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Nissan Micra: Love or hate?

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The Nissan Micra turns 30 this year. Motoring writer Maria McCarthy explores our love-hate relationship with the mini-motor.

Love hate Nissans

Back in 1983 we were watching Taggart, Tenko and The Tube.

Spandau Ballet and Kajagoogoo were topping the charts.

And motorists were driving the first ever Nissan Micras off car showroom forecourts.

Micra cost £4,150 in 1983

According to Rupert Pontin, chief cars editor at motor valuation site Glass's, a new 1.0 GL 3-door Nissan Micra would have cost £4,150 in June 1983.

This is at a time when a pint of milk cost 18p, a loaf of bread 45p, and the average salary was £6,087.

Now, in 2013, the car is celebrating its 30th birthday, and any 1983 models still on the road today can be picked up for around £350.

Pictured above is the second generation Nissan Micra, released in 1992.

Learning to drive in a Nissan Micra

Love hate Nissans - 2

And the original Nissan Micra, pictured left, will always have a special place in my heart as I learned to drive and passed my test in one.

And, as its a popular car with driving schools, many of my friends learned to drive in one as well.

"I was a very nervous learner," admits Julia, 41, a full-time mum from Honiton, Devon.

"So the fact that my instructor's Nissan Micra looked friendly and safe and was a cute aqua colour made me feel less intimidated."

Still popular with driving schools

In fact, the Micra remains popular with driving schools to this day.

My niece Aisling, 21, a journalist from Dublin learned to drive in one, and was given a second-hand Micra by her father Donal, a car mechanic, when she passed her test.

"My Nissan Micra was my baby," she says. "It was a 1997 model and a bit battered but she never let me down.

"My dad got it for me because he said they're a good choice."

Popular in the car trade

Nissan Micras do tend to be popular among those in the car trade.

"They're usually low mileage due to being owned by the older generation, and are reliable, sturdy and easy to work on," says car mechanic Samantha Mitchell-Charles.

The owner of Samantha's Auto Services in Exmouth, Devon, adds: "It is strange how they aren't seen as desirable cars, in the way that a VW Golf of the same age would be."

I know what she means - there's no getting away from the fact that Micras are seen as uncool.

Although, the third generation Micra released in 2002, and particulalrly the convertible version from 2005, both pictured below, aren't that bad looking at all.

Love hate Nissans - 3

Nissan Micra 'uncool' image

This "uncool" tag may be because another popular response in a discussion about Nissan Micras is: "Oh, my nan has one of those!" 

They're also seen as "girlie" cars, and in particular, belonging to the sort of women who give their cars names.

For example, Sali Gray, a business coach from Gloucester and the driving force behind the charity Pink Car Rally, calls her pink Nissan Micra "Blossom". 

So it's easy to see how the image of the Nissan Micra might not be particularly prestigious (can you imagine James Bond driving one? No, thought not).

Longevity & low running costs

Love hate Nissans - 4

But despite laughs over its looks - which may have lessened following the 2010 release of the fourth and latest generation Micra, pictured left, many appreciate the Micra's longevity and low running costs.

"We bought our Nissan Micra six years ago," says Joanna, 49, a counsellor from Tunbridge Wells, Kent.

"It was about eight years old at the time and we were the second owners.

"The car had a full service history and we had it serviced every year.

"This February it passed its MOT after £300 worth of work – well worth it for another year of motoring." 

Are Micras the new Morris Minors?

Dave Richards, editor of Classic Car Weekly and an ex-car mechanic, has the final word on the Nissan Micra.

"I've always said that they are the new Morris Minor – a sturdy, classless, reliable workhorse.

"Everyone's life should have, or have had, a Micra in it."

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