Ask most Canadians to name an electric car and Toyota’s Prius will more often than not get the credit, but the true global EV leader is Nissan’s Leaf.
The Prius isn’t actually an electric vehicle, but rather a hybrid that still relies on a gasoline-powered internal combustion engine to get it from point A to B, while using its battery and electric motor for very low-speed (less than 20 km/h), short-distance travel (parking lots) as well as supplemental power to reduce fuel consumption and therefore improve emissions. Toyota now produces a plug-in hybrid dubbed Prius Prime that allows longer EV-mode distances at higher speeds, but its consumer take-rate has been very modest, while the automaker has no full EV available in our market.
The Nissan Leaf, on the other hand, is 100-percent electric, relying solely on its battery and electric motor for propulsion, and therefore requiring regular refills from home and/or public charging stations, instead of the local gas station like the Prius. Where the Prius has long been the world’s best-selling hybrid, the Leaf is similarly dominant when it comes to electric vehicles, having delivered more than 390,000 units since it arrived on the market in 2010.
Wanting to make sure it holds onto that leadership title, Canadians can now purchase the 2019 Leaf with its regular battery as well as with a more potent powertrain featuring stronger acceleration and greater range. The regular Leaf will continue to use a 40-kWh battery and 110-kW (147-horsepower) electric motor resulting in 243 kilometres of estimated driving distance per complete charge, and will also remain the model’s value leader at $40,698. The new Leaf Plus, however, will house a 62-kWh battery within its floorboards, connecting through to a 160 kW (214 hp) electric motor for an estimated 363 km of range, starting at $43,998.
“With the addition of LEAF PLUS, the Nissan LEAF is now available with two battery options and a choice of four trim levels – each featuring the many advanced technologies offered under the banner of Nissan Intelligent Mobility,” said Steve Rhind, director of marketing, Nissan Canada Inc.
To clarify, the 2019 Leaf is available in four trims as of April, including the just noted $40,698 Leaf SV, the $43,998 Leaf S Plus, the $46,598 Leaf SV Plus, and finally the $49,498 Leaf SL Plus, along with a $1,950 freight charge added across the line.
This means the regular Leaf S that was available as a 2019 model mid-way through last year and earlier this year for just $36,798 ($3,900 less than the new base model), and the regular Leaf SL that added features like leather upholstery (actually two-tone black and grey perforated leather and microfibre-like Bio Suede PET cloth), an Intelligent Around View Monitor, Driver Attention Alert, seven-speaker Bose premium audio, turn signal repeaters integrated within the side mirror caps, and more for just $42,698, will no longer be available for order in Canada (they’re still offered in the U.S.), although you may still be able to find them at your local dealer.
An upcharge of $5,900 for more power and approximately 120 km (or about 50-percent) more range might seem like a steep ask for what is basically the same car in mid-range Leaf SV trim, but it’s important to note the non-powertrain/charging system differences between the regular base Leaf and Leaf Plus trims.
For instance, buyers opting for the new Leaf S Plus receive a modified front fascia design integrating unique blue highlights, an “e+” logo plate on the underside of the charge port lid, and new rear badges depending on trim level, while additional standard upgrades include Intelligent Forward Collision Warning (I-FCW), Rear Door Alert (that reminds if something or someone has been left in the back seat when arriving at your destination), and a one-inch larger centre touchscreen measuring 8.0 inches diagonally (the base 5.0-inch display is no longer available).
It should also be noted that both regular Leaf SV and Leaf S Plus models now fill their infotainment systems with standard navigation, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, satellite radio, and more, but only SV trims offer voice recognition, NissanConnect EV (for remotely connecting via your smartphone), two more audio speakers for a total of six, and more.
Also notable, the $3,300 less expensive Leaf SV adds 17-inch alloy wheels compared to 16-inch alloys with the Leaf S Plus, as well as fog lamps, an electromechanical parking brake (instead of a foot-operated one), an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a Homelink universal remote, an eight-way powered driver’s seat with two-way power lumbar support, a cargo cover, and a host of advanced driver assistive systems such as Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) with pedestrian detection (which inherently includes the SV Plus model’s Intelligent Forward Collision Warning), High Beam Assist, Intelligent Cruise Control with Full Speed Range and Hold, ProPILOT Assist semi-autonomous self-driving, Steering Assist, Blind Spot Warning, Intelligent Lane Intervention, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and more.
