Not many might be aware, but its been over 5 years since Nissan made its entry into the Indian market. The X-Trail and the Teana are both qualitatively excellent products, but their high price tags (due to their being imported as Completely Built Units) have been the major reason why they have not been able to generate much volume for Nissan. The recently launched 370Z is competent enough to give cars like the Audi TT a run for its money, but again price can be an issue.
What Nissan needed was a car that would appeal to the masses and be competitively priced as well. Such a car would generate volumes, thus allowing Nissan to increase its dealer network too. After all, another reason why the company hasn't taken off is concern about service due paucity in dealer coverage. The Nissan Micra is this car.
The Micra had been slated for launch for quite a while now and after several teasers and over 1000 pre bookings, Nissan finally launched the latest 4th Generation Micra (The 1st Generation Micra or March as it was known back then, was launched in Oct 1982) in India on the 14th of July at a price varying between 4.2 lac (Ex-Showroom, Pune) for the base XE version to 5.5 lac for the top of the line XV variant.
How has Nissan managed to control costs this time around? The answer is around 90% localization of parts. Also lesser parts in this car than the previous generation Micra means that although the new Micra is actually longer and wider than the outgoing version, it is still lighter in weight. Within 15 days of its official launch, Nissan has sold 928 Micra's and has over 3000 confirmed bookings.
We test the Nissan Micra to see if it has what it takes to set Nissan's cash registers ringing.
'Round' is the inspiration behind the latest Micra. It's quite a stand-out and unique design which should go down well with the masses. It looks muscular, yet cute so the fairer sex should also definitely take a liking to it. The clear oval headlights, bonnet creases and slip front Grill add character to the front. The rear too is nice and uncluttered. The boot can be opened via a handle at the back which makes life a whole lot more convenient. The roof has a Twin Boomerang design which adds strength without increasing weight.
The car runs on 165/70 MRF ZVT Tyres on 14” Rims. Alloys however, don't come as standard, even on the Top End XV variant. The top end variant does get Body Coloured Outside Door Handles, Body Coloured OVRM's and front fog lamps. Rear Fog Lamps have been completely ignored on all variants. In India, when it pours heavily, people (especially on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway) tend to switch on their hazard blinkers. That’s because not all cars are equipped with rear fog lamps and the ones which have them, the people don't know its use or sometimes even how to operate them. This makes it difficult to figure out which car is stationary at the side of the road and which ones are moving slowly. It's interesting to note that Nissan has Driver Airbags as standard even on the base variant but no fog lamps.
The XE and XL have Internal Manually Adjustable OVRM's whereas the XV gets Electrically Adjustable mirrors with Electric Auto fold Function. The concave mirror does show 2 lanes clearly, however I felt they were too small for my liking. The Large 'C' Pillar coupled with the small Rear Boot Glass means that they are needed on a regular basis.
The Round Theme continues on the Inside too. The Ai/C Vents are round and so is the central console panel theme. Especially the Automatic Climate Control A/C on the XV variant gives a round impression.
The dashboard too is consciously designed to resemble 'Twin Bubbles' which Nissan claims gives the passengers a greater sense of security. The Air Vents circulate air effectively and the cabin chills in no time. If need be, they can also be completely shut.
The Soft Touch Dashboard looks and feels excellent, Reflections are also pretty low (although we barely got a glimpse of sunshine throughout the test). Quality of Plastics and Fit and Finish are very good. Seat fabrics are also very good and the seats are pretty comfortable. The doors close with a luxurious sounding Thud, usually associated with more expensive cars.
Leg room, both front and back, is excellent and even a six footer won't feel cramped up. The rear seat could do with a little more Thigh Support but the angle is comfortable and no discomfort was felt even when sitting on it for 2-3 hours at a stretch. Headroom is adequate enough and the cabin has a very Airy feel to it, thanks to the large rear windows. The 'Wheel at Each Corner' stance means that the Micra is quite large on the inside and can easily accommodate 3 people at the back. The rear bench does not have adjustable head rests, instead just a couple of raised area's in the seat, like in the Alto, which is very low and for all practical purposes, quite useless. Also, there are no split rear seats, and you’ll have to drop the entire bench in case you want to increase boot space. The front seats are large and comfortable and your leg does not hit the steering wheel or central console or the doors like on some other smaller hatches. No driver seat height adjuster is available on any variant, however the seat is high enough to ensure that a majority of the drivers won't have any problems. The 'A' Pillar also does not obstruct vision or create any blindspots.
The Multi-Information Display provides information such as 2 Trip Distances, Instantaneous Mileage, Average Fuel Consumption, and Distance to Empty. However, the Odometer is not always visible, instead the time shows permanently below the MID. So if you want to check what mileage the car is giving and also see how much distance you are covering at the same time, that’s not possible. Also the MID can only be changed by a knob on the speedometer console so you need to leave your hand off the steering wheel every time you want to change the display, not very convenient and in my opinion, not very safe either.
