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RECENTLY DRIVEN

2015 Nissan Micra SR

 

The bulge in the rear of the roof panel increases headroom for those in the back seat

Car tested 2015 Nissan Micra SR
Body style Four-door hatchback
Engine 1.6L-four (109 horsepower)
Transmission Four-speed automatic
Least expensive Micra $9998.00
Price as tested $16,748.00
Observed fuel economy 8.51 litres per 100 km

  

Nissan says Euro, others would say unintentionally retro. This new car looks like an amalgam of the last two generations of the Micra 

History
Though new to Canada for 2015, the current Micra is a mid-cycle remake of the fourth-generation car that went on sale in world markets in 2010. The first-generation Micra was sold in Canada until the end of the 1991 model year, but the second and third-generation Micras were never sold here. The new  Micra, which replaces the poorly-received second-generation Versa sedan in Canada, will not be sold in the United States. 

Competition
The car that comes closest to the Micra's size and price is the Mitsubishi Mirage, but the Micra is quicker and much more refined. Other competition could include the ultra-chic, pricier and less practical Fiat 500. A worthy foil for the Micra in term of concept, power and cabin space, is the significantly more expensive Toyota Yaris. Both the Hyundai Accent and Kia Rio are bigger, infinitely more stylish, faster and more refined than the Micra but cost roughly $3000 more if equipped the same as the Micra SV. The Micra may actually prove to be a strong competitor for and cannibalize sales from Nissan's own Versa Note. The two cars are built on the same platform and engine. Except for the gauge package, the cabin elements are the same on both cars. All the Versa Note brings to the table is improved rear legroom due to a longer wheelbase, and quieter highway cruising due to the wide-range CVT automatic.

 

Wave shapes stamped into the roof panel are a surprising artistic flourish on such a plain car but also provide additional stiffness to the panel 

Performance
Compared with the 74 horsepower 1.2L triple in the Mitsubishi Mirage and the 84 horsepower 1.2L four in the Chevrolet Spark, the Micra's 1.6L four produces a robust and relaxed 109 horsepower. On the road, the Micra's 1.6L our delivers solid, flexible and relaxed performance with acceptable refinement, unless the car is pushed, when the engine turns coarse.

While a CVT is offered on the Micra in other markets, the sole automatic transmission option on the Micra for Canada is a very "old-school" four-speed. The transmission shifts smoothly and downshifts easily enough, but gearing is such that the engine starts to sound quite busy from around 110 km/h. Nissan only charges $300 more for the CVT in the Versa Note than it does for the four-speed automatic transmission in the Micra, so using the CVT in the Micra would allow for quieter cruising and enhanced fuel economy. The available five-speed manual transmission is not a compelling option as cruising revs are even higher than they are with the automatic, and the imprecise clutch and gearchange make the automatic a better choice.


While lacking feel, the Micra's steering is accurate, nicely geared and delivers a city-friendly tight turning circle. With a stable, absorbent ride and capable handling that exhibits a bit more lean in corners than many competitors, the Micra displays the kind of ride-handling balance favoured by European makers decades ago.

With a soft pedal and a low ABS intervention threshold, emergency braking is unsatisfying.
 

Vision is all directions is good. The rear view camera, standard on the SR and optional on the SV, is a welcome feature.

Wind noise is well suppressed and road noise is low from the tires and suspension, but road grit pings loudly off the underside of the car. Squeaks from the cabin trim, a problem on the last generation of small Nissans, were absent on the two cars driven by the APA.


At 8.5L/100 km in mixed use including urban commuting as well as suburban, rural and highway use in summer conditions, fuel economy, is unimpressive for so small a car.   

1.6 liter four features direct injection and variable valve timing, but sounds rough when extended

Interior
Essentially a short-wheelbase Versa Note, the Micra shares much of the Note's cabin fittings. The gauges are simpler than on the Note, but the dashboard, seats and door trims are the same. The attractive faux alloy and chrome cabin accents from the Note lighten up the black cabin.  

The gauges aer clear and the audio and climate controls are brilliantly simple and straightforward.Convenient steering wheel controls for the audio system and cruise control.  