The list of features just noted is also standard with the new Leaf SV Plus, while a shortlist of luxury items covered earlier in this story, when mentioning the now outgoing Leaf SL, also gets pulled up to new Leaf SL Plus trim, albeit with a sizeable price difference of $6,800 due to its performance and range improvements.
This is a good time to explain that many EV owners look at range performance in a similar light to how traditional car buyers might be willing to pay more for quicker straight-line acceleration and better at-the-limit handling. Either way, the new Leaf Plus is “ensuring that there’s a Nissan LEAF to meet the driving needs of a wider range of customers,” stated a press release.
With respect to those more traditional performance conventions, despite hitting the scales at 1,737 kilos (3,831 lbs) instead of 1,580 kg (3,483 lbs), thenew Leaf Plus is 13 percent quicker off the line than the regular Leaf, which Nissan says will allow its drivers to “confidently pass slower-moving vehicles, exit corners faster and more seamlessly, and merge easily with fast-moving traffic.” What’s more, the Leaf Plus’ top speed is 10 percent higher, which Nissan says is beneficial “for comfortable cruising.”
Many will find its faster charging capability an even better reason to ante up for the Leaf Plus. It comes with a new standard 100kW-capacity quick charging system that allows more efficient charging of up to 80-percent in only 45 minutes (according to the Nissan Canada’s retail website). If you can only find a 75-kW DC quick charger it will take just 5 minutes longer (50 minutes) to reach that 80-percent total, or an hour with a 50-kW DC quick charger (the regular Leaf needs about 40 minutes for an 80-percent charge with the same 50-kW DC quick charger, but can’t hook up to either 75-kW or 100-kW DC faster chargers).
Lastly, a regular 240-volt home charging station will completely fill the new Leaf Plus’ battery after approximately 11.5 hours, which is only 3.5 hours more than the regular Leaf requires, and take note the Leaf Plus can also receive an extra 35 km of range after about 60 minutes of being plugged into this less potent charging station.
Utilizing resources in mind, both Nissan EVs are incredibly efficient, with their energy equivalent ratings measuring 1.9 Le/100km in the city and 2.4 on the highway for the regular Leaf, or 2.1 Le/100km city and 2.5 highway for the Leaf Plus. Of course, litres of gasoline never enter the picture, but the Le/100km rating can be used as a guide to help those new to electric vehicles understand how their energy consumption more directly compares with an equivalent gasoline-powered vehicle, and how the energy use of EVs compare to each other.
Also important, the more capable Leaf Plus battery doesn’t impact interior passenger or cargo volume one iota, with front and rear seating still generous in all dimensions, and the rear cargo area capable of swallowing up a sizeable 668 litres (23.6 cubic feet) with its 60/40-split rear seatbacks upright, and 849 litres (30.0 cubic feet) when they’re folded flat.
If saving a few thousand is more important to you and your budget than increasing performance and range, or alternatively purchasing a more luxurious Leaf SL for considerably less money, make sure to contact your local Nissan dealer as they may have regular 2019 Leaf S and SL stock still available. Then again, if the charging benefits, extended range and added performance of the new Leaf Plus appeal more, these new models are now starting to arrive at said retailers across Canada.
To learn more about all 2019 Nissan Leaf and Leaf Plus trims, packages and standalone options, including pricing on each, plus find out about available rebates and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands, make sure to check out CarCostCanada.
It’s déjà vu all over again, or at least that’s how I felt when picking up my 2019 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum AWD tester. I’d spent a week with an identical model less than a year prior; even down…
It’s déjà vu all over again, or at least that’s how I felt when picking up my 2019 Nissan Rogue SL Platinum AWD tester. I’d spent a week with an identical model less than a year prior; even down to its top-line trim level and most popular Pearl White paint.
Then I got inside, however, and was reminded of a near identical model I test drove the year prior in lovely Scarlet Ember livery, and therefore also remembered that last year’s SL Platinum wasn’t fully loaded, missing this SUV’s $500 SL Platinum Reserve Interior Package that includes a stylish stitched leatherette dash pad and replaces the regular Charcoal black or Almond beige leather upholstery with special quilted leather in an even richer looking Premium Tan hue, which comes across more like caramel or saddle brown. Either way it looks great, and ideally complements the white exterior paint, although the upgrade package is no longer available with the special metallic red exterior paint, or for that matter Nissan’s beautiful Caspian Blue. A shame.
