The Mk3 Nissa Micra (K12)
We are going to have a look at and review the Mark 3 Nissan Micra that was sold between 2003 and 2010, more specifically the 3dr 1.5 dCi n-tec model. Known as the K12 model variant in the model run it was the first Micra to be developed in partnership with Renault as part of their alliance with the French automotive manufacturer and it was built not far from where we are typing this review, in Sunderland.
Aimed at the small, cheap to run, city car market the 3 door or 5 door Nissan Micra is very much a firm favourite with first-time and the more cost-conscious drivers in the UK. The stand out styling of its day definitely made this little runabout a little different to its competitors like the Ford Fiesta, VW Polo and the like who were designed with more sobriety in mind. What gave it a bit more distinction was its strong lines that ran the length of the car and its high set headlights who to some would say makes it look cute but to others not so much. From the back, it is reminiscent of a much smaller black London Taxi as it has that kind of bubble-shaped rear to it. We like it but as we have said earlier it is very much beauty in the eye of the beholder as some people have said that the design has more of a feminine appeal.
During its model run (2003-2010) the Nissan Micra consisted of the entry-level 1.0 ltr, 1.4 ltr and a more sportier 1.6 ltr petrol engines and if you were more economy focussed or simply travelled more miles to warrant it, the Micra was also available to buy with a fuel-sipping 1.5 dCi diesel engine, which is not only meant to be more economical but it also attracts a much cheaper Road Fund Licence (road tax) of only £30 for the year.
As well as the engine line up, you could also purchase it in a slew of model trims and specifications ranging from a very basic Visia trim which included steel wheels, a CD-equipped stereo and folding rear seats through to more higher specification trim levels like the Active Luxury spec, which had air conditioning, lumbar seat support and parking sensors fitted as standard.
The Mk3 Nissan Micra’s Interior
To start off, stepping into the driver’s seat the first thing you will notice that you instantly sit more upright compared to other vehicles of this size. You are also aware of how goldfish bowl like the view is looking out of the large windows that are styled into the Mk3 Micra’s design language. Some people may be instantly put off by the way the window setup makes them feel, but for us, we didn’t have a problem with it and felt that it only added to the cabin’s light and airy feel.
Visibility wise, it’s very good with the only gripe being that we felt that the rearview mirror was a tad on the shallow side and it would have easily benefitted from being a little taller to accommodate the large bubble-like rear windscreen view on offer. As well as the windows you are also greeted, on this model in particular, by fairly large door mirrors which seem to only be on this 60 plate derivative of the Micra as we have looked on other Micras of this mark and they all seem a lot smaller. Though they are great in seeing what is to the left and right of the vehicle they do give that lug ear look to the car, which may put some people off.
The seats are comfortable if a little flat in design and not very supportive, especially when you compare it to something of the same age as the Ford Fiesta that we have also reviewed on this site. Saying that after a fairly lengthy drive that we undertook to Birmingham recently we didn’t experience any undue back pain or much fatigue but you do feel like you have travelled that distance which may be more to the way the car drives than the actual seating design and arrangement.
The instrument binnacle is well laid out and easy to understand as it only has the speedometer, rev counter and fuel gauge though ideally, we would have liked a temperature gauge just to reassure us that everything was ok under the bonnet.
The dashboard is well laid out and very easy to comprehend and everything is very reachable. The quality of the fit and finish is ok as there are a few hard, scratchy plastics making up most of the dash but it didn’t rattle which for a nine-year-old car was definitely a bonus.
As we have the n-tec spec Micra on review it was equipped with a touch screen infotainment system as standard which comprised of a radio, CD, MP3 and AUX options which allowed us to plug in a USB stick filled with music which was great for a long drive. Sound wise, again like the fit and finish it’s ok and for a vehicle of this price point was more than adequate. As well as the touch screen media centre on offer it also benefitted from a built-in Sat Nav, which was a great addition to this car as it had up-to-date traffic reports and even re-routed you to avoid any traffic jams around the area. The only thing we found was it was a little slow to calculate the route and the instructions it gave weren’t as fluid as say Google Maps would be but it took us no time to get used to it and to be honest for a car of its class you would be hardpressed to find this level of technology on offer.
The infotainment also allowed us to pair our iPhone for handsfree calling with ease and you could also stream any music to it and out through the car’s speaker system which was novel for us as we didn’t expect this to happen in a fairly cheap nine-year-old car. The other thing which we liked about this system, know as Nissan Connect, was that if you paired your iPhone with the media centre it also indicated where you parked your car on Apple Maps so it could be easily found if you got lost in an unfamiliar city.
As this was the 3 door model on review, getting into the rear of the car was a fairly easy task but as you can imagine when you have a family of four and you are visiting multiple destinations it can become a very tiresome affair. So our tip is to go for the 5 door model and miss the 3 door completely no matter how cheap it is – you’ll thank us for it. The back of the car is a nice place to be and the legroom wasn’t too bad for a car of its size. Headroom was more than adequate which is where the bubble-like high roofline comes into its own. Not sure how leg and headroom would work with people over 6ft but being 5 foot 6 inches mark it was no problem at all.
