For those who have read the review of my little Ford Fiesta you will know that I hold my first car in high regard despite its (many) faults. That car was a gift from a family friend and I guess getting a car as a gift means that you are more likely to view it with rose tinted glasses. When my brother passed his test in 2008 he too received a car from said family friend, but his experience with his gift were alot less enjoyable than my (admittedly short) one. The car in question was a Nissan Micra and one still sits on our driveway in front of our garage; flat tyres, without hubcaps and with an ill-fitting, wrong coloured front panel it is more an eyesore to us all rather than a happy memory, but I actually view the Micra with these same rose-tinted glasses, mainly based on my experiences with another first car, that of my friend Jess.
The original Micra was a boxy little thing, you don’t see too many around now, I guess because even the youngest cars are now coming up to 25 years old. But the second generation car was phenomenally popular and can still be found in high numbers on the streets of suburban Britain, if not the motorways (which was not their forte). Its bubble-car looks struck a chord with many buyers looking for a relatively chic and cheap supermini, easy to drive and moreover reliable; presumably that is why there are quite so many left! I remember as a child detesting the way they looked, and even now that my taste in cars has become less childish, the Micra is undoubtedly a car which appeals to girls and elderly people-especially in a pastel color with flimsy wheel trims.
My friend’s first car was a 2001 1.0L model in mid spec, and so came afflicted with said wheels trims (aftermarket so even blander than normal) and in pale green/turquoise. Inside jazzy fabric mixes with cheap plastic to create a car which whilst undoubtedly designed in the 1990’s, is still acceptable for a cheap runabout/first car. Optioned up with air conditioning and electric windows as well as an aftermarket stereo with an aux jack, the little Micra was a pleasant if unexciting place to spend time, with seating quite high up if unsupportive. Rear seats in superminis are generally small and the Micra is no exception, but its boot is relatively sizeable compared to those of comparably sized cars today (read city cars, modern ‘minis have exploded in size!).
There were various occasions where I had cause to drive the little Nissan, and in all honesty it was not a bad little car at all. Handling is not its strong point, with roundabouts and sharp corners feeling abit ‘tippy’, but the ride is fine despite the short wheelbase. Acceleration from the 1 litre engine was strained at best, but in some ways that makes a car enjoyable, especially a first car; on inclines a down-change is usually needed (at least one), but on motorways I found the Micra surprisingly fast! I guess because the car was not mine I did not mind exploiting every one of the horses from the engine, and my friend did the same-somehow managing to catch me up on the M6 despite me leaving a good 5 minutes before her and sporting a with almost double the horse power!
These are all traits that my brother never got to explore however, as the Micra he recieved did the one thing which Japanese cars are not supposed to do…it broke down! Well in fact it already had something wrong with the engine when it was given to us, and despite numerous trips to the garage it refused to drive above 30mph. Our family friend very kindly swapped the car for another Micra he had bought at auction, this one with a dented front panel (later swapped) but a working engine. By this time though, my brother had already started university in central London and so had no use for the car…so it now sits SORN with a depleted battery and an interior showing flecks of mould on its previously bland dashboard.
It is a shame that my brother never got to experience the joys of the little Nissan, I was never the cars biggest fan and to be honest the sterling image of the car has led to over-inflated prices (£2000 for a 10 year old Nissan is just not on) so for my money I would be looking at newer Grande Puntos, Fiestas or even a late-model KA, however for those considering going for a second generation Micra, or indeed its successor, I am sure you will enjoy a slice of honest back-to-basics motoring.