The rains have been lashing down on Mumbai. It’s a late monsoon and it looks like Mother Nature is hell-bent on making up for lost time. I’m making a dash fromthe foyer to the parking lot, both hands engaged in wielding an umbrella and a haversack. Luckily, I don’t have to hunt for the keys inmy pocket; the keyless entry on our mid-spec Nissan Micra XL comes to the rescue. I also don’t have to handle the phone with my wet hands because the Micra’s Bluetooth does a great job of automatically connecting to it. So far, it has already made things a tad easier.
I thumb the starter motor and set off into Mumbai’s dreaded ‘peak-hour-traffic’. What immediately strikes me is the fantastic almost-360-degree view you get from behind the wheel. The massive side windows, thin pillars and large windscreens in the front and rear create almost no blind spots. I find this especially useful during the heavy downpour as bikers tend to make a quick dash to shelter (read under the nearest flyover) and often pass with just inches to spare. Fantastic visibility is just one of the facets of the Micra’s easy-to-drive demeanour. I love how the light clutch is easy on my left calf, and the effortless steering combined with a tight turning circle converts many three-point turns into two-point ones.
In front of me sits a 1.2-litre three-pot motor. But its refined nature made it easy to fool my friend into thinking it’s a four-banger. What stands out though is the Micra’s part-throttle response. At low speeds, I find it a bit too responsive for stop-and-go traffic — it took me a couple of days to get used to this. But the Micra works best when kept in its mid-range that has enough torque to overtake Sunday drivers without any fuss. I haven’t taken the little Nissan out on open roads much, but from the couple of times I did drive it to the outskirts of Mumbai, I was quite impressed with its highway manners. However, I wish its shoes were at least a size larger — these 165-section tyres feel a bit low on grip at higher speeds. Even with a moderately heavy foot, the Micra consistently returned 10.8kpl in the city. Not bad at all.
The approach lane to my house has been almost completely chewed up by the rains and that tells me that the Micra’s ride is a bit choppy on such roads. While the suspension is silent and medium-sized potholes don’t thud through, even on smaller imperfections, the ride feels quite busy.
Since we have the mid-spec Micra, it lacks steering-mounted controls. But Nissan has cleverly extended the horn button into that space on either side, making the horn very accessible. Also, the car is fitted with most features you’d need for everyday motoring. However, I was surprised that this variant lacks a rear windscreen defogger and ABS – both are sorely missed in the monsoons. Another feature I would have liked is electrically adjustable wing mirrors because my car-washing chap wipes them clean every morning and that changes their angle (he does a great job nonetheless).
Truth be told, it isn’t the most aspirational car in the parking lot, but as a city runabout, the Micra fits its purpose very well. It’s extremely easy to drive, the visibility is fantastic, it carries four in good comfort and doesn’t burn a hole in my pocket — reasons enough for me to reach for its key for my short commute home. Yes, I admit that the Micra may not top my list for a nice weekend out of town. But till that happens, for me, the small Nissan is almost the perfect tool to tackle the urban jungle.
So, what about the problems? For the 8500km we have had it, the Micra hasn’t had a hiccup yet and everything works perfectly. However, the suspension has been taking quite a beating from the monsoon-battered roads. No rattles yet, but to know how it held up, watch this space.
Price: Rs 6.04 lakh (on-road, Mumbai)
Test economy: 14.6 kpl
Maintenance costs: None