Body In White

Anybody here speak Micra?

All images by the author.

Time accelerates as we get older, so one feels moderately for the youth of today. Take my work colleague, Sophie, who at 21 is onto her fourth car in as many years. Initially hesitant about learning to drive, with some encouragement from friends and family, she passed the theory and then the practical exam four summers ago.

Having a sensible head on young shoulders, she duly asked her father to purchase her first motor car, a ten year old Aygo. She would foot the insurance bill: having a black box fitted kept the yearly bill to a paltry £1500 per annum. She had taken to the queen’s highway for all of ten days however when she almost missed a lamppost on her way to work. Road conditions were straight and good; we believe the steering failed. The police calmed her down and took no further action. The lorry driver who had been following Sophie brought her to work, somewhat distraught. 

Car No.2, a twelve year old Yaris. Her insurance did go up – by £8 (yes, really) but this car soon developed brake problems. Keen to avoid her crash route she took an even steeper road. On seeing this car I noticed the discs had scorch marks – her boyfriend had advised her to “knock it out of gear and fair stand on the brakes.” Very little of Sheffield is flat. She wondered why the dashboard light marked ABS remained lit. And why was there an odd, hot smell and suddenly the brakes were not there? With some stern words from DTW’s Safety Champion, she wisely changed her braking habits. With Yaris continuing to make odd noises, Sophie quickly decided to chop it in for a six year old Citroen C1.

Things were going well with Egg as she called the French car until six months into ownership when I found her at work in tears; something catastrophic had occurred in the engine bay, proving game over for the B-Zero. The local garage confirmed the breakdown chap’s initial reaction of knackered. Probable Cause of death: poor service history.

Sophie then took another Japanese plunge but this time turned attention to Nissan – the Body in White Micra. This K13 version at least looked tidy being only being eight years old when purchased. The engine bay looked clean, the brakes worked, the dashboard lights un-illuminated. 

Released at the Geneva show in 2010, this model sold in over 160 countries. Known as the March in Japan, Sophie calls her Kay but perhaps wisely dropped the numerical reference. This car is fitted with the ubiquitous HR12DE engine, at 1198cc three pot and thrummy in exhaust note. Developing 80bhp and 81 Newton Metres, it will never set the pace at the traffic light Grand Prix but is more than capable of keeping up with traffic. However, Sheffield’s hills do sap that power rather quickly, enforcing some hastier than preferred gear changes, I’m told.

Honest John thought it a car aimed squarely at the female purchaser and hardly on the radar of the style conscious. They also found the drive rather uninspiring, the interior lacklustre (did we really expect anything else?) but fuel economy and town driving were plus points. Hardly exciting stuff but when you’re 21 and struggling; considering Sophie’s track record, this was a feeling of joy. A car that works, easy on the pocket and handles Macdonald’s Drive-Thru’s just as easily as the route to work or the shopping mall. She’s not a high mileage driver. 

Let’s close in a little on Nissan’s World Car. Similar to the Corolla in global reach, where does the interest of such cars lie? They are everywhere and nowhere; probably on most streets yet as anonymous as they come. 

Overall, the look is cute, cuddly, even? Nigel, the sharp suited, young finance under-manager may glance at Sophie more than once: not her car. For one who can’t draw, this is how my rendition might look. Almost rainbow shaped in its DLO, the Micra is as unfussy as it gets. There’s no pomp, no aggression, not much in the way of adornment either; that flourish at the doors bottom being the sole change in metal pressing.

Talking of pressing – Wheels: yes, four; all have seen the sharp side of a kerb. Can the design be anymore generic? The back lights are clear, clean; as curvaceous as a light cluster could be. The ribbed roof is not just a talking point (to someone) but also a strengthening aid. This featherweight bolide tips the scales at around one tonne. 

Summing up, this horseless carriage is a plain Jane, a five door jelly mould that is perfectly acceptable for someone such as Sophie. Should young Nigel have bought this car for exactly the same reasons, no doubting he would receive as much stick as an SUV driver caught up in a vegan, world saving pedestrian rally.

