Nissan Micra Tekna 1.5 dCi 90 (Price, as tested, £21,720) 

The Northern Echo:

ON THE ROAD: THE Nissan Micra was the first car I ever tested. I remember being impressed, but feeling like it didn't do my street cred any good.

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It was kind of cute, but I couldn't see people of my age (then) warming to it.

Well much water has passed under the bridge since then and there have been several iterations, all of which have sold in large numbers.

Relatively cheap and decent to drive, they perhaps appealed more to the head than the heart.

This latest model, therefore, is a radical departure.

Essentially, just the name remains the same and this time there's much more of an emotional tug.

It looks great, which is always a good start. Distinctive and with a real sense of purpose - look at all those creases and sharp angles - it genuinely makes you want to get inside.

Under the bonnet you can have a petrol of diesel engine. Having tested the latter I'd be interested to see how the former went.

While the diesel performed well when at cruising speed, it never felt like it was in the right gear around town. When the gearshift indicator said you needed to be in fourth, it would judder and I'd have to bring it back down to third.

That aside, it provided for a decent ride on smooth roads, though uneven surfaces were a bit more of an issue.

It's easy to manoeuvre in an urban environment and while it's not enough to worry you, it's not as dialled in when you want to get your foot down on a bit of clear country road. That said, it takes corners in its stride and its lower centre of gravity means it hangs on well.

ON THE INSIDE: THE new Micra is not as easy to see out of as the old car, but I found there was plenty of adjustment for me in the driving seat to make the best of the situation.

The interior is really well designed, with flair and functionality in equal measure. It's laid out well, with clear dials and buttons and switches that do what you expect.

Our car came with synthetic leather inserts and trim that broke up the more mundane areas. There was also leather on the steering wheel, gearknob and parking brake - although that is not standard across the range.

WHAT DO YOU GET: STANDARD equipment includes remote central door locking, intelligent ride control, hill start assist, lane departure warning, intelligent lane intervention, traffic sign recognition, NissanConnect 7ins touchscreen navigation and entertainment system, Bose personal audio pack with four speakers, AM/FM/CD audio system with DAB, rear view camera and rear parking sensors.

In addition, you get USB port with iPod connection, Bluetooth, Advance Drive Assist Display, 17ins alloys, electric folding, heated door mirrors, rear roof spoiler, rear privacy glass, soft-touch upper dash, interior chrome door handles, leather steering wheel, synthetic leather inserts on front door pad and dashboard, intelligent key and start push button, steering wheel mounted audio controls, stop/start system, front electric windows, split-folding rear seats, front fog lights, halogen headlights and automatic air conditioning.

HOW PRACTICAL IS IT: WHILE there were few complaints about room in the front, sitting in the back was a slightly different proposition. Leg and headroom here isn't the best and while carrying children isn't an issue, carrying older teenager or adults on a regular basis might cause a problem or two. The doors open wide enough to make getting the kids in and out easy.

The boot has 300 litres of space, rising to 1,004 with the spit-folding seats down.

RUNNING COSTS: NISSAN say you should get a shade over 80mpg from our diesel engined car. We managed 65.5mpg. CO2 emissions are 92g/km.

VERDICT: A stylish departure, but rivals are better to drive

ALTERNATIVES: VW Polo, Ford Fiesta