Used Nissan Micra review: 1995-2012
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Nissan Micra in Australia falls into two distinct stages: in the mid 1990s it was imported in small numbers and didn’t sell well because it was too expensive. It quietly disappeared from the market late in 1997, though a build up of stock meant many were sold new (with 1997 plates) well into 1998.
Micra was missing from our shores until December 2007 when an all-new model was offered at a stunning low price of just $14,990. That $14,990 price tag made the little Nissan Micra a real bargain, all the more so when you realised that Micra was a five-door hatch with automatic transmission. In a market where $14,990 usually bought a three-door with a manual gearbox, Micras sold like hotcakes.
The best news of all is that the Nissan Micra was cute and stylish; it appealed not only to the youth market, but also to young-at-heart baby boomers. The most striking feature in this little Nissan is a pair of headlights that sit on top of the bonnet/guards rather than in front of them. Backing up those looks with a bright range of colours really paid dividends for Nissan in Australia.
Micra has excellent interior space for a small car. Rear seat legroom is acceptable to most adults, although the sloping roof can cause hassles for taller passengers. The rear seats have a 60/40 split and can slide forward as well as being folded completely flat. Boot space is reasonable even with the rear seats in their rearmost position so this is a remarkably usable small car.
Micra is powered by a 1.4-litre petrol engine with 72 kilowatts of power, and torque of 137 Nm at 3200 rpm. Country running at 110 to 120 km/h is relaxed and easy, something you don’t always find in a small city car.
Beside the Micra’s engine sits an old-style four-speed automatic so you don’t really get sparking performance. Top gear can be locked out if you are travelling on hilly and/or winding roads. There is no option of a manual gearbox in this Micra model.
Nissan Micra is simple to drive, even in the tight city conditions as it has excellent all-round visibility and a tight turning circle. The steering is light and responsive as the little Nissan is engineered to suit European drivers. The suspension is firm in a semi-sporting manner, however, it is comfortable enough on all but the most severe of Australian sealed roads. It’s probably best not to tackle corrugated dirt roads and the like, though.
Nissan has been established in Australia for many decades, indeed it built cars in this country for quite a while. So there are plenty of dealers, including quite strong representation in country areas. You may not find less-common spare parts for the little Micra in the bush, but these can generally be shipped out within a couple of working days.
Parts prices and servicing costs are reasonably low. A good home handyperson can do quite a bit of their own work on the Micra and the underbonnet area isn’t overly crowded. As always, it makes sense to have a workshop manual close handy, and leave the safety related items to professional mechanics.
Insurance costs for the Nissan Micra are about average for this class of car and we haven’t found much difference in premiums between any of the major insurance companies. Still, it might be worth shopping around for your individual quotes.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Check for crash repairs by looking for paint colours that don't quite match and small droplets of paint on non-painted surfaces or panels that aren't as smooth as they should be. Holding a magnet against the paint will tell you if the material underneath is metal or plastic body filler, which is another sure way of finding out if the Micra has paid a trip to a body repairer.
Be sure that the engine starts easily and settles into a steady idle within seconds of firing up. Manual gearboxes with noisy changes and/or that baulk on fast downshifts may be in need of an overhaul. Or it might be a clutch adjustment problem.
Check from the service book that the timing belt has been replaced according to the maintenance schedule as a slipping belt can cause major damage within the engine. Listen for a clicking sound from the front hubs when the Micra is driven on full steering lock in either direction. This indicates worn universal joints, this isn’t a major repair, but it’s best that the seller pays for it, not you.
CAR BUYING TIP
Small city bound cars often lead a much harder life than large cars that spend their time in outer suburbs or in the bush. So don’t be fooled by a low kilometre reading on the odometer.
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