Am I defending the Micra? Well, only insofar it will suit Sophie until she acquires that white Range Rover Sport she craves. Then I’ll inform her of all the upsides of driving a decent town car that the industry now seems to ignore along with vagaries of heaving trucks through drive-thru’s, which of course she will not listen to. Am I glad not to be twenty one, again…?

Author: Andrew Miles

Beyond hope there lie dreams; after those, custard creams?

9 thoughts on “Body In White”

    1. yes, I wonder, my first car was a 1960 Fiat 500,
      making the Micra a paragon of solidity and sophistication.
      the Fiat didn’t last long, I was all Driver! and No mechanic.
      the next was the cheapest car I could find, a 1940 Buick
      Straight 8, it only lasted a few weeks, demolished in a
      head-on with no seat belts.

  1. Good morning, Andrew, and chapeau! You have identified just about the only interesting design detail on the otherwise terminally dreary K13 Micra. I’m referring to those curved pressings in the roof, a subtle detail that had wholly escaped my attention before now. Sophie has helpfully allowed a build-up of dirt to highlight them on her car, otherwise they would have been difficult to photograph.

    The K13 Micra managed the unusual trick of looking like a predecessor rather than successor to the K12, watering down the latter’s distinctive detailing to the point of anonymity. It was a cynical ’emerging markets’ product that was in no respect an advance on the K12. The best one can say of it was that it provided reliable transport and is, apparently, pretty robust.

    As to poor Sophie, my heart goes out to her for her torrid introduction to the world of driving. Having a prang in your first car it pretty much a rite of passage for new drivers, but Sophie deserves some better luck now and I wish her all the best.

  2. I should have added that I spotted your subtle reference to the very esoteric TV advertisement for the K12 Micra:

    That advertisement was directed by David Lynch, of Twin Peaks fame. For the K13, David Brent would have been a more appropriate choice…

  3. Ah Micras
    I learnt to drive in a two-tone gold and brown pre-facelift K10 circa 1990 (David Dolphin Driving School,Darlington) .

    Effortless and forgiving for a learner driver, and in retrospect pretty stylish, though my appreciation for Japanese cars back then was very low.

    Of all the Micras, the most characterful must be the K10 March SuperTurbo, wringing everything possible outof the 930cc engine with both a turbo AND a supercharger

  4. There’s another moral to this story too, be careful where you buy your cars from. We’ve had 2 Aygos and 3 Yaris’s in our family and all very reliable. We did buy them new but kept them between 3-5 years, some with quite high mileages. There are some dodgy dealers out there.

  5. Sadly, Sophie has never taken a Japanese plunge. Her Yaris would have been French ( though she would have been better-off fixing any problems rather than swapping it for a Citroen) and her Micra is made in Indonesia (?)
    Buying four cars in four years suggests that Sophie has money to burn.

  6. Thanks Andrew, I enjoyed that and the subject carries resonance.

    Our daughter resident in Witney these days made a trip back to Sheffield to buy her first car based on the hope of a better deal in the desolate North. For some reason I was not involved in the buying process – probably wise – and she and her mother returned with a white K13 Micra.

    A good choice for likely reliability and ease of driving it has indeed been pain free to run for the year she has had it, the only problem being some rear wiper comedy due to the over long replacement blade fitted by the dealer trying to embed itself in the hatch spoiler.

    Of course it doesn’t carry any pretension of sportiness but earned respect at Christmas when it carried four of us from Witney to the Bombay Sapphire Gin Distillery in Andover for a tour and tasting. Highly recommended, especially if you can dodge driving duties, and the Micra was comfortable and neither asked nor gave quarter on the motorway.

    There’s also a nice circular motif for the HVAC and ICE controls which lends some interest to the interior.

    I’d love to embed some pictures of thee distillery which has a very interesting greenhouse – at my skill level it will have to be a link

    Plenty of Range Rover Sports around Witney should Sophie fancy a trip.

    Thanks again Andrew

  7. Morning Andrew

    I recall having driving lessons in a Micra but have never owned one. I did have a few “bargain basement” vehicles in the early days so I have some sympathy for poor Sophie though. A bit of a “rite of passage” for most folk I think unless you have money sloshing around somewhere.

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