segment. As for me, I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to visit the world-famous Meenakshi Amman Temple, and kill two birds with one stone – convince my ultra religious mother that I’d finally visited a temple, which gets me about 5 to 10 years off from having to do so again, and, of course, driving the refreshed Nissan Micra, which I have to admit I quite liked.