Top Gear’s guilty pleasures: the K11 Nissan Micra

By ramieza, 30 December 2022

Top Gear’s guilty pleasures: the K11 Nissan Micra

I remember it, like all great milestones in my life, with triple-distilled clarity. My first driving lesson, the day after my 17th birthday. Rory Andrews – driving instructor of saintly patience, also dad of one of my primary school mates – pulls up in his dual-control, mint green K11 Micra. We set off to master the art of not mounting the nearest bollard or lunching his clutch, and there’s a moment. I slip it into third and squeeze the throttle, we surge forward with what felt like rocket-propelled urgency, unleashing all 998cc of pure mayhem, and I was hooked.

You have to remember the sum total of my driving experience at this point was go-karting and occasionally being allowed to change gear for my parents. My frame of reference wasn’t particularly broad, but the Micra could do no wrong. It served me faithfully on the road to true freedom and carried me through my test first time. Two years later, when I had to retake my test due to accruing six points on my license in double quick time, there it was again, a reassuring hand on my shoulder.

And it seems the instincts of my spotty teenage self weren’t too wide of the mark because the K11 has stood the test of time. Latter versions of the Micra have pinballed between being Thai-built crap boxes and Tie fighter lookalikes. The latest version isn’t a bad car in any particular way, it’s just not a particularly good one in any particular way either. One thing’s for sure, none have matched the iconic bubble silhouette of the K11, the reliability and the simplicity.

With a large dollop of hindsight, it was clearly not a sexy car to look at, slow and underwhelming to drive, but at the time it was a mind-blowing engineering achievement that represented the key to my entire future. Whether a car is successful or not depends entirely on your perspective – a lesson worth remembering for any budding car journalists out there, or seasoned ones who’ve forgotten a time when a Micra seemed mighty.