Glam metal band Cinderella once sang that you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. Many a true word spoken by the long haired rockers from Philadelphia, although I’m pretty certain that they weren’t referring to the Nissan Micra. But if they were, hats off to them, as I think they may have a point.
Amazingly the Nissan Micra has been around for nearly three decades and will in actual fact celebrate its 30th birthday in 2012. Blimey. In that time the little car has amassed some 5.65 million sales and has become the default choice for students, old people, driving schools or indeed anyone looking for frugal city motoring. There are some 1,500 currently available on eBay, with prices ranging from 99p to £13,000, so whatever your budget, there’s probably a Micra for you. Britain seems to love the Micra, helped in a small way by the fact that in 1992 they started making the car in Nissan’s Sunderland plant, making it feel like one of our own.
But in truth I’ve never really liked the Micra all that much. It just hasn’t appeared on my radar as either a potential purchase or an object of desire. My one and only encounter with the car came during my college years when a friend of mine bought a first generation model. Being something of a musical chap, he promptly loaded the interior with a selection of goodies from Kenwood and Rockford Fosgate and set about searching for the perfect bass. The resulting tremors and vibration helped to unscrew all interior and body panels, with a lack of maintenance also contributing to its downfall. The last I saw, it was sat looking rather forlorn on the front garden, unlikely ever to be driven again. But to be fair to the Micra, it had to withstand heavy abuse and many other cars would have succumbed under the pressure.
Since then, the majority of my encounters with the Micra have invariably been when sat behind one travelling rather slowly on my favourite B-road. I therefore tend to view the Micra with distain. At least I did…
The thing is, the Nissan Micra is now in its fourth incarnation, but until this weekend I was yet to come across one in the wild. But then maybe I had seen one and simply hadn’t noticed because my word, the new Micra is bland. Nissan proudly boasts that the new model is a ‘true global car’ and will be sold in no fewer than 160 countries. This obviously dictates that Nissan needs to produce a car that’s so vanilla, it could be scooped up and inserted into an ice cream cone. Koji Nagano, Nissan’s Design Director said as much when he proclaimed;
“First, the car must target a very broad spectrum of people worldwide and so it must satisfy a multitude of needs in one package.”
Makoto Yamane, Nissan’s Associate Product Chief Designer goes on to say;
“Micra’s face is stylish and has an air of sophistication… but at the same time it is approachable, like a friend you can rely on.”
A face that is approachable, like a friend you can rely on? Really? If my friend looked as dull as that I’d be straight on the phone to Gok Wan and asking for one his sixty minute makeovers, or whatever he calls them.
But then perhaps I should be grateful to the new Micra, for it has actually made me appreciate the older models. OK, so the first generation Micra has spiralled into near oblivion, but with the benefit of hindsight, the second generation actually looks like a neat bit of packaging. But the real star is the third generation Micra, which when viewed against the new model looks fresher, quirkier and just that little bit different to everything else on the road. None of these things can be said about the fourth generation Micra.
Take a look at the evolution of the Micra below and tell me if you agree. Some cars improve with age, but in my book the Micra may have already peaked. But thanks to the fourth generation car, I now appreciate something that I’ve been missing for the past 29 years. Thanks Nissan.
Not convinced. Let me leave you with the thought that the Micra is no longer made in Sunderland. Instead it is made in India.