Mexican-built subcompact remains ultra-affordable, but more importantly, ultra capable.
When the Nissan Micra launched in 2015, it was heavily advertised as Canada’s cheapest brand new vehicle, priced at a tick under $10k. Now, three years on, the small hatch is still stickered at $9,988. In other words, the Mexican-built subcompact remains ultra-affordable, but more importantly, ultra capable.
Although Europe and other markets have received a completely redesigned platform, which premiered at the Paris Auto Show last year, it has been confirmed there are no plans for a Canadian import anytime soon. The current K13 chassis is still experiencing a successful run on home soil, and is even the star of its own Micra Cup race series that just capped off a third season in the fall.
The vehicle looks pretty much the same from launch, offered in three trims: the entry S, middle tier SV, and the grade-topping SR DARPAN was loaned for evaluation. Fully loaded means the car includes body-coloured mirrors and rear spoiler (initially the roof wing came black), a chrome exhaust tip, fog lights, side skirts and slightly tinted headlight housings – the last item is ever so subtle, and almost unnoticeable unless you compare a lower model side by side.
Arguably the biggest reason to upgrade from an S is the addition of power door locks and windows, but whether it’s worth the $4,060 premium is ultimately up to the buyer. Full disclosure, I own a mid-grade Micra, and it was for me.
Other additional interior features are a Bluetooth hands-free phone system (SV), steering wheel mounted infotainment controls (SV), leather steering wheel (SR), seats with contrast stitching (SR), a 4.3-inch colour screen integrating a RearView Monitor backup camera display (SR), and a USB audio/charging port (SR).
At the end of the day, though, it is still an economy car, evidenced by things like the omission of a cabin air filter despite there being a chamber to house one, and the interesting decision to no longer throw in a cargo cover as standard to shield valuables from prying eyes.
In my opinion, the Micra’s best attribute is the 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine. While output is rated at a seemingly low 109 horsepower and 107 lb-ft of torque, the curb weight is sub-2,400 pounds (read: lightweight) and proprietary Twin Continuously Variable Valve Timing Control technology allows for some high-revving fun. My press tester was equipped with the fuel-thrifty four-speed automatic transmission, but to really squeeze the most thrills out of the hatch, the five-speed manual is a must.
Nissan says engineers performed specific tuning for Canadian roads, like adding a rear sway bar that’s missing from its overseas counterparts and tightening up the steering. The vehicle truly does shine in the handling department and I equally enjoyed tackling city roads and windy freeways, although the addition of a sixth gear would be nice to eliminate some of the high-rpm buzziness at higher speeds and improve fuel economy. I averaged around 9.0 L/100 km during my stint behind the wheel but I know lower consumption is easily achievable using a lighter foot. A full tank of the recommended 87-octane gas in the Lower Mainland costs around $45.
As it stands, the Micra really doesn’t have much competition. It seats five versus the Spark’s four, has one extra cylinder over the Mitsubishi Mirage, and does it all starting at less than $10,000. Whether you’re a student, on a budget or just enjoy Euro-inspired small cars, make sure to add this to your shopping list.
Motor: 1.6-litre four cylinder
Horsepower: 109 @ 6,000 rpm
Torque (lb-ft): 107 @ 4,400 rpm
Gearbox: Four-speed automatic transmission
Lay out: Front engine, front-wheel drive
Fuel economy: 9.0 L/100 km mixed city/highway