One of the lesser known Japanese carmakers in India, Nissan, began its belated journey in earnest a few months back with the launch of its small car Micra.
Now, as if to make up for the lost time, the firm has launched the diesel version of the car even as the miniscule presence of the company in the country continues to pose a big challenge to the car's prospects.
That does not take anything away from the car itself, which we found at least in the case of the petrol variant, to be a fun car to drive around in the city. Now, it's the turn of the diesel version, where it faces an even tougher task competing with the likes of the Swift, Punto and Polo.
There are absolutely no changes in the looks of the car and the small gap between the two launches coupled with limited availability of the petrol car means boredom is a non factor for a prospective Micra diesel customer. It would not have worked though had the car not been blessed with such looks.
Based on the globally acclaimed March design, the retro looking Micra is very distinct from any other small car on the road. The large oval headlamps, sweeping lines and Mini Cooperish rear gives it the look of a timeless classic ensuring that it will continue to draw stares even when it gets old.
The retro concept from the outside flows in inside as well. The dull greige interior colour scheme (available on the top variant) is duly complemented by the bright orange light of the audio display screen and instrument cluster that may well remind one of a certain Beetle. The company says it has employed a twin bubble concept that gives a feeling of protection to the passengers.
While we never looked at it from that angle, there is a certain cosyness to the cabin that is very inviting. The quality of plastic and fit and finish is good but on the flip side legroom at the rear feels compromised especially if the front seat is pushed back.
Drive and handling
For the diesel variant, the Micra gets a K9K 1.4 litre common rail engine that is as big as any of its competitors. On paper though, it appears to have the most modest performance figures with a maximum power of 64bhp against segment leader Swift's 75 horses. That, however, is not reflected when one drives the car. Its deft handling, superb maneouvrability and effortless acceleration make it once again the most fun car to be driven on the city roads.
Gear shifting is not as effortless as say in a Polo, but once you hit the fourth gear, which you may as well achieve at 30 kmph, the car shoots forward in one go. The acceleration till 120 kmph was effortless and it is very composed at high speeds. On the flip side though, there is significant body roll at the rear and while the driver will enjoy the experience, those at the back may grumble a little bit.
It boasts of an ARAI figure of 23.08 kmpl but we got figures of over 20 kmpl consistently. Its frugality itself turns the scales in favour of it in no small way.
With a starting price tag of Rs 5.58 lakh, it is a good Rs 70,000 more expensive than the entry-level Swift diesel variant. Further, given the fact that Nissan is just beginning to fire up its cylinders, after sales and service will remain a suspect at least in the near future and it will take the company some time before it can even hope to compete with the likes of a Maruti or Hyundai. The Micra diesel is not a disappointment but in comparison, it does look like an expensive proposition, for now.