The front seats are not generously sized, but are thickly padded, comfortable and swathed in attractive fabrics on the SV and SR models tested. The lack of a telescoping steering wheel left it too far a stretch for some APA drivers; while the large gaps between the positions in the reclining front seatback made it difficult to find the "right" position for a number of drivers. Another point of contention was the intrusive front seat head restraint design, which forces the heads of some drivers too far downward. Legroom was good in front, and reasonable for back seat riders considering the size of the car. The rear seat cushion is nicely padded but the rear seat backrest is too vertical for true comfort. The rear seat has three seatbelts but is perhaps too narrow for three adult occupants. Ingress and egress is good for those in front and reasonable for those in the rear. Abundant headroom. The trunk is regularly shaped, quite deep below the cargo cover and should be big enough for a week long trip for two. The rear seat is split 60/40.    

Air-conditioning output was adequate rather than icicle inducing, and adjusting the dash vents to get air onto the face was a chore.

The Bluetooth phone hook-up was easy to set up and works well.

Oddments storage is taken care by the glovebox, as well as by small bins in the front doors. Two cupholders in front of the shifter and bottle holders in the front doors cater to the needs of those seeking on hydration on the move.   

 

 Crisp, clear, no-nonsense gauges 

 

 Dash is taken from the Versa Note built on the same platform  

 

Climate controls look utilitarian but are straightforward and work well

 

Though a bit small, the front seats are deeply padded and comfortable. The basic black cabin is relieved by a few chrome and faux-alloy accents

Pricing
Micra pricing starts at $9998 for a manual transmission car without an air-conditioning option; few dealers actually carry more than one or tow cars equipped like this in their inventory. Adding automatic transmission, which is packaged with air-conditioning and cruise control, brings the price of the S up to $13,298, which is about $1000 more expensive than the value of the additional equipment. With an automatic transmission, the $14,698 SV trim level, with power windows, door locks, mirrors, Bluetooth phone hookup, body-colour exterior mirrors and door handles as well as keyless entry, is good value and the Micra most buyers will pick. The SV Convenience package includes a rearview camera, a USB port and a larger format audio screen for $500. The $16,748 (with automatic transmission) SR range topper delivers enough additional content to justify is $2050 price premium, but at that price point, buyers should look at a more sophisticated car with a bit less equipment. On paper, the $16,965 Toyota Yaris LE four-door hatchback is the car closest to the $14,698 Micra SV in size, content, format and power. Compared with the Yaris, the $2267 cheaper Micra looks like a spectacular bargain. That said, the Micra is unlikely to match the legendary durability or the Yaris and won't  enjoy its high resale value.

Comparing payments generated by a Micra SV and a Yaris LE five-door in late September 2014, the Micra generates a $50 per month (60 months) lower finance payment; with lease (48 months) payment being $30 less per month. The Micra SV automatic is priced $300 less than the Mitsubishi Mirage ES Plus, which in no way matches the Micra. Finance payments (60 months) for the Mirage are about $20 higher per month than for the Micra, but lease payments (48 months) are similar. Micra lease payments are good value. Comparably equipped, the Chevrolet Spark is a considerable more expensive car than the Micra, won't really attract the same value conscious buyer--and with about 1200 cars sold in 2014 up to the end of August, the Spark isn't really attracting many buyers. 

Trunk is regularly shaped and quite deep below the window line 

Reliability
The Micra, built on the same component set as the defunct Versa sedan, should be as reliable as that car, which has generated few complaints since it debuted as a 2012 model. The previous smallest Nissan, the 2007-2012 Versa, suffered premature brake, exhaust, front ball joint and door lock wear, with very expensive repairs. Three-year/60,000 km bumper-to-bumper warranty, with five years/100,000 km on the powertrain.   

Safety
The Micra is equipped with dual front airbags, front seat mounted side airbags and side-curtain airbags. Not sold in the United States, the Micra has not been tested by the IIHS or the NHTSA. The Micra, tested by the Euro NCAP organization prior to the current mid-cycle remake, was rated at four out of five stars in the European crash test.

 

Styling won't set any pulses racing

Summary
With an unintentionally retro style and tidy, yet uninvolving handling, the Micra will appeal to a value-oriented buyer who wants a nicely equipped, sufficiently quick, acceptably refined, functional new car at a knock-down price. With over 4000 cars sold between its late spring launch and the end of August 2014, the Micra has been very well received. The biggest issue Nissan Canada might have is securing enough units to meet demand. While the $9998.00 base price is an advertising sleight of hand, the $14,698 SV with automatic (likely to be the best seller) represents a tremendous value proposition for a new car. The Micra is a cheap-to-buy new car, whether it turns out to be a good long-term value depends on durability.