A nameplate that is familiar to many drivers of my generation has been resurrected by Nissan – after a hiatus of about 22 years. While the Micra hasn’t been sorely missed, it did find a place in many drivers’ hearts a couple of decades ago as it came to the market here at an affordable price and with a reputation for solid reliability.
And now it’s back.
Pricing: 2015 Nissan Micra
Base price (SV trim): $13,698
Options: $1000 automatic transmission; $500 Convenience package; $135 pearl metallic paint
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $16,833
Nissan’s goal with the Micra is obviously to provide an entry level vehicle, and it comes in (in base trim) under $10,000. Nothing else on the market can compete, and if it’s a cheap car you’re after, the Micra is here to please. You simply can’t beat it, in terms of entry level pricing. My review sample was was the middle trim SV – you can take it up another notch to the top-of-the-line SR which comes pretty loaded up for this model and is priced under $16,000.
The Micra’s styling is joyful. It’s a cute little 5-door hatchback, with plenty of rounded edges which give it a happy, friendly feel. It’s hard not to smile when you look at it, but it’s not out of pity – it’s a cool little ride. The nearest competition might be the Mitsubishi Mirage which, in comparison, is pitiful to look at. The front end of the Micra has Nissan’s corporate styling cues, including the V-Motion grille, and a nice set of headlight pods.
The car’s side is dominated by the two doors, and the tallish profile makes its way around the rear end where the decent, clean styling continues. There’s nothing offensive here, and nothing to really stand out either. A low character crease on the side makes an appearance, but overall, the shape remains basic – which is perfect for a good entry level vehicle. 15-inch rims get wheel covers and are shod with 185/60 tires.
It’s not the end of the world, but the protruding rear camera shroud is definitely tacked onto the rear hatch and was hard to miss every time I looked at it.
You can’t expect the world for this kind of price, and although things continue with the basic theme inside, I was very impressed. Fit and finish was reasonable, and everything I needed was there. Including space. The car’s shape allows for a ton of headroom, and although it’s narrow, it feels quite spacious.
All the basics are powered – door locks, windows and mirrors. The car will auto-lock all four doors once you hit a certain speed and I always found myself ducking Sopranos-style as the auto-lock mechanism is so loud that it sounds more like a gunshot inside the car. The fabric seats, while lacking support, are quite comfortable, and the driver’s side gets a fold-down armrest.
The full-featured steering wheel has buttons for media control, the phone and cruise control. The simple gauge cluster behind it has a surprisingly useful driver information screen. The optional 4.3-inch display in the centre stack handles your sound system and your phone and – a bit shocking at this price – a rearview camera. Nice touch, Nissan! Your stereo can play from AM, FM, CD, USB and auxiliary inputs. The Micra’s climate control is manually dialed-in and there’s air conditioning – something I didn’t have in the last Micra I drove, many years ago.
The car is started with a key, but it has a convenient remote lock/unlock capability.
In the back, there are three seats, each with a seatbelt – the two outboard seating positions get headrests. It’s pretty cramped, but the car’s tall shape allows for good head room. To be honest, leg room is not bad, but when sitting behind my usual front seat position (I’m 5’10”), my knees were touching the front seatback. Some foot room under the seats helps, and of course, the front seats can be moved forward a tad to accommodate rear passengers.
My kids actually fit in the back quite nicely, and there weren’t too many complaints. If you need to put car seats in, the Micra offers two sets of LATCH anchors.
Small cabins like the Micra’s need all the help they can get when it comes to putting your stuff somewhere. And Nissan did pretty well here. There are a couple of cupholders and a device-friendly slot (along with a 12V plug and the USB connection) in the centre console, and a third cupholder at the back as well.
The small trunk (408 litres) is definitely big enough for grocery trips and the like. There’s quite a lip to lift over, but combined with the hard parcel shelf, it provides plenty of storage space. Those rear seats fold down – not quite flat – in a 60/40 split. Do this, and you get a highly useful 819 litre space to work with.
Under the Hood
You won’t find much excitement here. A 1.6-litre 4-cylinder, working hard to put out 109 horsepower and 107 lb.ft of torque, motivates this tiny front-wheel driver through an old-school 4-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy isn’t the best in the world – it’s rated at only 8.8 L/100 km (27 US mpg) in the city and 6.6 L/100 km (36 US mpg) on the highway. However I managed to average 7 L/100 km (34 US mpg) with absolutely no effort to conserve fuel – as a matter of fact, I probably drove it with a heavier foot than usual. The fuel tank holds 41 litres.
The tiny 2375-pound Micra is surprisingly satisfying to drive. I found it quite responsive around town, and it will jump to attention off the line. No issues with getting into or keeping up with the traffic. Is it fast? Of course not. But I never found myself needing more power to commute with. The 4-speed transmission, while down a ratio or two by today’s standards, is smooth and intelligent enough. For everyday runabout purposes, the Micra is just fine. An extra gear or two would help with the fuel efficiency and would also help make passing manoeuvres a little quicker, but it’s fine.
The ride is certainly not luxurious. It’s damped well enough, but it has some rough edges too, lurching around over road irregularities – especially at lower speeds. In addition, when on slightly rougher patches, I’d constantly hear the foam tire tool tray in the trunk rattling around – it got really irritating, to be honest. Handling is fine. The electronic steering is calibrated for ease of driving and while the car leans into corners quite a bit, it’s still fun enough to point in a new direction and it will competently take on the curves. We found the car felt a bit nervous and floaty at speeds higher than 110 km/h on the highway.
Visibility is fine, except for out the back where the tall rear headrests will get into your view. A car at this price level isn’t going to be as quiet as a Buick or a Lexus. There is definitely noticeable engine noise when you’re on the gas, and it will get thrashy once you let the RPMs build. You’ll also find the suspension and tires are a bit noisy, and once you get on the highway, you can throw some wind noise in too. But again, it’s not bad, and frankly I was impressed with the whole driving experience for a vehicle at this price level.
What Nissan has here is a great little urban car. Sure there are some toys and features I might have missed, but when it comes to making it work on a daily basis on a budget, there’s nothing truly glaring that’s missing in the Micra. I don’t know anyone who couldn’t make it work in this car. And for a starting price under $10,000, that says a lot. Nissan has done a good job in offering a well-balanced entry-level car for a reasonable price.
WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) wasn’t high. She didn’t find it very appealing, due to the noisy driving experience and she definitely commented on the unlit vanity mirrors and the smallish trunk which limited her ability to shop. But she loved parking it and she was duly impressed by the price.
Sure, you might want more toys, or more power, or more space. But if you’ve got a limited amount of money you care to spend on your ride, you might find that the Nissan Micra offers a lot. Maybe even a lot more than you thought.
Disclosure: Vehicle was provided by Nissan Canada.
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