Frugal Micra is so clever

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With the cost of a litre of fuel soaring, Nissan couldn’t have chosen a more appropriate time to release its Micra DIG-S.

This features all of the usual Micra qualities coupled to a fiendishly clever 98bhp supercharged 1.2-litre engine. This three-cylinder powerplant sees the Micra return 68.9mpg and emit just 95g/km of CO2.

Like any good shampoo advert, we’ll get the science bit out of the way first. The heart of the Micra DIG-S is a direct injection engine teamed with a supercharger – hence the car’s name: Direct Injection Gasoline-Supercharger. Although it has clearly been designed to cap emissions and fuel consumption, the lightweight, low-friction 1,198cc three-cylinder unit produces the power expected from a conventional 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine.

Technical innovation has been packed into the engine. The DIG-S uses the Miller cycle – in effect a five-stroke engine due to its clever use of inlet valving – and also utilises direct petrol injection to improve combustion efficiency. To overcome the inherent power losses of the Miler Cycle engine, a supercharger is required. The result is an extremely efficient and surprisingly punchy engine that can punt a Micra to a top speed of 112mph.

A five-speed manual gearbox is fitted as standard but there’s also the option of a CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) automatic which will make town driving easier. The suspension is designed to be particularly compact at the rear, minimising intrusion into the boot area and Nissan has endowed the Micra with an unusually tight 4.5m turning radius. Also enhancing the ease with which this Nissan can be manoeuvred are electrically-assisted power steering, a large glass area and the fact that the nose of the car is visible from the cabin.

The great thing about the Micra DIG-S is that it wears its green credentials very lightly. There are no odd-looking grilles or flush wheel trims that merely serve to make the car look like the property of a sanctimonious eco-warrior. Instead it’s pure Micra. The rounded headlights and the curved line of the side windows are the major giveaways but it also shares the short, upright shape that we’ve seen before in past iterations of Nissan’s supermini.

Nissan is a very smart company. It has attracted all the headlines with its LEAF electric car but it also realises that the LEAF isn’t going to be for the everyday budget motorist. The Micra DIG-S is a clever way of offering these customers a car that in many ways is just as technically interesting but which papers over the high-tech with a welcome layer of familiarity.