Nissan’s addition to the small-car segment is cute, spunky and has loads of attitude contained within its compact package.Nissan’s addition to the small-car segment is cute, spunky and has loads of attitude contained within its compact package.

Built on the new Renault-Nissan small car platform, Nissan offers two versions of the Micra; the 1,4 Comfort and 1,4 Elegance.

Both are powered by Nissan's 1 386 cm3 four-cylinder engine, which has peak outputs of 65 kW at 5 200 r/min and 128 N.m at 3 200 r/min. Nissan claims it will accelerate to 100 km/h in 11,9 seconds, reach a top speed of 172 km/h and return an overall average economy figure of 6,3 litres/100 km.

Drive is supplied to the front wheels through five-speed manual gearboxes, and suspension is by MacPherson struts in front, and a torsion beam axle (with coils) at the rear.

Both versions are imported with steel wheels (14-inchers with 165/70 tyres on the Comfort, and 15-inchers carrying 175/60s on the Elegance), but locally-made alloy wheels are offered as an extra-cost option.

Braking is by discs in front and drums at the back, and ABS, EBD and brake assist are standard on both versions. Among the other modern safety features are front seatbelt pretensioners/load limiters, and airbags for driver and front passenger on all models. Elegance versions also offer side/thorax bags for front seat occupants. Both models have childproof rear door locks and ISOFIX child seat anchorages.

One of the Micra's key selling points will undoubtedly be its distinctive "arch" styling and Beetle-esque retro-modern body shape that really stands out. Adding to the "look" are a dominant Nissan "flying wing" grille, high-mounted ovoid headlamps, and jewel-like rear light clusters.

But besides looking cute, the Micra is extremely practical as well. The short front and rear overhangs make parking easy while the deep side windows and large front and rear screens afford good all-round visibility.

Maximum use is made of the cabin space, giving the interior a roomy feel. The rear bench slides, offering a choice between more rear legroom or more luggage space and the 60:40 split seatback folds to extend the luggage bay.

The interior styling is elegant and the facia, door-cappings and seats are covered in grey resin-treated cloth that is soft to the touch yet durable.

Equipment levels are high and the standard features on both models include front spoilers, body-coloured front and rear bumpers, an electric pull-type hatch handle, "friendly lighting", "battery save", manual headlamp height adjuster, radio/CD unit, roof antenna, pollen filter, air-conditioning, power front windows, speed-sensitive electric power steering and a tilt-adjustable steering wheel.

Other convenience items include a handy locker under the front passenger seat, a cellphone drawer, handbag hook on the front passenger's side of the centre console, immobiliser, and remote central locking.

In addition, the Elegance model comes with items such as rain-sensing wipers, fully automatic air-conditioning, luxury seat cloth, a driver's computer, rear demister auto-off, electrically adjustable exterior mirrors, passenger side vanity mirror, and a tailgate wiper that operates automatically if reverse is selected with the front wipers already on.