All 4 Power Windows are standard on the XL and XV and the Drivers Side also gets One Touch Down and UP with Anti-Pinch function.
The steering wheel is large, feels nice to hold and it’s fairly easy to operate the horn, though the Nissan logo is not in Chrome and makes the steering wheel look quite dull and boring. The horn too, sounds quite meek and a more powerful twin horn is needed if you plan on travelling a lot on the highways.
The Turn Indicators and Headlight adjustment knob are in the correct position for Right Hand Drive vehicles and have excellent quality.Another safety feature missing in the test variant is that the doors do not lock automatically once you start moving. Instead you have to manually lock / unlock them every time. Also the 'Seat Belt Not Worn' buzzer is not present. The XE plus, XL and XV variants get a factory fitted music system with facility for Aux-In (No USB though). The music / speaker quality is fairly OK and the voice does tend to crack at high volumes.
As Discussed earlier, the XV variant gets Griege (Grey + Beige) Interiors as opposed to Black on the rest. The XV also gets chrome inner door handles. The round, easy to grab door handles, also add a touch of uniqueness to the Micra.
My only complaint with the interiors is the lack of storage space. You do get a couple of bottle holders on the front doors, one behind the gear lever for the rear passengers and a couple of glass holders up front. But apart from that, there are no small coin boxes or compartments where you could store that loose change or little receipts. The glove box is small and located quite low. The XV variant has another mini Upper glove box, but that space too is wasted on the other trims.
Boot space is adequate enough for the occasional long drive. The XL and XV get a rear parcel tray while the XV gets an additional boot light too. A thermocol tool tray which rests in the spare wheel ensures that there is no irritating noise / rattling at the back.
Irregular and sometimes large panel gaps are an eye sore and quite disappointing too.
Ride Quality is another aspect where the Nissan Micra scores. The MRF ZVTV Tyres offer Excellent Grip and Traction, especially in the wet. The suspension setup is specially designed for India. Body Roll however, does tend to creep in due to the Suspension being setup on the softer side, but this is just a minor issue. Even under hard cornering at quite high speeds, much against my expectation, the car felt like it was driving on rails and held its line perfectly.
The Steering is very very light. It’s Excellent in City Driving but does not weigh up enough as the speed increases. The steering offers no feel or feedback and the car feels twitchy at three digit speeds. Strong crosswinds also affect the car and do tend to catch you off guard. The 4.65 meter Turning Radius is quite small (almost like the Alto), which again aids city driving. NVH levels have been kept well in check and once inside the cabin, you can tend to get quite oblivious to the world outside. Driver Airbags come standard across all variants while the XV gets additional Passenger airbags along with ABS and EBD.
Nissan have opted for a 3 cylinder, 12 Valve Unit (the 'HR12') which produces 76 PS @ 6000 RPM and 104 NM of Torque @ 4000 RPM. The Reason for the 3 cylinder are that there are less moving parts, so that frictional losses are down by about 20% and thermal losses by 2%. Also, the engine weighs less, and hence there is greater fuel efficiency. Despite being a 3 cylinder, the engine is quite smooth and responsive. Vibrations are low and you cannot really feel them inside the cabin, even while idling. Nissan has managed this by the adoption of an Outer Balancer.
The car pulls cleanly from a standstill and overtaking is also quite easy, although you do have to shift down one or maybe two gears. The car comes to life at higher revs although there the torque curve hits a flat spot just after 2000RPM. You got to wait till the car hits 3000 RPM and from there its power all the way to the red line. The tall gearing means that the Micra can go to max 55kmph in 1st gear @6800 RPM, 95kmph in 2nd, 135kmph in 3rd and hit the top speed of almost 155 kmph in 4th gear. But if need be, you can also cruise comfortable at 80 kmph in 5th gear.
The gear shifter feels nice and meaty to hold and the shift are precise. Acceleration figures are promising with the Micra managing to do the 0-60 kmph sprint in 5.74 seconds, 0-80 kmph in 8.48 seconds and reaches the ton in 13.74 seconds (7.36, 10.98 and 16.25 seconds respectively with the A/C switched on). 40-60 kmph is achieved in 4.63 seconds in 3rd gear while in 4th Gear it takes 7.62 seconds to complete the same run. 50-70 kmph in 5th Gear takes nearly 10.74 seconds.
Plenty of braking power is available with the Micra coming to a halt from 80 kmph in under 3 seconds, that too in less than perfect conditions. The Clutch takes some getting used to and Nissan have provided a sort of dead pedal, which is a little raised area to the left of the Clutch Pedal and it does help.
