The Nissan Micra is likely to arrive in South Africa in 2004. On a recent visit to Germany, CAR road test engineer Peter Palm took it for a spin and found it refreshing. How well do you think this car will do here?

While testing the Nissan 350Z in Germany recently, the opportunity arose to take a smaller cousin, the Micra 1,2-litre for a short spin. And it is highly likely that this popular model will make its way to our shores sometime in 2004.

The Micra, manufactured at Nissan’s very efficient Sunderland plant in England, looks unusual to say the least. No mini car cloning here, but there are strong resemblances to other makes, however. The rear end looks like a small PT Cruiser while the front end looks a bit like that of a New Beetle with the high placed bug eyes. The grille, though, is corporate Nissan, in case on-lookers may think the car belongs to another stable. Overall it is a refreshingly different and slightly oddball effect which should bring a smile to most faces.

Interior ambience and space is all important in a small car and this is where the Micra holds its own. The driving position is comfortable and after adjusting the seat to suit, hopping into the back seat, the legroom is impressive, subjectively better than a Renault Clio. Expecting that this level of interior room would result in a small boot, the hatch was raised and surprise, surprise, the boot looked big enough to match the best. The provision of a space saver spare helps in this department.

A further feature, which adds enormously to the versatility of the vehicle is the movable rear seat bench. This is possible for the driver to accomplish, by leaning back, grabbing the lever and pulling the seat forward. This helps attend to small children in car seats, a definite boon for a mother. It can also slid forward from the boot, all you do is tug on a strap, so as to provide an instant increase in luggage space. The backrests can also be tumbled forwards via the open hatch without having to open the rear doors.

The instrumentation is, once again, refreshing in its quest to stand out from the rest. Off white control knobs hark back to the 50s or earlier and are offset by a light coloured plastic facia to give it a cloth appearance.

On the move, we noticed a soft suspension, ideal for a small, non-sporty style of transport, with a good ride quality over bumps and a very light steering, again similar to the Clio.

The 1,2-litre engine pulled quite well with three occupants but got rather noisy as the revs rose. It is possible that a larger, 1,4-litre engine will be specified for South Africa. We can only wait and see.