As good as it needs to be, we reckon. When the latest Micra launched in 2017 its biggest failing was that the most powerful engine option put out just 89bhp.
The Renault-sourced 0.9-litre triple also lacked torque, had an inconsistent throttle response and, thanks to its bizarre whining noises when revved, wasn’t exactly the pinnacle of refinement. It was fine in the lower rungs of the range, but with top-end Micras stretching towards £20,000 it couldn’t compete with the far gutsier turbo triples of rivals.
Responding to this criticism, Nissan has ditched the 0.9 for a 1.0-litre unit, available in two states of tune. The N-Sport is available In both, and we’ve got the more powerful unit here, putting out 117bhp and 133lb ft of torque, or 148lb ft for short periods with an overboost function.
Far from a simple software rejig, the more powerful 1.0 has a number of hardware changes, including direct fuel injection, a higher compression ratio and dual variable valve timing.
It means the N-Sport can realistically compete with cars like the Seat Ibiza FR and Ford Fiesta ST-line. Outright performance is still modest by anyone’s standards, and doesn’t feel as punchy as the Fiesta’s Ecoboost unit, yet there’s enough urgency in the mid-range that it rarely feels strained or out of its depth on normal roads.
Refinement is decent, too (somehow better than the lesser-powered unit we tried), save for some chuntering at low revs, although it doesn’t sound particularly effervescent. Minor gripes concern the throttle response, which still isn’t perfect, and the new six-speed manual gearbox which, despite a shorter throw, feels a touch imprecise.
We had plenty of praise for the Micra’s dynamic composition at launch, and the N-Sport upgrades build on that. The 10mm drop in ride height doesn’t just give it a meaner visual stance, it also combines with a revised spring rate to tighten up the body control to a noticeable degree in fast cornering. The quickened rack heightens the car’s sense of agility, too.
The result is a car that feels fluid and composed in most situations, with a ride that sacrifices a little – but not too much – of the standard car’s suppleness. As is usually the case, however, UK roads will be the sternest test of that particular trait.
The interior, while as largely free of colour and character as most of its rivals, offers up a competitive level of perceived quality. The aforementioned Alcantara is a rare touch in a sub-£20k car, while it also partially trims the seats. The new infotainment system is an improvement in terms of new connectivity features and better clarity, but sometimes lags between menu selections. Kit levels are strong, too, with Nissan’s Safety Sense active assist tech fitted as standard.
Detail changes, such as a new centre armrest and standard rear electric windows (woah, I hear you cry, but they were never an option before) offer welcome convenience. But familar foibles remain, such as a rear cabin that’s tighter on space than rivals.