Not to start this review out on a negative, because there’s very little to fault this popular compact crossover SUV on. As noted, the Rogue is Nissan Canada’s most popular model, and one look should make it easy to understand why. It was refreshed for the 2017 model year with Nissan’s wider, more U-shaped Vmotion 2.0 grille that I happen to like a lot more than the original V, while its then-new quad-beam headlamps with LED daytime running lights, and its updated LED brake lights added premium-level sophistication to the design.
That face-lifted 2017 model included additional styling tweaks on the outside plus updates within, a personal favourite being its flat-bottom steering wheel that still makes a sporty statement in the otherwise elegantly appointed top-line 2019 Rogue SL Platinum Reserve model. So equipped, that steering wheel is leather-wrapped with a heatable rim, a much appreciated mid-winter feature, as are the Quick Comfort heated front seats that come standard across the entire Rogue line, albeit the Platinum’s perforated leather upholstery is exclusive to this model.
There’s actually more to the SL Platinum Reserve Interior’s seat design than quilting and the caramel colour change. The quilting is only used for the centre inserts, with perforated leather added to the inner bolsters and contrast-stitched black leather on top of those bolsters for a little more of a sport look mixed in with the luxury. The seats’ upholstery is complemented by the same Premium Tan on the door armrests, centre armrest, padded knee protectors on each side of the lower centre console, and even the aforementioned dash facing, which incorporates a similarly classy looking stitched leatherette pad ahead of the front passenger.
Icing on the proverbial cake comes in the form of Piano Black interior door inlays surrounding the usual chromed door handles, which match up nicely next to the same glossy black treatment rimming the dash vents, centre console, gear lever surround and otherwise leather-wrapped shift knob.
As you may have guessed, the latest Rogue SL Platinum Reserve doesn’t just look like a premium crossover SUV, but in addition its standard feature set is replete with top-drawer gear that one-ups plenty of luxury brands. For instance, the official name given to this trim level is Rogue SL Platinum with ProPilot Assist, the latter technology standard with all SL Platinum models and really quite impressive. It’s a semi-autonomous “hands-on-wheel” driving system, which means it has the ability to completely drive itself, but due to safety concerns only lets you remove your hands from the steering wheel for about eight seconds at a time—it warns you to put your hands back on the wheel after that. Still, it’ll impress your friends and might be useful to those who find highway driving intimidating, as it helps keep the Rogue centered within its lane and, along with its Lane Departure Warning (LDW) and Intelligent Lane Intervention systems, may even help avoid an accident.
These latter two advanced driver assistance systems get pulled up to the SL Platinum from mid-range SV trim, as does Intelligent emergency braking with pedestrian detection, and adaptive cruise control, while high beam assist, rear parking sensors, Moving Object Detection (MOD), backup collision intervention and rear autonomous emergency braking join ProPilot Assist as options with the SV and standard equipment with the top-line SL Platinum model.
Along with all the usual active and passive safety features, some advanced tech incorporated into upper trims from the base Rogue S include Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) with a display showing individual tire pressures and an Easy-Fill Tire Alert, Intelligent Forward Collision Warning (FCW), Intelligent Emergency Braking (IEB), plus two features normally relegated to top-line trims, Blind Spot Warning (BSW) with Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA), while Rear Door Alert is an oddly named albeit very welcome feature that actually warns against leaving something or someone in the back seat unattended after turning off the engine, by remembering that you opened a rear door before setting off on your drive. Now that’s smart.
As cool as some of this tech is, especially watching the Rogue drive itself, applying hands to said wheel while on the highway, and then winding through some twisting backroads after tooling through town is my usual course of action. As always the Rogue didn’t disappoint, but let me insert a caveat here, I’ve never set my performance expectations too high. This is an SUV built primarily for comfort rather than all-out speed, and to that end it delivers in spades, with a nice compliant ride, smooth, progressive acceleration, and an easy, controlled demeanor on the open freeway. It can manage curves too, and provides strong braking when needed, but if you’re looking for performance there are sportier SUVs in this class, yet few are smoother than the Rogue, such refinement its specialty.
