UNTIL recently, it's probably fair to say the Nissan Micra was not the most attractive car on the planet.
But, since driving a second-generation version around Ireland's Ring of Kerry in the early 90s, I've always had a soft spot for it.
And, it's proved a popular evergreen - more than seven million have been sold worldwide since launch in 1983, with over 3.5 million of those in Europe.
But now, it's suddenly become cool. How do I know? Because I have a teenage son. He always takes an interest in what I'm driving, always comes for a drive and, if it's considered cool enough, will suggest cruising around the local sea front. After a trip out in the Micra, he suggested we cruise the seafront on the way home.
"In a Nissan Micra," I asked. "I like it, it's pretty cool," he answered. We cruised the esplanade. And it wasn't even darkâ¦
That's because the latest fifth-generation Micra is a massive progression from the one it replaced. Longer, wider and lower than ever before, it's also more stylish and better equipped - it's a game-changer.
Key to that new appeal is its dynamic, purposeful design. It looks good - much better than its rather dowdy predecessors. And, that striking design continues on the inside the high-quality and well-thought out cabin.
Two-tone soft-touch materials are standard across the range and, thanks to outstanding packaging, the five-door-only body shell boasts best-in-class ergonomics for front seat occupants, and best-in-class elbow, shoulder and kneeroom for those in the back.
A rake/reach-adjustable steering is standard. Nissan claims a 6ft 8in tall driver can fit comfortably behind the wheel - as can a driver of 4ft 11in. I'm a fairly large 6ft 2in and found the comfort spot very easily.
Boot capacity is 300 litres, which expands to 1,004 litres when the 60:40 split rear seats are folded down.
There's a decent amount of storage in the cabin too. Larger items can be placed in the centre console ahead of the gear selector. The 10-litre glove box has been specifically shaped to take a 2.0-litre drinks bottle, while bottles up to 1.5-litres will fit in the front door bins.
Alongside a new N-Sport version, there are Nissan's familiar five grades of Visia, Visia+, Acenta, N-Connecta and Tekna.
All come with premium detailing including a D-shaped multi-function steering wheel and chrome finishing on the door handles and air vents.
They also have a high level of standard equipment, including speed limiter, three ISOFIX child seat mounts, including one on the front passenger seat, hill start assist and a tyre pressure monitoring system. There's also 16-inch alloy wheels, privacy glass, front fog lamps, powered/heated door mirrors, rear parking sensors, interior ambient lightning, automatic air conditioning, auto headlights and wipers, and a BOSE Personal audio, developed specifically for the Micra, with speakers in the driver's head rest.
Many of the Micra's features are controlled using the infotainment system, located high up in the centre of the dashboard. NissanConnect, standard on Tekna and N-Connecta grades, features a seven-inch full-colour multi-touch display, DAB digital radio, satnav and smartphone-style apps.
Every Micra comes with six airbags as standard but the Tekna grade comes with a Safety+ Pack, which adds Intelligent Lane Intervention, Intelligent Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Recognition, Traffic Sign Recognition and High Beam Assist to the car's specification.
New 1.0-litre IG-T 99bhp and 1.0-litre DIG-T 115bhp turbocharged petrol engines were added to the existing 1.0-litre 71ps naturally-aspirated petrol engine and the 1.5-litre 89bhp diesel, and they're sure to prove popular, especially with those who spend most of their time in the urban environment.
However, the 1.5-litre diesel remains the most economical in the range, officially returning over 80mpg. I managed over 60mpg, which is still impressive. With its 220Nm of torque, it's also the version you'll want on the motorway, where it is refined and composed.
Even off the major roads it handles well due to Active Ride and Active Trace Control electronic systems form the Qashqai. The first uses the engine and brakes to smooth out larger bumps, while the latter adjusts the brakes on the inside of the vehicle, and the wheels on the outside, to keep it on the driver's chosen line.