Engine: 1.6L four-cylinder, 109 HP, 107 lb-ft.
Transmission: Five-speed manual
Fuel economy (US): 27 MPG city equivalent, 36 MPG highway equivalent, 34.6 MPG observed average
Fuel economy (CDN): 8.6 L/100 km city, 6.6 L/100 km, 6.8 L/100 km observed
Price (CDN): $11,398 base and as tested price after destination charges.
Believe it or not, a sub-$10,000 brand new car exists in the land of colored money and strong beer (Canada).
Starting at a price of $9,998 before destination charges, Canadians are able to pick up a brand new 2015 Nissan Micra S. It’s true that after destination charges are added the price jumps to $11,398, but converted to present-day American dollars, that’s still only $9,673.
That makes this the cheapest new car available in North America. And to see how it functions as an everyday car, I was actually able to acquire a base 2015 Nissan Micra S. Yes, a manufacturer gave us access to a stripped out, base model. Hallelujah!
This is Sparta(n)!
So what does this price tag get them? Well, once again, not much. Missing from the Micra S are air conditioning, power anything, a height adjustable seat and a telescopic steering wheel. The windows open by a crank and adjusting the passenger mirror means leaning across the car to move the toggle switch manually. At least the car is small and that switch is mounted inside.
SEE ALSO: 2015 Nissan Micra Review – Video
Some cost savings measures are found in other areas as well. Inside, some trim pieces have been omitted like the ones that would surround the inside of the rear lift gate. This leaves exposed metal visible and the high mounted third taillight illuminates the cargo area when on the brakes at night. A few exterior body panels also didn’t line up properly on my test car, notably the hood and driver’s door.
But there are some features equipped to this base Micra that I wasn’t expecting. There is a full fuel/trip computer, an AM/FM/CD/AUX four-speaker audio system and one touch/three flash turn signals.
Powerful for the Price
I also wouldn’t expect to get any semblance of power at this price point, as proven by pricier budget options like the Mitsubishi Mirage and Chevrolet Spark. But Nissan proved me wrong by equipping the Micra with a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine developing 109 hp and 107 lb-ft of torque. Now 109 HP isn’t going to set the world on fire, but with a mere 2,302 lbs. to motivate, it’s actually not bad. It’s a better power-to-weight ratio than the Chevrolet Cruze.
The Micra S comes standard with a five-speed manual transmission that some may criticize, but I prefer to think of it as a “throwback” as it’s not only old as hell, but also requires long throws between gears. Like an economy car from the mid-1990s, gear engagement with the manual transmission is smooth and rubbery. The clutch engagement point is easy to find, but requires some practice to modulate optimally. Continuing with the throwback theme, a four-speed automatic is available on the S trim but inflates the price by over $3,000 as air conditioning and cruise control are included in that upgrade.
The Micra gets up to and maintains highway speeds without issue. A lot of this has to do with the car’s short gearing that has the engine spinning near 4,000 RPM at 80 MPH. That leads to less than stellar fuel economy ratings as the manual equipped Micra is officially rated at 8.6 L/100 km city and 6.6 L/100 km highway in Canada. To save you time, that translates to 27.4 MPG city and 35.6 MPG highway. During my time with the Micra, I averaged 34.6 MPG, which is impressive as the car quite often carried four adult occupants and drove in severe wind.
Huff and Puff and Blow the Micra Down
Oh and speaking of wind, the Micra hates it. Being relatively tall, light and equipped with vague steering, the Mirca is prone to wander on the highway. Add in moderate crosswinds and the car requires full attention from the driver. Ramp those wind speeds up high enough to require an official warning from the National Weather Service and the Micra begins to get tossed around like a bottle of peach schnapps at prom.
When an inland hurricane is not approaching, the Micra drives like any other small car. It’s very easy to drive, maneuverable and fits in virtually any parking space. The front disc, rear drum braking setup works fine as do the 185/65R15 tires. To keep the costs as low as they are, there is minimal sound deadening and lots of noise penetrates its way into the cabin at any speed.
I had the Micra over the holiday season that included many family get-togethers. On a few of these occasions I offered to carpool some other family members. Although a little skeptical at first glance of the Micra, we found that four full-sized adults fit in the 150.7-inch long car with room to spare. Thanks to 33.9-inches of rear seat legroom and 38.4-inches of headroom none of us found had to make concessions to other occupants to ensure we all fit.
SEE ALSO: Nissan Micra Not US-Bound
Comfort from the seats is actually quite good for both front and rear seat passengers as well. And despite the cargo area only holding 14.4 cubic feet of stuff, we were able to fit presents, food and luggage back there without incident. In fact, due to the slightly recessed load floor, the four sidewalls worked great in ensuring none of our parcels jostled around during the drive.
Being the start of the winter season I was pleasantly surprised that the Micra warms up quickly, the complete opposite I found last winter in the Versa Note. Outward visibility in the Micra is good, but rearward visibility is partially blocked by the massive back seat headrests.
The New vs. Used Conundrum
The Micra proves to be a fairly capable car with some flaws, which once again raises the $10,000 question; is it better to buy a New Micra or something used like a 2009 Toyota Corolla? Well, it depends on your priorities. The Corolla is a superior car and even in base form, comes better equipped Then again, used cars come with their own list of issues that aren’t easy to spot, and that can be a big risk unless the car is still under warranty.
The Micra on the other hand comes with no wear and tear and a three-year, 60,000 KM comprehensive and five-year 100,000 KM powertrain warranty. All Micras also feature the added safety of stability control, something that may be missing on a 2009 Corolla depending on how it was equipped from the factory.
The Micra offers an attractive alternative for Canadians who want an especially cheap (emphasis on that word), basic, worry-free transportation device. Americans will have to wait a bit longer, although I’m certain Nissan USA is watching how the Micra performs in Canada. In its first partial year, the Micra more than doubled the Mirage’s sales.
More importantly, if the choice were mine between the Micra S and the current American low-price champion, the Nissan Versa Sedan S, I would easily choose the Micra.