Small wonder - mighty Micra

Nissan's current Micra was a bold move but it has worn its age well, says ANDY ENRIGHT.It's sometimes frightening how quickly state-of-the-art becomes state of the ark.

Nissan's current Micra was a bold move but it has worn its age well, says ANDY ENRIGHT.

It's sometimes frightening how quickly state-of-the-art becomes state of the ark.


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In 1993 Nissan's Micra wowed the automotive world with its cutesy shape and endearing driving characteristics but within a few years it had been soundly overtaken, soldiering on until it was replaced by an all-new model in 2003. This was similarly well received and for a while the press couldn't get enough of the Micra.

Nissan had better not leave it 10 years until this model gets replaced, however, as the pace of development has quickened significantly.

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The 2003 Micra remains one of the more attractive superminis around and on the used market represents an affordable way to own a modern and attractive supermini.

History

When it debuted at the 2002 Birmingham motor show, few could believe the Micra was a production-ready car. The styling was just too reminiscent of a designer's fantasy. Surely when it appeared in showrooms the detailing would be watered down on cost grounds? Fortunately Nissan stuck to its guns and the Micra was as bold as it had first appeared.

Four engines were initially available with two body styles - three or five-door hatch. Petrol engines comprised a 64bhp 1.0-litre, a 79bhp 1.2 and an 87bhp 1.4. There was also a 65bhp 1.5 DCi diesel - a unit shared with Renault with a more powerful 82bhp 1.5 DCi following in September 2003. A sporting XS special edition based on the S and adding 15in alloy wheels, roof spoiler, body-coloured electric door mirrors, exclusive dashboard trim and an aluminium gear knob appeared in February 2004.

What you get

Standard equipment includes anti-lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution, remote ocking, front electric windows, twin airbags, an electric tailgate release and a CD-based stereo. Move up to a 1.2 and the opening S specification car adds side airbags, a sliding rear seat with 60/40 split and driver's seat height adjustment amongst other features. Trade up to SE and you get a drive computer, an intelligent key, rain-sensing wipers, air-conditioning and body-coloured electric door mirrors. SX adds dark tinted headlamps, front fog lights, electronic climate control, 15in alloy wheels, a roof spoiler and swankier trim while range-topping SVE has ultrasonic parking sensors. The SR features various sporty enhancements.

What you pay

Prices open at about �2,975 for an 03 1.0-litre E with 1.2 versions tacking another �500 on to that price. Expect to pay about �3,575 for the first of the 03 plate 1.4 cars in SE trim. The desirable 1.5 diesels open at �3,250.

Insurance for the Micra is very reasonable, starting at group two for the 1.0-litre and 65bhp 1.5 DCi and topping out at a very affordable group four for the upper specification 1.4 16v models.

What to look for

Nothing to report here. The Micra always was a very reliable car and Nissan claims to have ironed out the recurrent problems of the previous model - seized brake calipers and worn constant velocity joints. Check for parking damage and ensure the car has a full Nissan service history and buy with confidence.

On the road

The driving position is good, although the steering wheel adjusts only for rake and not reach. Underconfident drivers will be relieved by the headlights being visible from the driver's seat, giving an easy width reference. Otherwise, the dashboard is a little more conventional than the wacky styling may lead you to believe, although the Bakelite-style 'ivory' control switches on the upper spec models are a neat touch.

The Micra feels a good deal sharper than expected on the road. The ride isn't bad for such a small car, although noise insulation isn't a strong point. Still, it's a car that can rapidly paint a big smile across your face and all the engines have something to be said for them, the 1.2-litre unit that most people will choose being capable of getting to 60mph in 13.9 seconds and averaging nearly 48mpg.

Overall

Go for a clean-looking Micra with a full service history from a reputable source and you shouldn't go wrong. It's still the perfect no-hassle starter car and runabout.

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