Behind that V-motion grille is the Nissan’s dependable 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine, which continues to make a totally acceptable if not breathtaking 170 horsepower and 175 lb-ft of torque, while its standard continuously variable transmission (CVT) is one of the reasons behind that just noted smooth factor. It’s also partially responsible for the Rogue’s commendable Transport Canada fuel economy rating that comes in at 9.6 L/100km in the city, 7.5 on the highway and 8.7 combined with its as-tested all-wheel drivetrain, or 9.1 city, 7.1 highway and 8.2 combined when opting for front-wheel drive.
As is mostly the case in this class, all-wheel drive is more about tackling slippery pavement than anything off-road, although traveling to campsites over logging roads or light-duty trails can benefit from AWD, as well as its various electronic all-weather features, such as Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) with Traction Control System (TCS). This said others in the class are starting to broaden their appeal, with the latest RAV4 Trail featuring some real 4×4-like go-anywhere technologies, and the Subaru Forester long offering its X-Mode for extracting itself from rougher situations.
Back to earth, or rather asphalt, the Rogue is ideal for slogging through Canadian winters, hitting the slopes, or alternatively heading out on that summer camping vacation. It can tow a small camp trailer or lightweight boat weighing up to 500 kilos (1,100 lbs), plus it can carry plenty of gear in back, up to 1,112 litres (39.3 cubic feet) in the dedicated cargo area and 1,982 litres (70.0 cubic feet) when its 60/40-split rear seatbacks are folded flat. That rear bench is made more passenger and cargo friendly via a centre pass-through that doubles as a centre armrest with cupholders, which allows longer items like skis to be stuffed down the middle while rear passengers enjoy the benefit of the window seats, although take note they might be grumbling on the way back from the ski hill due to a surprising lack of available rear seat heaters.
Along with all of the features already mentioned, the $37,398 top-line SL Platinum gets a lot of premium-level upgrades that really make a difference when it comes to performance, safety, convenience and luxury, such as AWD, 19-inch alloy wheels, LED headlamps, an electromechanical parking brake, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a heated leather steering wheel rim and leather-wrapped shift knob, memory for the six-way powered driver’s seat and side mirrors, a four-way powered front passenger’s seat, a powered panoramic sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, navigation, a surround parking monitor, great sounding Bose audio with nine speakers including two subs, Radio Data System (RDS) and speed-sensitive volume control, a gesture activated liftgate, and more.
I won’t tire you by scrolling through lists of everything that gets pulled up to SL Platinum trim from the other two grades, but some highlights from both include remote engine start, proximity-sensing access with pushbutton ignition, auto on/off headlights, fog lamps, LED turn signals within the side mirror caps, roof rails, the aforementioned six-way powered driver’s seat with power lumbar, a retractable cargo cover and more with the $29,098 SV, plus variable intermittent wipers, overhead LED map lights and sunglasses storage, a colour multi-information display, a 7.0-inch centre touchscreen, NissanConnect featuring Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, SiriusXM Traffic, hands-free text messaging assistant, Bluetooth, mood lighting, and more with the $26,798 base Rogue S. By the way, all pricing was sourced from CarCostCanada, where all the trims, packages and individual features are itemized, plus otherwise hard to find rebate info and dealer invoice pricing is provided.
For the most part our 2019 Rogue SL Platinum Reserve was well equipped, especially when it came to advanced driver assistance systems, plus it provided more than enough performance, a smooth, quiet ride, great fuel economy, and a fairly luxurious and comfortable cabin, while it was extremely accommodating for driver, passengers and cargo. I like the way it looks, especially as my tester was kitted out, which, along with all of the above, is likely why it’s such a strong seller, and also why it’s easy to recommend.
It might look the same from the outside, but Nissan has nicely updated the 2019 Qashqai despite only arriving on our market two years ago. As noted most changes go unseen, such as the adoption of Intelligent…
It might look the same from the outside, but Nissan has nicely updated the 2019 Qashqai despite only arriving on our market two years ago.
