Affordable and Fun
We have been test-driving some expensive cars since 2010, but we are also aware that not everybody has the same budget. If you are looking for a commuter, or just a reliable car can take you to work, there are still decent options in the market. Nissan is one of the few manufacturers that offers affordable options for almost $10.000 CAD, called Micra. It is a global success story and there is a reason why it is so successful all over the world. It is affordable, good on gas, small enough you can drive around narrow European and Asian streets. It is one of the cheapest cars we have ever driven as a press car, but surprisingly it is really fun to drive.
Nissan Micra was first released in 1982 and it has been on the market ever since all around the world, with different names, and engine options. For instance, our tester is not the latest generation globally, as fifth-generation Micra is released in Europe in 2017. In Canada, we still get the fourth generation, which has been on the market since 2010. It is available in Canada since 2014 and recently underwent a facelift and it still looks fresh. Our tester is the S model, which only has absolute basic features to keep the price low.
Interesting fact: It is the most affordable race vehicle in Canada, called Micra Cup car. Micra Cup is a race series located in Ontario and Quebec. The drivetrain is exactly the same compared to the street-legal Micra, but there are some crucial suspension upgrades. The race-ready version of Nissan Micra comes with Racing Suspension Kit, 5-point harness, modified (probably straight-piped) exhaust, roll-cage, racing seat, track-oriented brake pads, and wheel/tire combo suitable for track racing. You need to purchase the Micra Cup car to be able to race in the Micra Cup which is around $20.000 CAD.
For more details, please go to https://www.micracup.com/main
Engine and Drivetrain
Let’s start with the heart of Micra, as this is the most surprising part for us. It comes with 1.6 Liter 4 cylinder naturally aspirated engine, which produces 109 horsepower and 107 lb-ft of torque. These numbers may sound low, but the car is so lightweight that we would even say this is a quick car within the speed limits. The engine is tuned to have maximum torque in the low and mid-range, and more than enough to move this tiny car. Our tester comes with a manual transmission, and gear ratios are short. As a small car designed for narrow city roads, this is not surprising. We wish it had 6th gear, it revving almost 4000 rpm on the highway while you are driving at 120 km/h, so that means more engine noise and more fuel consumption. Speaking of fuel consumption, our tests show 8.5L / 100 km city, 6.5L / 100 km highway driving. Overall, it is extremely easy to drive and park it around the city as steering, clutch is soft and low turning radius (4.6 meters) helps in tight corners. It is not a highway cruiser by any means, but short trips are doable and can handle speeds over 100 km/h.
One of the first things we realized when we started driving the Micra is, it feels they shared some parts with its French-European partner Renault. This Micra platform was jointly developed by Nissan and Renault. Steering, shifter, clutch feels exactly driving like Renault Clio. This is definitely not a bad thing, as Clio is also very popular and known as a reliable compact hatchback in Europe, this is how Nissan keeps the costs low when manufacturing the Micra.
The suspension is tuned softly, as expected for a commuter/small hatchback. It isolates big bumps successfully. Not only that, but it is not making weird noises when isolating road imperfections, which is quite surprising for this price range. When you are pushing the Micra to its limits in the corner, it wants to understeer a lot. You can disable the stability control but not the traction control. However, the traction control is not too intrusive. Once you disable the stability control, TCS gets involved a few times and leaves you on your own.
One of the reasons why it easily understeers is the inner tire loses the traction quickly. So definitely not a corner carver by any means. If you like to drive your car spiritedly, you should be more careful and patient when turning at high speeds, as there are tons of body roll and it has higher center of gravity. Base trim Micra comes with tiny 15” wheels and Firestone tires, which are not helping for handling, too. However, comfort-wise, it definitely feels more expensive than its actual price.
Overall interior materials aren’t the greatest, as you would expect from a small hatchback that costs almost $10.000 brand new. There are only hard plastics all around the dashboard, and door panels. The only soft-touch plastic is available in this car the steering wheel. There are also not many features, as this is the base trim. It only has absolutely basic features and whatever is required legally to have in a car. Computer trip, ABS, Traction Control, Front-Side and Curtain Airbags, Electronic Stability Program, Rear-view Camera, and a colored 7” screen which also has Bluetooth connection feature. Yes, there is no air conditioning, no power locks, no remote keyless entry, no electric windows or mirrors. You need to step up to SV trim to have those features. You immediately feel the 1990s vibe when you get inside the Micra S, and we enjoyed the experience of driving it. If you don’t need these features, then you can save a lot of money by choosing the S trim and still be safe, as safety features are exactly the same as the top trim. The only thing needs to be improved about this interior is the seat cloth quality. It feels really cheap, even for a car worth $10.000.
The interior space, legroom, and headroom is one of the best parts about the Micra, regardless of the trim you choose. It offers a larger cabin than the competition. We were able to sit in the back keeping the driving position of the front seat, and our knees were not touching to the seat (6’1″ height), it was close though. It would not be the best option for 4 passengers especially for long trips, but more than enough for daily driving.
Price & Conclusion
Long story short, Nissan offers one of the most affordable cars in Canada. It costs $10.488 if you choose manual transmission as of October 2019. Last year it was cheaper than $10.000 but they added rearview camera and 7″ screen which bumped the price around $500. If you want to get the automatic, which increased the price up to $14,298. Actually, it is a big bump, to be honest, but it also comes with air conditioning, as well as cruise control with steering wheel-mounted controls. If you want everything that is available in a Micra, you need to choose the SR trim, but it costs $17.598 + tax.
When we check the competition, there are a few important differences:
Toyota Yaris: It is a strong contender with proven reliability and good resale value, but it has significantly higher MSRP. In fact, you can get the Micra with Automatic transmission for the same price Yaris with the manual.
Mitsubishi Mirage: It is $500 more expensive than the Micra, and it has worse resale value, fewer cylinders & horsepower, significantly less interior space. However, it comes with a better warranty.
Chevrolet Spark: It is the only option in this class cheaper than the Micra ($9995) in 2019. However, it has a smaller engine with less horsepower, significantly less overall cargo space, legroom, and headroom.
Fiat 500: This is an iconic Fiat model that starts at $22.495. So you can literally get two Micra S for the price of one 500. Although they are in the same segment, their target market is completely different and not comparable to each other.
Our overall takeaway from our Micra test drive is, some people just need to get from A to B. Nissan Micra with the S trim is a great alternative if you are that kind of person. This car is a great example that an affordable car can also be fun at the same time. Of course, you won’t find many features inside, but it offers the most interior space in this price range, as well as a comfortable ride and peppy engine which can easily get you around the city and some short-trips on the highway.
Some of our takeaways are
+ Good fuel economy
+ Peppy engine characteristics
+ Suspension is tuned really well for this price range
Things can be improved
-It needs 6th gear, as gear ratios are short for better acceleration
-Seat cloth material feels cheap
For the most up-to-date and more detailed information, please visit http://www.nissan.ca
Article and Photos by Dan Gunay