The recipe for a convincing warm hatch can be a tricky one to execute. Just as important as a balanced, responsive chassis is an engine capable of compensating for a lack of outright pace with a sense of bold, effervescent character.
A 123bhp Ecoboost-powered Fiesta or Ibiza with VW Group’s 113bhp 1.0 TSI engine are fine examples of how these ingredients can be combined successfully. As well as their strong performance (relative to the wider class), their powerplants foster a good level of driver engagement.
The N-Sport’s new 1.0-litre triple doesn’t quite lend itself as convincingly to that art. This is an engine missing the whimsical levity of its more popular rivals, and a forgettable soundtrack hardly encourages the driver to let the tachometer spin all the way out to the limiter. That and a resolutely damp throttle response were chief gripes among our testers.
But though there can be a degree of grumbling and coughing at low crank speeds, and a noticeable amount of lag to overcome, reasonable mid-range performance helps the Micra keep its head just above water. A recorded 30-70mph time of 9.4sec places the Nissan just ahead of the 123bhp Fiesta Titanium (9.6sec) road tested in 2017. The Nissan also exhibited greater in-gear tractability than its major rival – in fourth gear dispatching 30-70mph in 12.4sec versus the Fiesta’s 14.8sec.
Less relevant in this context is its 0-60mph effort but, on Millbrook’s mile straight, the Micra ran an average time of 10.2sec. Considering it was fuelled to the brim and carrying two testers, that is quick enough for Nissan’s claimed 0-62mph time of 9.9sec to be accepted without cynicism. While these runs didn’t expose an overt deficiency in traction off the line, it did shine a light on a gearbox that’s a natch too long in throw and woolier than the best manual ’boxes in the class.
The Micra’s ventilated front discs and rear drums, meanwhile, allowed for controlled, stable deceleration under emergency braking conditions. From 70mph, the Nissan came to a halt in 47.1m, against 54.7m for the Fiesta.