As noted most changes go unseen, such as the adoption of Intelligent Emergency Braking (IEB), Blind Spot Warning (BSW), Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA), and Nissan’s smart Rear Door Alert (RDA) system (that reminds if you’ve left something or someone in the back seat), across the entire Qashqai line, while the little utility’s interior now benefits from a new NissanConnect centre touchscreen that’s now 2.0 inches larger at 7.0 inches and features standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, satellite radio, live navigation, plus mobile apps and services, while the base Qashqai also includes a second USB port within the centre console, and Nissan’s useful Divide-N-Hide cargo system in the storage area.
Even more impressive, all of these new features have been added without impacting the base Qashqai S model’s base price that still starts at just $19,998 plus freight and fees, making it the second-most affordable sport utility available in Canada behind Nissan’s own Kicks.
Standard features that continue forward into 2019 and by doing so make the latest Qashqai seem like an even better deal include projector headlamps with integrated led daytime running lights, heated power-adjustable side mirrors with integrated LED turn signals, power windows, power door locks with a switchblade-style remote key fob, an electromechanical parking brake (which oddly reverts to a foot-operated one on S CVT and SV CVT trims), a tilt and telescopic steering wheel, a colour TFT multi-information display, variable intermittent wipers, sun visors with extensions and integrated vanity mirrors, overhead sunglasses storage, micro-filtered air conditioning, a rearview camera that’s now easier to use thanks to the larger centre display, Bluetooth phone connectivity with audio streaming, text message read and response capability, Siri Eyes Free, four-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3/WMA audio with illuminated steering wheel controls, speed-sensitive volume, Radio Data System (RDS), fabric upholstery, two-way Quick Comfort heatable front seats, a rear-seat centre armrest, 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks, a cargo cover, six cargo area tie-down hooks, tire pressure monitoring with Easy Fill Tire Alert, all the expected passive and active safety and security features, plus much more.
The Qashqai is once again available in three trims, the aforementioned base S model joined by the SV and SL, my tester being in the latter. Before delving into its new upgrades, standard features list and various options, the $25,998 SV is a good choice for those not needing the premium-level pampering offered by the SL, thanks to 17-inch alloys replacing the base model’s 16-inch steel wheels with covers, automatic on/off headlights, plus fog lamps, roof rails, remote engine start, proximity-sensing keyless access, pushbutton ignition, high beam assist, rear parking sensors, illumination added to the vanity mirrors, a powered moonroof, a heatable leather-wrapped steering wheel rim, a leather-wrapped shift knob, cruise control, two more stereo speakers, dual-zone automatic climate control, rear passenger air vents, etcetera, while a host of new advanced driver assistance systems get added including enhanced autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, Lane Departure Warning (LDW) with Intelligent Lane Intervention, and Rear Intelligent Braking (R-IEB).
My tester’s top-line SL trim starts at $31,198 yet really helps to make it feel like a mini luxury ute thanks to standard 19-inch alloy wheels, the electromechanical parking brake again (the only trim that mates it to the CVT), a 360-degree Intelligent Around View Monitor, navigation with detailed mapping, voice recognition, SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link, leather upholstery, an eight-way power driver’s seat including two-way powered lumbar, and a front driver’s seatback pocket, while Intelligent Cruise Control (ICC), enhanced rear auto braking with Moving Object Detection (MOD), and ProPilot Assist semi-automated self-driving capability are new to the SL’s standard list.
Lastly, my tester featured the $2,100 SL Platinum Package that includes LED headlights, an auto-dimming interior mirror with an integrated Homelink garage door opener, plus a nine-speaker Bose audio system, and NissanConnect Services.
By the way, all pricing for the 2019 Qashqai, including trims, packages and individual options, was sourced at CarCostCanada, where you can also find money saving rebate info and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands.
SV and SL models also come standard with Nissan’s Xtronic CVT (continuously variable transmission), not to mention Intelligent Engine Braking, and while this will likely be preferable to the majority of Qashqai buyers you may enjoy the six-speed manual that comes standard in base S trim. I tested it last year and came away smiling, as it’s a well sorted manual gearbox that adds a lot of sport back into this utility’s character, which is more about smooth, quiet, comfort in its higher trims.
I won’t go into too much experiential detail in this garage report, being that we just brought it home from Nissan’s detail team today and haven’t spent anywhere near enough time in it to comment, but this is hardly the first Qashqai at our weeklong disposal so already have a good idea of what we’re about to live through. Suffice to say the 2019 Qashqai SL hasn’t disappointed us thus far, but rather reminded us why Nissan is quickly taking the lead in this all-important entry-level crossover SUV segment.
