Years built: 2002 to 2010
Bodystyles: Small five-door hatchback
What is it?
Nissan is just in the process of launching the all-new Micra, and it will be on sale in March of this year. Which seems as good a time as any to look back at one of its predecessors, a car which many derided at the time but which makes a terrific used purchase, especially for learner drivers.
Which one should I buy?
The third generation Micra (K12) got slightly odd bubble-car styling, but gained a much roomier, higher quality cabin than that of its predecessor. Following the merging of Nissan and Renault, it was the first Micra to share a chassis with a Renault product, in this case the contemporary Clio. Those worried that might mean a dip in reliability shouldn’t be concerned – we’ll deal with the specifics further down but the Micra is a reliable little thing. It’s also very adjustable in the cabin – early models had a rear bench that could slide back and forth, meaning that you could make the boot a little bigger or give rear seat passengers a touch more space.
The cabin was a genuinely high quality place to be, with highlights and buttons picked out in while, Bakelite-style plastic and comfy seats too.
Most were sold with a 65hp 1.2-litre petrol engine, which would struggle to pull the peel from a banana but it’s a smooth little thing, and pretty much ideally suited to the Micra. There was a 1.0-litre engine too, also with 65hp, but it has less torque than the 1.2, so its performance isn’t as good. Either engine is extremely economical though, always one of the Micra’s strongest points. You should easily be able to get better than 45mpg from either engine, and the 1.0 version is always a good one for those looking to keep their insurance bills down. There was a 1.5 diesel Micra too, but very few were ever sold in Ireland, so you’ll have to shop around if you fancy one. It does an easy 60mpg though, so it’s a good choice for those seeking maximum frugality.
The K12 Micra was facelifted in 2005, with new colour choices and slightly altered bumpers, and again in 2007 but neither change was especially Earth-shattering and the car remained basically the same throughout its life. Higher spec models could be had, in latter years, with air conditioning and even Bluetooth phone connection, but for the most part this is a basic car, designed to be cheap to buy and run. And in that context, it’s a strong performer. Many have and will mock the Micra for being a ‘granny’s car’ or having special sat-nav that guides you to the bingo hall, but it’s actually a far better machine than that – roomy, reliable, comfortable and nicer to drive than you’d think.
How much should I spend? In the region of €6,000 should be enough for a low-miles 2008 car.
Here’s one we found:
2008 Nissan Micra 1.2 SXE with air conditioning , 95,000km, one owner, €5,950 from a franchised dealer.
What goes wrong?
Very little, is the obvious answer – Micras have always been renowned for their reliability and the K12 is no different. Many have had faulty boot locks, which had a habit of randomly flipping open, replaced so it’s worth checking to see if the car you’re looking at has had that done. Early cars also need to have their engine management system adjusted to prevent the battery from running flat with annoying regularity. Faulty ignition systems can lead to the starter motor failing, while the adjusters for the timing chain need to be regularly inspected to make sure they’re doing their job properly. Faulty air flow meters can cause reduces power at main road speeds. Door window runners can rattle and need adjusting, while the radio can develop an annoying glitch and switch itself off. Self-cancelling indicators sometimes don’t, while an airbag warning light is generally just down to a loose wire. Finally, for some reason, the Micra can chew through a set of brake discs surprisingly quickly, so check to see when they were last replaced.
There are two versions of the K12 Micra of which you’ve probably never heard. The C+C was a convertible Micra with a folding steel roof that looked awful, drove worse and you will probably struggle to find one now. Even harder to find is the 160 SR with the 111hp 1.6-litre engine, which was the sole attempt at a sporting, ‘warm hatch’ Micra – it’s actually pretty good to drive, but good luck tracking one down.
And when you’ve found your perfect Micra don’t forget to get it history checked by motorcheck.ie.