The name’s the same, writes David Duffy, but the game has changed entirely for Nissan’s Micra supermini.

Out goes Sunderland-built funky design and in comes Indian-built play-it-safe-styling.

This little car is off on a big mission with sales planned in 160 countries and an aim of nothing short of global domination.

Nissan itself describes the launch of the car as opening ‘an entirely new chapter’. And that is crystal clear the moment you get inside the car.

The fourth generation car is quite unlike any Micra I have driven and delivers an entirely different driving feel to its predecessors.

After almost 30 years and 5.65 million sales, this Micra is the first not be built in either Japan or Europe. Instead, production has shifted to four plants in China, Thailand, India and Mexico. Examples destined for the UK will come from Nissan’s Chennai plant in India.

Along with the switch in production sites, the stop-and-stare styling of its predecessor has been replaced by anonymous rounded looks – a real surprise considering the arrival of recent highly-styled models like the Juke.

The interior fares little better with lots of hard plastic on the dashboard and doors. But on the upside there is plenty of space in the rear and its boot space comfortably matches its rivals.

The test car was fitted with a 1.2-litre petrol engine putting out 79 horsepower emitting a three-cylinder burble that grows as the revs rise.

On the upside, the Micra’s electrically-assisted steering is light and accurate, and while it makes parking a doddle, it feels light on the motorway.

Having said that, the little car positively revelled in a 200-mile day trip that left driver and passenger completely relaxed.

The car has clearly been designed to be comfortable and soaks up bumpy roads with ease, though it lacks the sharp response of some of its rivals.

With its quest for global sales, there is little doubt that even if the interior is less sophisticated than in the past, the mechanical side of the car will be tough.

And it is frugal enough, with a combined consumption figure of 56.5mpg. The arrival of a new supercharged version of the 1.2-litre petrol engine boosts power to 98 horsepower, with CO2 levels falling to 95g/km. There will not be a diesel version.

Equally simple is the model line-up, with just one five-door body style, the two engine options and two transmission choices – either a five-speed manual or a continuously variable transmission.

Also on the plus side, the entry price is lower than the outgoing model range and its level of equipment is decent. All Micra models have electronic stability programme fitted, along with front, side and curtain airbags, head restraints in the rear and anti-lock brakes. Automatic speed-sensitive door locking is standard.

So it is well equipped, but then so are its top-quality, sharper-handling, more stylish – and often cheaper – competitors.

Auto facts Nissan Micra 1.2 Acenta

  • Price: £11,150
  • Insurance group: Two
  • Fuel consumption (Combined): 56.5mpg
  • Top speed: 106mph
  • Length: 378cm/147.6in
  • Width: 167.5cm/66in
  • Luggage capacity: 9.3 cu ft
  • Fuel tank capacity: 9 gallons/41 litres
  • CO2 emissions: 115g/km
  • Warranty: 3 years/60,000 miles