Canada’s cheapest car put to the Kenzie test
What’s it like to live with Canada’s cheapest car, the Nissan Micra?
Review: What’s it like to live with Canada’s cheapest car, the Nissan Micra?
Buying any new car is always a balance of what you want, what you need, and what you can afford.
If “need” and “afford” top your list of priorities, the 2016 Nissan Micra ought to be on your shopping radar.
The Micra starts at $9,988, and new cars don’t get more affordable than that.
So, what does your ten grand get you?
Let’s find out.
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First, the Micra is a cute little thing, at least in my view.
The tallish body promises decent interior space, which apart from the overly optimistic three rear seatbelts, is generally delivered. You need three really thin people to jam them all in the back.
That interior, while hardly luxurious, seems to be decently built from reasonably durable-looking materials.
I found the driver’s seat comfortable, although the standard tilt-but-not-telescopic steering wheel meant a slightly less-than-ideal driving position. The wheel ends up a fraction too far away when I had the seat adjusted for best pedal access.
Lady Leadfoot, by contrast, needed the seat much closer and cranked as far up as possible (our tester had a height-adjustable seat). Doing so also changes the tilt of the seat cushion which, for her, left an uncomfortable gap in lumbar support.
All of this reinforces that no amount of critical review, positive or negative, can replace the need to at least test-sit a car for yourself.
The Micra drives and handles reasonably well, at least partially because it shares its platform with other more expensive Nissan products, hence it isn’t built down to the price.
That essential dynamic goodness is also why Nissan Canada has used the Micra for its own racing series, the Micra Cup, which advances from a Quebec-only engagement last year to include Ontario this year.
Wheels’ own Emily Atkins will be tackling the first event of the season, a bit later this spring.
The Micra’s 109 horsepower engine won’t win any stoplight races. On the Micra Cup race track though, everyone’s the same, so no biggie.
And even in road trim, the car gets out of its own way, and is reasonably quiet while moving along at common highway speeds.
This car is cheap to run. Its Transport Canada fuel consumption ratings of 8.6 L per 100 km city / 6.6 highway are easily achievable in the real world.
So, we have “afford” and “need” pretty much covered.
What about the “want” factor?
Well, about that price. To get that MSRP under ten grand, you must forego such fripperies as an automatic transmission and air conditioning.
And if you just want the auto, it is only a four-speed ‘box, and it comes bundled with air conditioning and cruise control, so that one tick on the order form costs you a substantial $3,460 extra.
So far, we’re talking the base S trim level here.
The one-up SV, which starts at $13,848, adds some interior and exterior upgrades, that air-con/cruise combo, six-way adjustable driver’s seat, Bluetooth, power windows and locks with remote control.
My test car was the range-topping SR ($15,988, plus an automatic for an extra $1,000). The SR’s main upgrades are further interior and exterior niceties, including that six-way height-adjustable driver’s seat, larger tires on alloy rims, AM-FM-CD stereo, and a centre information display that includes a backup camera. Definitely in the “want” category.
So while I did rather enjoy driving the little Micra, if you are getting higher on the “want” scale and into the mid-teens on the price range , the appeal starts to dim a little. Even right there in Nissan’s own showroom, cars like the larger Versa Note or even Sentra start to show up, not to mention a host of strong competitors from other manufacturers.
So the Micra is a worthy little car which might be the best value going, as long as you can keep your “wants” in check.
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2016 NISSAN MICRA
PRICE/AS TESTED: $9,988/$16,988
ADD-ONS: Freight and PDI.: $1,600.
TYPE: Four-door five-passenger sub-compact hatchback.
PROPULSION: Front-wheel drive.
CARGO (litres/cu. ft.): 407.8/14.4 rear seat up; 819.5 / 28.9 rear seat folded
ENGINE: 1.6 litre inline four, dual overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder, variable valve timing.
POWER/TORQUE: 109 hp @ 6,000 r.p.m. / 107 lb-ft. @ 4,400 r.p.m.
TRANSMISSION: Base — five-speed manual; as-tested — four-speed automatic.
FUEL CONSUMPTION (L/100 km): Manual — 8.6 city, 6.6 hwy.; automatic — 8.8 city, 6.6 hwy.
BRAKES: Front disc / rear drum with ABS and Brake Assist
TIRES: Base S / SV: P185/60R15 all-season; SR (as tested): P185/55R16 all-season.
STANDARD FEATURES (SR model as tested): Air conditioning, split-folding rear seat back, six-way adjustable driver’s seat, power windows, mirrors, and locks with remote; Bluetooth and USB connectivity, cruise control, steering wheel audio and cruise controls, AM-FM-CD audio system with 4.3-inch colour display, rear-view monitor, leather-wrapped steering wheel, six airbags
ACCESSIBILITY: Good for such a small car.
COMPETITION: Chevrolet Spark, Ford Fiesta, Honda Fit, Hyundai Accent, Kia Rio, Mazda2, Mitsubishi Mirage, Toyota Yaris.
WHAT’S BEST: Surprisingly good ride and handling; very easy to drive around town; cheapest new car you can buy in Canada yet with decent basic specification
WHAT’S WORST: Four-speed automatic option below class-leading standard, same with the horsepower level; you have to move well up the price scale to get popular equipment like air conditioning; driver seat comfort depends
WHAT’S INTERESTING: That they could take a basic economy car and make a pretty entertaining race car out of it
LOOKS: I think it’s kinda cute
INTERIOR: Tall body gives better interior space than you might expect; trim quality good for the price
PERFORMANCE: Willing if not quick
TECHNOLOGY: Most of what you need, maybe not all you might want
WHAT YOU’LL LIKE ABOUT THIS CAR: Entertaining yet practical, good value for the money.
WHAT YOU WON’T LIKE ABOUT THIS CAR: The low base price might make your friends might think, geez, all you could afford was Canada’s cheapest car.
Freelance writer Jim Kenzie is a regular contributor to Toronto Star Wheels. For this story, the vehicle was provided by the manufacturer. To reach him, email email@example.com and put his name in the subject line.