Review: 2015 Nissan Micra - Canada?s lowest priced car at $9,998
Nissan Micra 2015 at a glance
BODY STYLE:?Subcompact sedan.
DRIVE METHOD:?front-engine, front-wheel-drive, five-speed manual or four-speed automatic.
ENGINE:?1.6-litre, DOHC inline four-cylinder (109 hp, 107 lb/ft)
FUEL ECONOMY:?(Regular) Manual, 8.6/6.6/7.7L/100 km city/highway combined; automatic, 8.8/6.6/7.8L/100 km
CARGO:?407.8 litres behind second row seat, 819.5 litres back seat folded
TOW RATING:?Not recommended
PRICE:?S manual/automatic, $9,998/$13,298; SV, $13,698/$14,698; SR, $15,748/$16,748.
MONTREAL, PQ – When Nissan announced in February its 2015 Micra sub-compact would have a starting price of $9,998, the first reaction by many was – what?s the catch?
Would this be a phantom car that exists on paper to lure buyers in the showroom only to be told, ?they are all sold but how about a nicely equipped up-trim model??
Well folks, there is no catch. The base Micra S will come with cloth seats, manual transmission, wind-up windows, manual adjust outside mirrors and no air conditioning.
But it will also have six airbags, ABS, traction control, electronic stability control, tilt steering wheel, AM/FM/CD player with auxiliary audio input jack and speed/volume control.
The 2015 Micra is built in Mexico and will not be offered in the U.S.
It is also engineered for this country. For instance, it is sold in 160 countries, but the Canadian version is the only Micra in the world with rear seat floor heater ducts which took quite a bit of engineering to accomplish. A full hockey bag will fit sideways in the trunk, and with the rear 60/40 seat folded, it?s long enough to stow hockey sticks.
The suspension is beefed up all round with a rear stabilizer bar to better match our road conditions, especially in Quebec where Nissan expects a bulk of sales.
Nissan is also serious about getting people into the Micra, which they see as a far better solution to the budget buyer than going for a used car at the same money.
Nissan?s financing plans make it possible for someone with no previous finance or lease history to buy a Micra. That includes applicants regardless of credit bureau rating, people new to Canada, graduate students and there is even a Nissan First Time Buyer program that cuts red tape in the approval process.
Power goes to the front wheels through the standard five-speed manual or optional four-speed automatic transmission. The engine is a 1.6-litre inline four-cylinder with dual injectors per cylinder for a finer spray/air mixture with 109 hp and 107 lb/ft of torque.
Fuel numbers are 8.6/6.6/7.7L/100 km city/highway/combined for the manual and 8.8/6.6/7.8L/100 km for the automatic.
Passenger volume is 2,475 litres and the trunk space is 407.8 litres, making two hockey bags an easy fit. With the rear seat folded, cargo volume is 819.5 litres.
My co-driver?s first remark when she found the interior un-festooned with LCD screens, heads-up displays and touchscreen readouts replaced by a simple, easy-to-use set of analog gauges and controls was: ?I don?t need any more than this.?
Because it does not weigh that much, performance is surprisingly sporty with a chirp from the tires off the line and nice spring-assisted shifter for going up and down through the gears.
The one-piece cloth front bucket seats didn?t look cheap and were supportive. The same could not be said for the hard plastic trim used in abundance on the interior ? but hey ? it?s a $9,998 car, not a Rolls-Royce.
Now you can move upmarket to the Base S with automatic, air, cruise and power windows, but the price is $13,298.
There is also the mid-level SV at $13,698 for the manual and $14,698 for the automatic. At the top is the SR, which starts at $15,748 for the manual and $16,748 for the manual.
When you get into the SV and SR, you get a wide range of amenities including Bluetooth, rear view camera and a choice of wheels, all of which take too much room to list here.
I also drove the SV automatic during the Canadian press introduction in Montreal, which Nissan sees as its volume seller.
It’s definitely not as sparse on the inside as the S, but the dash layout is the same but added standard air and steering wheel-mounted cruise control plus audio settings.
My partner and I covered a lot of ground east of Montreal because, frankly, we got lost a lot. I guess I?ve become too dependent on navi systems. But with my partner?s smartphone there was no need for one ? something I?ll remember when I buy my next car.
The bonus? We had ample time to find out the Micra is lots of fun to drive.
What I noticed most was the surplus of headroom for me even though my petite co-driver had the seat ratcheted as high up as it would go.
Back seat knee room is at a premium as it is with all sub-compact cars. but it?s okay for short drive. But here to Vancouver in the back wouldn?t be fun.
I never did try the radio, but noise intrusion was not as bad as I expected even with the high roof, which always adds road surface sound seeping into the cabin.
Because a majority of buyers are expected to be young, Nissan has a bunch of exterior trim options for people who want that Micra to stick out from the ordinary. These run from mirror caps or door handle covers in five colours to blacked-out alloy wheels.
And then there are a host of accessories such as ski or bike carriers, cargo box, rear spoiler and the list goes on.
Of course, another question is what will buyers do when they enter a Nissan shop and they see the Micra in one corner, and in the other, the bigger Versa Note which is also a sub-compact and uses the same engine but with a CVT transmission?
Nissan Canada?s Tim Franklin told me ?we compared the two very, very carefully? and they believe there will not be much cannibalization between the two.
For me it?s simple. I?ll take the base S because you can still use the engine and gearbox to get the most out of the Micra, which makes it great fun to drive.
Nissan guesstimates 10 per cent of the 10,000 Micras they expect to sell in the first year will be the base model.
?If we need more, we?ll order them,? Franklin told me.
Tim, get that order book out and place the call because you?re going to need all you can get.