YOU know how it is: you arrive at an airport and head for the rental firm to pick up the car you have carefully selected.
But the hire car is not at all what you expected. It might look like the super mini you chose, and have the right badge. But the truth is no hire car ever looks or drives as you would hope.
You can’t quite put your finger on it but it is somehow different from the model you have seen a thousand times before on British roads (apart from the fact it is probably left-hand drive).The Japanese giant Nissan may have found the answer to this conundrum by producing what it believes to be a truly global car.
Of course the Nissan Micra is not a new model: it was first launched in Britain in 1982. But in its latest incarnation, this week’s drive, the fourth-generation Nissan Micra, its maker styles it a “global car”. To this end, the new Micra is sold in more than 55 countries. And it is built in four: Mexico, China, Thailand and India — the latter being where Micras for the British market are made.
So the chances are from now that if you love your Micra — and a lot of people have bought them — you just might find an identical model waiting for you at some far-flung airport when you arrive.
There has been some criticism of this latest version, not least of which was that it lacked the Micra magic of past generations. Indeed, sales of the fourth generation were lacklustre so Nissan has already given their new Micra a facelift.
However, I presume that if you are producing a global car then you are trying to please all of the people all of the time: not an easy task.
That may account for comments that this Micra is a bit bland compared with former models. But, hey, ask any Hollywood mogul: bland is good, just look at some of the mindlessly bland movies they are turning out these days. They may bomb in the US but globally, we are told, studios make a killing. So being bland does not necessarily equate with failure.
Actually, in the case of the new Micra I would use another word: pragmatic. The makers have been pragmatic even to the point of not offering a diesel engine for this latest model. For global appeal, a diesel option would have been unnecessary: the petrol engine is sufficient for all markets.
So there are just two able versions available of a 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol engine (one supercharged and one naturally aspirated) and three trim levels: Visia, Acenta and Tekna.
I much admire simplicity of design in cars. Too many are over-complicated. The new Nissan Micra is not. The test car, a Micra Tekna, with the 1.2 DiG-S engine and a five-speed manual gearbox (there is a CVT automatic version available) was not only very able around town (rear parking sensors as standard) it was laudably game for a quick trip on the motorway to Birmingham.
The car never faltered and did not seem to strain while overtaking. Often with cars with small engines — and a 1.2 engine is small in my book — they are held back by poor performance.
The Nissan Micra takes 11.4 seconds to get to 62mph from a standing start and has a top speed of 112 mph. This is not quick off the mark or a high maximum speed but the point with the Micra is that you always get the impression the car is going very well.
I have no particular issues with the car’s overall design: to me it actually looks like a global car. So it should appeal to as many people as possible. But even if its looks are not wowing prospective buyers then the delivery of performance from this little workhorse cannot be faulted.
Next time you take a trip there is a good chance that the Micra you pick up at Malaga Airport, for example, on your way to some fun in Marbella, may have something different about it. You just may not quite be able to put your finger on it. But you might comfort yourself with the thought that in more than 50 countries around the world people that buy or hire a Micra are looking at a very similar car.
Car tested: Nissan Micra Tekna
• Engine: 1.2 DiG-S petrol
• On-the-road price: £14,050
• Optional extra: Pearlescent paint: £450
• Fuel consumption: 65.7mpg (combined cycle)
• CO2 emissions: 99g/km
• Two versions of a 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol engine available (one supercharged the other naturally aspirated)
• Three trim levels: Visia, Acenta and Tekna.
• Option of a five-speed manual or CVT automatic gearbox