Now to the 'Kitna Deti Hai?' part. Well the figures that we got were quite amazing. The Micra comfortably returned 12.5 kmpl and close to 18.8 kmpl on the highways. The average throughout the test was about 14.5 kmpl. If driven carefully on the Highways, between 80-120 kmph, the Micra returned 20 kmpl and an average fuel comsumption figure of an outstanding 18.8 kmpl over 240 kms. The worst that we got was 10.2 kmpl while we were trashing here around trying to extract the best performance figures.
|Ground Clearance (mm)||154|
|Kerb Weight (kgs)||930|
|Power (PS@ RPM)||76 @ 6000|
|Torque (NM@ RPM)||104 @ 4000|
|Min turning Radius||4.65|
|Tyres||165 / 70 R 14|
|Interior Colour Scheme - Black||Yes||Yes||No|
|Electric Power Steering||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Steering Tilt Adjustment||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Full Wheel Covers||No||Yes||Yes|
|Rear Wipe & Wash||No||Yes||Yes|
|Integrated Audio system||No||Yes||Yes|
|All 4 Power Windows||No||Yes||Yes|
|Central Door Lock||No||Yes||Yes|
|Remote Keyless Entry||No||Yes||Yes|
|Electric Park and Fold Mirror||No||No||Yes|
|Door Mirror Electric Adjustment||No||No||Yes|
|Interior Colour Scheme - Greige||No||No||Yes|
|Intelligent Key with Push Button Ignition||No||No||Yes|
|Front Passenger Airbags||No||No||Yes|
|ABS + EBD + BA||No||No||Yes|
|Front Fog Lamps||No||No||Yes|
|Onroad Price (Bangalore)||4.84 Lac||5.85 Lac||6.45 Lac|
Competition All Specs
|Ground Clearance (mm)||154||170||-||168||168|
|Kerb Weight (kgs)||930||1030||-||1090||1055|
|Power (PS@ RPM)||76 @ 6000||85 @ 6000||80 @ 5200||71 @ 6250||75 @ 5400|
|Torque (NM@ RPM)||104 @ 4000||113 @ 4500||112 @ 4000||102 @ 4000||110 @ 3750|
|Min turning Radius||4.65||4.7||-||4.9||4.9|
|Tyres||165 / 70 R 14||185 / 70 R 14||185 / 65 R 15||175 / 65 R 14||185 / 60 R 14|
|Climate Control AC||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||Yes|
|Power Windows||Yes||Yes||Yes||Front Only||Yes|
|CD Player / Bluetooth||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Engine Start Stop Button||Yes||No||No||No||No|
|Electric Mirrors with Auto-fold||Yes||No||Yes||No||No|
|On-Road Price (Bangalore)||6.45 Lac||6.10 Lac||7.50 Lac||5.50 Lac||6.90 Lac|
What Nissan have managed with the Micra, is to provide a Comfortable, Spacious and fairly good looking car at a reasonable price. It has only 3 Cylinders (which has now become quite common in this segment with the Figo and Polo sporting 3 pot engines too) but its powerful and a quiet and refined engine as compared to its competitors. The car rides and handles well and boasts of excellent fuel efficiency figures too. It has first in class features like the Intelligent Key & Engine Start Stop switch.
The Micra, like every car, does have its drawbacks too. Dealer network for one, which Nissan is apparently working on. They have launched 5 new Dealers in July (in Vijayawada, Bhopal, Jaipur, Bhubaneshwar and Navi Mumbai) which brings its total dealer count in the country to 20 and is looking to up this figure to 30 by the fiscal year end. Also Nissan has a target of 100 dealers by the end of 2012.
How Cheap or Expensive it is to Maintain, is still unknown, but being a Japanese car with high localisation content, we expect it to be on the lower side. Nissan claims a service interval of 10,000 kms. They are also working on an Annual Maintenance Contract, details of which shall be announced a little later. Nissan currently provides 2 year, 50,000 kms standard warranty.
A Diesel Engine will be here by the end of the year and we feel Nissan is losing out by not launching it earlier. With Fuel prices de-regulised and Petrol costing over Rs.55/- a litre, Diesel engines are in demand which can be clearly seen with the amount of Waiting period for them. A CVT, though not on the cards yet, must be considered since traffic is increasing and more people are opening up to the option of owning an automatic transmission.
Overall if Nissan manages to market the car well, provide good after sales service and support and keep maintenance costs down, I see no reason why the Micra should not generate the much needed volume that Nissan certainly hope for.
There had been some complaint around the Micra, stating that the car is a tad overpriced but with the mid variant XL costing around 5.5 lac on-road in Pune, and having features like Driver airbags, Central Locking, in-Built music system, rear wash and wipe etc, it puts the Micra bang in-between the Swift, Ritz and i20 territory.
For around 6.2 lac on-road for the top of the line XV variant, you get the first in its segment, Intelligent Keyless Entry and an engine Start-Stop button (you need to look at the Cruze at close to 13 lac to get this feature, and the Start-Stop button on the Micra looks so much better than the one found on the Chevrolet Cruze), Driver and Passenger Airbags, ABS with EBD, Electrically Operated Mirrors with Button Fold, Automatic Climate Control AC, beige interiors, chrome strip on the front grill, chrome inner door handles and lot more. As far as I am concerned, this is complete Value for Money.