|Cute little Micra delivers a lot of car for very little money. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
What’s more, it’s so much fun to drive that Nissan Canada developed a spec racing series dubbed Nissan Micra Cup to tout its performance prowess, a smart way to change common perceptions about life with an entry-level sub-subcompact economy car.
In case you’re wondering, the Micra Cup racing-spec car is no more formidable off the line than the just noted stock machine, its DOHC, 16-valve, 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine providing an identical 109 horsepower and 107 lb-ft of torque to the
|Top-line SR trim comes with a body kit and stylish 16-inch alloys. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
To put that last claim into perspective, the pre-owned 1985 Toyota MR2 mid-engine sports car that I managed to talk my boss into giving me for a daily driver after a particularly good sales month (I sold cars for a Toyota dealer in the late ’80s) tipped the scales at a nearly identical 1,035 kilograms (2,282 lbs) and made 112 horsepower and 105 lb-ft of torque from its AE86 Corolla-sourced 1.6-litre four. That was downright quick for its era, and while I won’t directly compare Toyota’s brilliant little “Twin Cam” and its sonorous 7,500-rpm redline to the Micra’s more utilitarian 6,600 maximum spin, both cars utilize standard five-speed manuals and optional four-speed automatics.
|Shapely projector headlamps provide ample light for nighttime driving. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
In truth, while more refined and filled with modern convenience and safety equipment, today’s Micra has more in common with Toyota Canada’s superb little 2004–2005
|A sporty grille and front fascia, cool fog lamps, and a sweet set of rims set the Micra SR apart from other city cars. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
As you can probably tell from the photos, the 2017 Micra SR currently in our garage sells for considerably more than the base S model Nissan uses to woo us down to its dealerships. While the Micra S starts at $9,988, it moves directly up to $13,648 when adding the aforementioned automatic, an upgrade that also bundles
|A look down onto the roof shows that Nissan has taken the Micra’s styling to new heights. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
I should also mention these features come alongside a standard menu that includes tilt steering, a trip computer, variable intermittent wipers, an intermittent rear wiper, AM/FM/CD audio with speed-sensitive volume control and an aux jack, fabric seat trim, split-folding rear seatbacks, vented front disc and rear drum brakes with ABS, electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist, stability and traction control, all the expected airbags, plus more.
Second-rung SV trim, available from $14,048, makes those last items standard no matter
|Small but mighty, at least this is what Micra means to us. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Put beside these two models the top-line Micra SR seems ultra-luxe, thanks to unique sport headlights and taillights, fog lamps, chrome around those fogs as well as the front fascia’s lower grille, side sill extensions, a rear rooftop spoiler, a chromed exhaust tip, and machine-finished 16-inch alloys with black painted pockets on 185/55 all-season rubber (instead of 15-inch steel wheels with covers encircled
|Big doors open provide easy entry to a spacious cabin. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
My $17,188 tester, which included $1,000 for the automatic transmission, also added $135 for Gun Metallic grey paint while boasting a $460 Colour Studio Trend package from the accessories catalogue featuring coloured mirror caps, door handles, and side sport stripes (glossy black the chosen "colour" in this instance), boosting the as-tested price to $17,783. Despite the Micra’s fabulous base price, I’d be tempted to choose this very trim and accessories package upgrade because it
|Comfortable upright seating and a leather-wrapped steering wheel make for a great driver’s cockpit. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
If the Micra has a weakness it’s with the types of systems not expected to be good in such entry-level cars, particularly its infotainment that’s not only smaller in size but somewhat behind today’s best when it comes to functionality. My test started off with the usual need to connect my phone via Bluetooth, and the only way to do so was via voice commands. These systems don’t work well at the best of times, but this one was made more complicated by first requiring me to name my phone, and when it didn’t accept the name I chose it automatically quit and made me start all over again. I had to attempt the feat four times before it accepted-for some reason Fred wasn’t good enough. I finally went with Asus, and lo and behold it understood.
The rest of the infotainment system is button actuated, or in another words it’s not a touchscreen. At least they’re attractive looking
|Clear no-nonsense primary gauges with large dials work in most lighting conditions. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Audio quality is certainly good enough for this class, and better than anything I ever enjoyed in a car as a kid. I say this because the Micra is the type of safe, dependable
|A nicely organized centre stack lays out ancillary controls well. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Buttons on the steering wheel let you control simple audio features without taking eyes from the road, while others can answer the phone and implement cruise control. If your kids complain about any lack of features you can annoy them with stories about not even having air conditioning in the car you learned to drive in, or at least that was the case with my mom’s fairly basic ’76 Chevy Malibu coupe. Refreshingly the Micra’s upgraded HVAC system wafted out fresh gusts of nice cold air when called upon.
|The display radio provides everything but a touchscreen. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
The door inserts feature an attractive blue and black patterned fabric over comfortable
|Big HVAC knobs work well with winter gloves. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
The stylish material on the doors matched up nicely with the seat insert upholstery, and Nissan even went so far as to contrast-stitch the bolsters in the same light blue for a surprisingly upscale look. Likewise, the carpeted floor mats received specially embroidered Micra badging, helping driver and guests to feel slightly more pampered than they may have initially expected.
|The four-speed auto is fine, but the five-speed manual is more fun. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Slide into the back and you’ll find even less space from side-to-side, especially next to the windows where I saw about two inches of air between my outside shoulder and hips to the door, but there were at least three inches left above my head
|The front seats provide plenty of comfort and a surprising amount of space. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
As you might also expect the rear cargo compartment is abbreviated, but with room enough for groceries, a gym bag, or backpack full of textbooks it’s easy enough to live with. Max cargo volume actually measures 408 litres (14.4 cubic feet)
|Rear seating room is decent as far as city cars go, while the seats and headrests are more comfortable than some competitors. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
|A wide opening allows easy access to a nicely sized cargo area. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Once back in the driver’s seat and focused on the road ahead, my mind was cleared of any missing hardware and seat lowering convenience issues, the Micra’s tiny proportions and featherlight curb weight transforming an otherwise plebeian powertrain into a little road rocket. Of course, the four-speed automatic isn’t as rewarding as the five-speed manual tested previously, but it nevertheless moves the little car along quickly and is smooth enough about its business.
|The load floor is deep, ideal for stowing a lot of life’s gear. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
The front suspension is independent with struts and a stabilizer bar, whereas Nissan incorporates the usual torsion beam setup in back with a stabilizer bar as well, yet it’s the brand’s long experience tuning performance cars that makes this humble hardware work wonders in the Micra. It’s really a pleasure for powering through tight fast-paced curves and undulating backroads, living up to Nissan’s legendary motorsport heritage.
|There’s no flat load floor when the seats are lowered, but the Micra should be roomy enough for most peoples’ needs. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Truly, if I needed a practical runabout I’d consider the Micra for my own use, let alone my driving-aged kids. There’s something wonderfully appealing to this pure, honest, basic hatchback, the least expensive version even requiring a little muscle to roll down the windows. Although, like I said earlier, I’d be tempted to go with this tarted up SR trimmed model with its noted accessories, racing stripes and all.
Depending on your stage in life, the Micra is either a great gateway vehicle into new car ownership or a wonderful throwback to simpler times when plenty of cars could be purchased for less than $10k. It’s a boon to Canada’s car market no matter how we try to classify it, and I hope it continues being available for a very long time.
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