The Qashqai is Nissan Canada’s second-best-selling vehicle behind the larger compact Rogue, and quite frankly its growth in popularity throughout 2018 has been staggering. Sales were up by 119.2 percent to 19,662 units last year compared to just 8,970 in calendar year 2017, making it tops in its segment and after passing the Subaru Crosstrek that’s been on a 30.2-percent sales surge of its own, albeit with only 14,539 units down the road, while the new Hyundai Kona is close behind at 14,497 deliveries. Interestingly, Mazda’s CX-3 grew sales by 13.8 percent to 12,445 units, while the redesigned Jeep Compass found 46.4 percent more buyers in 2018 for a total of 9,434.
Trending the other way is the once best-selling Honda HR-V that saw its sales fall by 35.9 percent to 9,071 units (although some of this results from a flood in its Mexican plant that shut down operations for quite a while), whereas the recently introduced Toyota C-HR made significant gains of 57.8 percent yet only managed a rather lacklustre 6,819 deliveries, and the entirely new (to us) Ford EcoSport enjoyed its first full year of sales, but found just 6,315 takers.
Moving in the opposite direction, a subcompact crossover SUV segment loser was the somewhat stale Mitsubishi RVR that experienced a sales decline of 17.5 percent to 5,750 units, while the Chevy Trax lost 25.1 percent to post 4,465 deliveries, which is just ahead of the aforementioned Nissan Kicks’ 4,362 sales despite that model’s mid-year arrival. The final two to make gains were the new Kia Niro, in hybrid and plug-in forms, with 2,659 deliveries for growth of 67.2 percent, and the Mini Countryman that’s also available in plug-in guise, and possibly due to this saw its sales rise by 36.9 percent to 2,479 units.
Lastly, the biggest losers are Jeep’s Renegade with a downgrade of 60.4 percent to 1,193 units, and that same model in Fiat 500X form that saw its sales jump off the proverbial cliff by 90.8 percent to a completely pathetic 79 units, despite being a nice little SUV that I quite liked last time I tested it.
The Qashqai makes more sense though. It costs less, and provides a lot more comfort and size. It’s actually quite large for its subcompact SUV class, reason enough for Nissan to slot the Kicks in down below, yet compared to the Rogue it’s a small fry, despite riding on a version of the same chassis architecture, complete with a fully independent front strut, rear multi-link suspension setup with stabilizer bars front and back.
Under the hood is an efficient 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine good for 141 horsepower and 147 lb-ft of torque, while its previously noted CVT drives the front wheels or all four. To reiterate and clarify, base S trim makes the CVT optional, while SV and SL trims include it as standard equipment, whereas AWD is optional with both lower trims and standard with the SL.
As you may have expected the 2019 Qashqai remains a fuel economy leader with a claimed 10.0 L/100km city, 8.1 highway and 9.2 combined with the FWD manual, 8.8 city, 7.3 highway and 8.1 combined with FWD and the CVT, or 9.0, 7.5 and 8.4 with the CVT and AWD.
As usual I’ll wait to talk about driving impressions, interior quality, fit, finish and everything else in my upcoming road test review, although if you just can’t wait go ahead and check out my review of the 2018 Qashqai S with a manual transmission or my review of a top-line 2017 Qashqai SL, which is much the same as this new 2019 version except for a foot operated parking brake and some additional upgrades mentioned earlier in this garage review. Also, enjoy the photo gallery of this 2019 Qashqai SL above…
It’s not too often that the cheapest and stingiest choice ends up being the most enjoyable, but such is the case with Nissan’s Micra. Cheap? How does $10,488 sound? If you were in the market for…
It’s not too often that the cheapest and stingiest choice ends up being the most enjoyable, but such is the case with Nissan’s Micra.
Cheap? How does $10,488 sound? If you were in the market for this little city car last year it probably sounds $500 too high, because the Micra was one of Canada’s only new sub-$10k cars for its entire four-year existence (except for the $9,995 Chevy Spark and Mitsubishi Mirage when it went on sale to clear out end-of-year stock), but thanks to a new standard 7.0-inch centre touchscreen featuring an integrated backup camera and some other updates, it’s a bit pricier this year. You can see all of the trims and check out previous years’ pricing at CarCostCanada, where you’ll also find rebate info and dealer invoice pricing.
