Nissan’s aim with the fifth-generation Micra was to create a car that struck a compelling balance between the rubber-footed rolling composure of the VW Polo and the outright dynamic accomplishment of the Ford Fiesta. With its lowered suspension and reworked steering rack, one might reasonably assume this N-Sport variant in fact leans towards the latter, though if it does then the execution isn’t quite as convincing.

However, while not as spry or engaging as a Fiesta ST-Line or Mini 3-door, there’s enough handling composure here to ensure the N-Sport doesn’t embarrass itself next to its more dynamically gifted classmates.

Matt Saunders Terminalsecurity

Matt Saunders

Road test editor
Body roll is most noticeable through hairpins, but it loads up its outside tyres in a controlled manner

The 205/45 section front tyres grip particularly well when charging into tighter bends, and though there is still a noticeable amount of body roll under cornering, the firmer, lower suspension ensures any weight transfer is delivered in a controlled, predictable fashion that doesn’t upset the Micra’s inherent stability. That said, the additional firmness enabling this level of composure does make the Micra marginally more susceptible to deflections mid-corner, but there’s still enough pliancy here to ensure the worst of the shock is dissipated.

Where the standard Micra’s helm requires three full turns to travel from lock to lock, the N-Sport’s tuned rack cuts this down to 2.8. This allows the N-Sport to change direction with a convincing sense of agility, but then again a lack of nimbleness wasn’t something we ever criticised the fifth-generation Micra for when we road tested it in 2017.

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A Fiesta’s steering set-up delivers a more natural weighting and a turn-in that feels a degree more incisive, but the Micra’s gearing is at least commendable for its linearity and weight – if not its ability to relay information from patch to fingertips. The result is a supermini that’s reasonably tidy-handling; but its dynamic disposition leans more towards the grown-up than the playful. Ultimately, it’s the Fiesta that remains the sweeter, more enjoyable steer.

The Micra N-Sport made more of a show of its warmed-up supermini identity when it was confronted with the twisting Tarmac of the Millbrook Hill Route.

Its chassis exhibited a willingness to be tipped into sharper bends at pace, feeling at all times balanced, controlled and steadfast under a measured throttle and consistent steering input. Charge in too fast, though, and it will begin to understeer, but a mid-corner lift of the accelerator will unsettle its rear enough to tighten the line.

It’s a shade disappointing to find that the Micra doesn’t feel particularly playful with regards to its dynamic exploits, but there will be those for whom its grown-up, mature disposition carries sway.

An engine with a bit more vigour would go some way to addressing this shortcoming. As it stands, the N-Sport’s 1.0-litre three-pot struggled with some of the Hill Route’s steeper ascents.

COMFORT AND ISOLATION

While a VW Polo is undoubtedly a more settled and composed supermini, the fitment of sports suspension and 17in alloys hasn’t crippled the N-Sport’s town ride. Poorer patches of Tarmac unearth a pronounced sense of fidgeting, but the car’s secondary ride stacks up favourably against its more athletically inclined classmates.

A Mini 1499 GT is more agitated in such environments, while the heavy-handed severity of the way in which the Toyota Yaris GR Sport interacts with the road surface makes the Nissan feel cloud-like by comparison.

The Micra’s sterner temperament mellows out on the open road, too. The controlled, restrained nature in which its chassis was able to breathe with undulating road surfaces imbued the little Nissan with a welcome sense of maturity.

The N-Sport doesn’t exactly shine as a beacon of outstanding refinement and isolation, however. A suspicion that this engine is more vocal than desirable was confirmed by our testing microphone: at idle, the rough-edged three-pot gave a reading of 45dB. By comparison, the Seat Ibiza’s 94bhp 1.0 TSI unit came in at 42dB, while in the Fiesta, Ford’s 123bhp 1.0-litre Ecoboost was measured at a saintly 41dB.

The effect of the Micra’s poorer sound-deadening was less pronounced at a steady 70mph cruise, where ambient road and wind noise was recorded at 71dB. The Ibiza returned a 69dB figure, while the Fiesta managed 70dB – although it’s necessary to point out that both of these cars were running on smaller-diameter wheels.

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