Micra (Auto) vs i20 (Manual) [Petrol]

Verdict: Micra XV (Auto) better than i20 (Manual)

Summary: The Micra comes with a state-of-the-art automatic gearbox for the same price as the i20 Asta with a manual gearbox. That gearbox makes the Micra equally fuel efficient, immensely more drivable and unbelievably fatigue free than the i20. Moreover, Micra offers better seating comfort and stability than i20. Quality too is in the same league as Hyundai if not better and After Sales Service is catching up fast.

Pricing & Features: Comparing identically priced variants, both the cars are extremely well equipped with all the essential features in place. The i20 boasts of a couple of extra gimmicks like rain sensing wipers, fog lamps, parking camera & telescopic steering adjustment. But that cannot compensate for the lack of an automatic gearbox. Features like a parking camera and fog lamps can be fitted in later, an automatic gearbox obviously can’t. As for features like rain sensing wipers how much of an effort are they really going to save as compared to say changing gears?
Its a crying shame that Nissan does not sell lower variants with the CVT gearbox. If the CVT was available in the XL trim, Micra would have been able to compete head-on with Swift VXi and even the Grand i10 Sportz

Why is an Automatic Gearbox so much better?
For 90% of the population, who buy car for commuting rather than cornering, having an automatic gearbox can be as effective in reducing driving fatigue as the big 2 hygiene features - AC & Power Steering. To put things into perspective, the difference between auto and manual car is even greater than that between a geared and automatic scooter. Ergonomically, in a geared scooter you don’t need to take your palms off the handlebar for changing gear. You also don’t need to exercise your hip, knee and ankle joints to operate the clutch. In a manual car you have to do both, whereas in an automatic you have to do neither. You can keep both the hands on the steering wheel at all times and just relax your left foot or use it for left-foot braking if you like. That is what makes automatic cars immensely more suitable for those sensible 90% of us.

Just think of what use an automatic car do for you. It’s significantly easier than a manual car to learn driving. There’s need to master the technique of releasing the clutch without stalling, for some people not getting the hang of it becomes so frustrating that after a while, they give up on driving altogether. Having car driving family members is a highly desirable. Just think of all those supermarket runs, school runs and airport runs that you won’t have to do. You may never need to employ the services of a driver. And, are you really comfortable with your wife and kids travelling on that ‘Activa’ with all those suicidal hooligans, acrobatic rickshawalas and frustrated bus drivers trying to keep their 2/3/4/6/8 wheels on the road, just because she can’t drive?

Check out how a CVT works, by clicking here...

But then, why aren’t automatic cars popular?
Until now, automatics used to be expensive, inefficient, unreliable and jerky, thanks to their ancient technology. But things are starting to change. The Micra has a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Unlike other automatics, in which clutch operation and gear change happens automatically and rather jerkily, the Micra uses a centrifugal clutch and pulley system getting rid of the jerks altogether. End result; it feels just like an automatic scooter to drive.

Fuel efficiency:
As for the question of fuel efficiency, ARAI tests have declared Micra CVT to be the more efficient car. In our tests it was slightly less efficient but overall difference in running costs is still miniscule.

But is Nissan’s after sales service as good as Hyundai’s?
After Sales Service:
Both the brands have worked hard to build their own stellar reputations for quality & reliability over the world. Nissan may be a new brand in the mainstream market here but globally it is 2nd largest Japanese auto manufacturer (even bigger than Honda).
However, Hyundai’s service is more widely available & spares costs are marginally cheaper.

Build Quality:
Hyundai have become the masters of perceived quality. They know exactly how to work those textures and colors to make their cars and especially their interiors feel more premium than they actually are. Nissans on the other hand are made to sustain more abuse and age better. When new, it’s the Hyundai that will be more enticing, but 5 years down the line it will be the Nissan that will still have all the bits and pieces in perfect working order.

But aren’t automatic cars slow?
Both the cars can accelerate from 0-100 kph in 15.7 seconds, but in the i20, that happens only when you get a perfect launch and don’t botch any subsequent gearshifts, whereas in the Micra all you need to do is floor the accelerator to get a perfect start, every time. The i20 is too underpowered for its weight. It requires frequent gear shifting, which makes it a hassle to drive around town. The Micra on the other hand is a born city slicker, just a light prod on the throttle and its intelligent CVT promptly propels it forward, that too while maintaining optimum engine speed for fuel efficiency.

But isn’t Micra a much smaller car than the i20?
Space & Comfort:
The i20 is quite cramped inside in spite of its rather generous external dimensions. Nissan has managed to carve out much better interior space, knee room is much better all round and seating is higher, which gives it better under thigh support, makes it easier to get in and out of and gives better all-round visibility aiding its already stellar maneuverability around town. Albeit as a small consolation, the i20 has managed to eke out a bit more boot space.

The i20 is too softly sprung and has an overly light steering, which makes it nervous over bumps at high speeds and around corners. The Micra too has a light steering, but it has a much better ride-handling balance. It is slightly hard sprung making it much more stable than the i20 at high speeds. It is good, but not exceptional around corners, with understeer kicking in quite early though not as bad as the i20. Also, having both hands dedicated just for steering operation helps in this regard as well.

Both cars are equipped with airbags and ABS, and have achieved outstanding ratings in Euro NCAP, making them one of the safest hatchbacks around.

Related CarComparos:

Micra vs Honda Brio Comparison