One other thing we would mention is that though the car is specified to carry 5 passengers, with a potential three in the back it is definitely a tight squeeze and for short trips and as a last resort might be ok but for anything longer then about 10 miles we would say that it would be uncomfortable and if you have the 3 door version of the car, like the one we have here, getting in and out of the back would be a chore.
Finally, for the interior part of this review, we have to mention storage and for a car of this size, we found it to be quite surprising and above all interesting. The glove box was quite big and even had a compartment for the Micra’s instruction and service manual as well as a compartment for any other nick nacks that you may wish to place in there. There was a hidden compartment under the passenger’s seat which can be accessed by pulling on a fabric tag to open out the actual seat pad itself and we found was a nice touch to store more valuable items that you may not wish for onlookers to see. There are three cupholders, two in the front and one in the back which was ideal for a cup of take-out coffee or a bottle of Pepsi Max and interestingly in the back situated to the side of where people are sitting you had a bottle shaped space that in theory could accommodate more sizeable liquid refreshments as well as a small well for any other accessories that the back seat passengers may wish to place in there. To be honest for such a small car we were really impressed.
Boot wise the Mk3 Nissan Micra isn’t the biggest in class but it can swallow a fair weekly shop for a family of three to four and is quite useable.
Driving the Mk3 Nissan Micra (K12)
Once the 1.5DCi kicked into life it isn’t as loud and tractor like as you may think and in the cabin of the Micra we could hear it idle but only faintly in the background. The one thing that we found starting up the Renault originated diesel engine was that compared to say the Ford Fiesta 1.6 Tdci that we reviewed, it did seem to take a couple of turns of the starter motor to get the engine turning over but that may be down to the particular car we are reviewing which interestingly we are getting investigated regarding this and a few other issues we have found, which we will update you with when we know more at the bottom of the review.
When on the road and given a bit of stick we found the 1.5 DCi engine quite punchy and had a nice amount of torque for a car of this size. On the motorway, at about 70 mph it achieved this at about 2600 rpm and while it was louder in the cabin the noise wasn’t too bad at all and only accompanied by a small amount of wind and tyre noise but it’s nowhere as intrusive as the Ford Fiesta TDCi which did seem a lot more louder than the Micra which is a testament to its build quality.
Now with the Micra we are writing about here being a diesel derivative we did think that it would be quite frugal and sip at the fuel and that is where we were a little surprised. On a run down to Birmingham consisting of around 234 miles one way, it drank just over 20 litres of fuel which when converted to imperial (UK) gallons, which was 4.61, and then the number of miles it undertook divided by the gallons of fuel it used came out at 50 miles per gallon which for a diesel engine of its size and power was low, especially as it was driven at no more than 70 miles per hour during the journey. The trip computer said that we were averaging 60 mpg but there was no what that the reading was true as when driving it you could physically watch the needle on the fuel gauge move which we did find very disconcerting.
The MPG we experienced seems to be what you would get out of a petrol engine for a journey of this nature as opposed to a diesel engine which did put a bit of a downer on the trip as one of the main selling points of the Micra 1.5dCi is that it is very economical to run but like the starting issue that we have experienced it is going to be looked into and we will update you with the outcome. Interestingly we did refuel the car to the brim to see how much MPG it would get with just town driving and it seems to be achieving the same 50mpg as it was on the motorway so we are not sure what is going on but will hopefully know more soon.
Handling wise the we found the Nissan Micra to be quite stable at speed on the motorway and it was ok through the twists and turns of the B-roads that we took it on but we did find that if the angle of the turn was quite steep that it tended to have some slight body roll which wasn’t a real problem as the car is more suited to a more comfortable way of driving instead of it being hooned about.
The steering we found was light and easy to operate and the turning circle was great and though not London Taxi like it did reduce the amount of 3 point turns required that something like the VW Golf Mk5 that we have reviewed last year would require in the same sort of driving conditions that we undertook. Also parking and getting in and out of tight spaces was a doddle due to its size and amount of visibility on offer which we really liked about this car and it’s only when you park in a bay outside a large supermarket or retail outlet do you really see and appreciate how small this car is, it’s dinky!
Verdict – what do we think about the Nissan Micra?
Overall we liked the Mk3, K12 Micra. The styling is very distinctive, even compared to today’s modern cars. It’s a great car to park, easy to manoeuvre and with the visibility that it has on offer and light steering made it simple to drive. All the controls are easy to use and the level of technological spec in the model we had was very high indeed, especially for the age of the car. It is as much home on the motorways as it is tootling about town plus it’s comfortable, spacious, light and airy on the inside and it does feel very well screwed together.
The problems we found with the MPG and engine starting issues are probably only localised to this car in particular and we are sure that if they get resolved then this car will be one worth having as a great little cheap runabout. As with any potential used car, we would always recommend obtaining an independent AA or RAC mechanical inspection before purchase, more for peace of mind than anything and if there are any issues found then they could be fixed as part of your deal, act as leverage against the price or you can walk away if the problems found are a little too much to take on.
Finally, if you are part of a family that has children then steer clear of the 3 door as you will find that it can be quite impractical on a day to day basis and we would say that 5 door would definitely make your life so much easier.