When Liam Bird said he had a “super-charged” car in mind for this month, we were surprised by his choice of the mild mannered Micra. But someone in TheBAY studio was copped for speeding not once but twice in a Micra, proving that there is more under the bonnet than meets the eye.
Nissan Micra DIG-S
If I was to tell you that I’d spent the week driving a super-charged car you’d probably think that I’d been thrashing around the place like Toad of Toad Hall, in some pre-war 500bhp+ leviathan. Flames spitting from the exhaust, my scarf blowing in the wind and an engine the size a side-board roaring like a fighter plane.
Evidently from the photographs that’s not the case. Nissan’s New Micra DIG-S is about as far removed from a blower Bentley as it’s possible to get. It is however fitted with a super-charger. The question you’d be forgiven for asking is: Why?
Simple really; a supercharger allows a smaller capacity engine to produce more power. But unlike a turbo, which runs off exhaust gasses and essentially does the same thing, a supercharged engine doesn’t suffer from lag – that’s the annoying delay between putting your foot down and the car accelerating.
By fitting a much smaller version of the same supercharger that’s fitted to Jaguar’s XJR, Nissan have managed to liberate 97bhp from the Direct Injection Gasoline (DIG, the S stands for Supercharger) engine that’s fitted to their latest Micra. They’ve also gone to a lot of trouble to reduce friction losses within the three cylinder block too, by fitting an on-demand only oil pump, coating the piston rings in a diamond like carbon substance, and making sure the supercharger engages only above 3000 rpm.
What this means is not only does the Micra now have a bit more grunt but it’s also more efficient. When driven carefully the engine runs by the Miller Cycle reducing fuel consumption and placing CO2 levels below the magic 100g/km threshold. It sounds complicated, but in simple terms what all that means is the Micra DIG-S is road tax and congestion charge free.
And it’s in the city that the Micra feels most at home. With its upright seating position, light and direct steering, and almost goldfish bowl-like visibility it’s easy to nip in and out of traffic and steal the last parking space. Despite its modest power output, the Micra’s compact dimensions, slick gear change and smooth, distinctive three cylinder thrum make it feel sprightlier than its figures suggest. Overall, and somewhat surprisingly, the driving experience is an enjoyable one.
It’s a pity then that some elements of the Micra’s interior let it down. Despite being fitted (in top-range Tekna spec) with nearly every modern day convenience you can think of, cruise control, Bluetooth, I-pod connectivity, satellite navigation, air-con, et-all. The quality of plastics on the door cappings, glove box lid and dashboard let this little car down. Especially so when you consider that with metallic paint thrown in too, it could set you back nearly £15,000! The styling also is a little anonymous. If it wasn’t for our car’s look-at-me M1 CRA, personalised number plate it would be difficult to distinguish the Micra from a host of other small Eastern manufactured city cars.
The Micra then, is a mixed bag. It’s more entertaining to drive than its looks would suggest and yet it’s more expensive too. You can’t help feeling it’s a shame that certain elements of the Micra struggle to match the same levels of sophistication as its super little supercharged engine.
Many Thanks to Nissan’s UK press department for the loan of the Micra
Nissan Micra Tekna 1.2 DIG-S
Engine: 1198cc 3 cylinder 12Valve. Supercharged with direct injection
Transmission: 5 speed manual. Front wheel drive
Power: 97 bhp @5600rpm
Torque: 105 lb ft @4400rpm
Max Speed: 112mph
MPG: 65.7 Combined
Price: £14,111 (car shown)