Nissan's little Micra is a thrifty, reliable and smart buy
THE Micra was long a favourite as a first car, city runabout or retiree special and it was somewhat sad when Nissan dropped it from the line-up in April 2016.
The super-cheap and fun city car was selling slowly in a declining segment when the axe fell, so Micra fans of today need to trawl the classifieds for a used example.
Cheap-feeling in places, noisy at speed and hardly dynamic masterpieces, these tiniest of Nissans have their charms.
They're cheap as chips, have been pretty reliable, fuel efficiency keeps ownership costs down and they nail it as a town and city car with manoeuvrability, ease of parking and tiny turning circle.
The last Australian Micras were from the fourth generation, sold from 2010 until the chop.
Roadworthy examples often with low kilometres can be had for under $5000, including some with auto gearbox and a few that aren't entry-level spec.
The hatch arrived in October 2010 with five doors and a sharp $12,990 entry-level price, the auto adding $1500.
In ST super cheapie trim, the Micra ran a frugal, albeit gutless, three-cylinder. Standard kit included six airbags, aircon, Bluetooth, aux input, steering wheel audio controls and power mirrors but only 14-inch steel wheels.
Bigger spenders could go the ST-L or Ti versions with 1.5-litre four-cylinder. The ST-L added 15-inch steel wheels, auto headlamps and power rear windows (the ST had only power fronts). The Ti was a far better proposition, adding 15-inch alloys, climate control, reversing sensors, front fog lamps, auto mirrors, smart key and push button start.
The January 2013 update dropped the four-cylinder engine - the three-cylinder was the sole propulsion.
Slightly comfier seats were fitted after complaints about the earlier chairs being too firm. The ST-L gained 15-inch alloys, fog lights, rear spoiler and driver armrest, the Ti bolting on a spoiler too.
April 2015 marked the final Micra fling, with new bumpers, lights, bonnet, wheels and dashboard. The ST-L was discontinued but there was decent spec in the ST, such as cruise control, power rear windows, USB port and integrated Bluetooth with audio streaming.
Fruit-filled, the Ti added 5.8-inch touchscreen, satnav and reverse camera - reverse sensors and climate control were dropped.
Well-equipped later Micras are the ones to aim for but don't pay too much. There are some excellent city cars costing $12K-$15K new (think Kia Picanto, Holden Spark, Mazda2) with long warranties and better economy, technology and safety.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Positively, there are no common problems reported by owners to worry about. There are a couple of cases of failed transmissions but these seem isolated, with most owner grumbles aimed at scratchy, poor-wearing plastic cabins, weak aircon and lots of road noise at highway speed.
Micras are great in town but if you plan regular highway use, take one over 100km/h to ensure you can tolerate how slowly it gets up to speed, its road noise and stability.
Rear seat space is tolerable but cramped. The boot is a tiddler (par for the segment) so check the diminutive Micra suits your intended use.
Favour a private one-owner sale as some Micras will have had a tough start to life as a rental car. Watch for damage, to the body and underneath, caused by less attentive drivers, especially the very young or very old who may have notched up a few bumps and scrapes.
There have been two model recalls, both in June 2015, one as part of the multibrand Takata airbag scandal and the other for Micras with push-button start that may overheat and cause the engine to stop.
Great fun and a smart choice for town or city, the Micra's a decent cheap first car or runabout strong on reliability and economy. Six airbags are good, the four-star safety rating less so.
The manual versions get the most from the underwhelming engines. Target ST-L, Ti or post-April 2015 models for the best kit and aim to pay $4000-$7000. Any dearer and you should be targeting a new city car with full warranty, better safety and tech, especially if this is to be a first car for one of the kids.
MARK SMITH: My family's 2012 ST-L was ideal for the city with the four-cylinder's extra grunt and fairly smooth auto. We got 6.5L-7.0L/100km in the city. It was outstanding in tight parking areas and the aircon was great. Rear seat space was tight but fitted plenty with the seats folded. It suffered from road noise. There was no temperature gauge - a cheap omission. My daughters had a major accident but the safety features and airbags prevented serious injury.
SANA: Our 2014 ST with the three-cylinder engine is great in town as it's small, economical and easy to park. We've had no issues with it, it's really good on fuel and inside it's bigger than it looks. On the motorway it's really not good - it's very loud.
THE EXPERTS SAY
Built on a new, stronger platform, this series Micra marked a distinct change in style from its predecessor. Added safety features - six airbags and stability control - went across the model hierarchy of three grades and two powertrain options.
Nissan sold nearly 30,000 examples over the five years it was on sale here, the biggest tally being 9509 in 2011. In the final year, this fell to 1525.
Among limited current listings, the base ST accounts for more than two-thirds and the range-topping Ti represents 10 per cent.
For a 2010 ST 1.2-litre manual ($12,990 new), the average price is $5300, while the 1.5-litre auto ST ($18,990 new) is now worth $7650.
For 2016 models, the ST ($13,490 new) is valued at $9150 and the 1.2-litre Ti auto ($16,990 new) is $11,500.
Key light hatch rivals include Mazda2, Toyota Yaris, Hyundai i20 and Ford Fiesta.
Of those, only the Fiesta depreciates faster than the Micra but turns the tables on Micra for 2016 models. - Red Book
NISSAN MICRA 2010-16
PRICE NEW $12,990-$18,990
SAFETY 4 stars
ENGINES 1.2-litre 3-cyl, 56kW/100Nm or 104Nm; 1.5-litre 4-cyl, 75kW/136Nm
TRANSMISSIONS 5-speed man, 4-speed auto; FWD