Its new list price still beats inflation (according to the Bank of Canada inflation calculator), as well as the Mirage by $510, and now that I think of it the Micra also beats the Mirage by 31 horsepower, 33 lb-ft of torque, 400 cubic centimetres of engine displacement, one cylinder, one rear suspension stabilizer bar, one-inch of standard wheel diameter, 20 millimetres of standard tire width, 32 litres of additional passenger volume, 41 mm of front headroom, 29 mm of rear headroom, 0.5 inches of standard centre touchscreen, six litres of fuel tank volume, and the list goes on.
All said it would be unfair not to mention that, while the Mirage is about as sporty as a Kenmore dryer on spin cycle, its claimed fuel usage nears hybrid levels of efficiency at 6.5 L/100km combined city/highway in manual form and just 6.2 with its optional continuously variable transmission (CVT), compared to 7.9 L/100km for the Micra’s five-speed manual and 8.0 for its available four-speed automatic.
The Mirage beats the Micra in a number of other notable ways too, such as standard auto off headlamps, LED taillights, body-colour mirror caps, exterior door handles and liftgate handle, a chrome rear garnish, standard power door locks with remote access, power-adjustable side mirrors, powered front windows, air conditioning, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, two more standard stereo speakers, a driver’s knee airbag, 79 additional litres of cargo capacity behind the rear seats, 511 more litres of cargo space with the seats folded, two more years or 40,000 more kilometres of basic warranty, five more years or 60,000 more km of powertrain warranty, etcetera, while year-over-year sales of the Mirage were off by just six percent compared to 39 percent for the Micra.
That last point might make it look as if more people like the Mitsubishi, but just 2,351 Canadians took a Mirage home last year compared to 5,372 that opted for the Micra. It’s easy to see they didn’t make their choice by comparing standard features and fuel economy, because the Mirage clearly comes out on top in these categories, so why all the Micra love?
Take both cars for a drive and you’ll immediately understand. The Micra is so much fun you’ll be wondering why everyone’s making such a fuss about SUVs, whereas the Mirage feels best when idling in bumper-to-bumper traffic. If the latter describes your commute and you never plan on driving up to Whistler or Kelowna via the Coquihalla for a weekend getaway, by all means go all in on the Mitsu, but if you want a car that has the power to keep up with traffic while climbing steep grades, let alone is sporty enough in stock trim to compete in its own spec racing series, choose the Micra, and while you’re at it watch a few segments of the highly entertaining Micra Cup (see below for Race 1 of the 2018 season).
Rather than applying lipstick to a pig and trying to pass it off as the prom queen, Nissan invested its Micra money into a formidable direct-injection 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine good for 109 horsepower and 107 lb-ft of torque, compared to 78 and 74 respectively for the Mirage, plus a sporty feeling five-speed manual transmission with nice, progressive clutch take-up, wonderful steering feel, a front strut, rear torsion beam suspension with stabilizer bars at both ends, 15-inch wheels on 185/60 all-season tires, and overall driving feel that punches way above its 1,044-kilo welter curb weight.
Of course, how a city car takes to the corners may not matter as much to some folks as others, but let me know how you feel about that after you’ve just managed to avoid an accident thanks to the fleet footedness of your much more agile Micra. Due to such well-engineered suspension systems, I’m thankfully able to share a number of near misses that could have been bent metal at best, so handling is as much of a safety issue as braking performance, which I must say is pretty good on both cars despite their front disc, rear drum setups.
I know, many buying into this class will likely care more about colour choices and styling than performance and safety, and when it comes to visual appeal I think the Micra has an edge in this respect too. While both are quite seasoned, this generation of Mirage Hatchback having arrived on the scene in 2012 and the current Micra in 2011, albeit in Canada during the spring of 2014 as a 2015 model, the little Nissan looks well proportioned and actually quite sporty from all angles.
Inside my base S trimmed tester, the word spartan comes to mind. Maybe minimalism might be kinder, because it does brighten things up with silver metal-like accents in key areas, and a nice, sizeable 7.0-inch centre touchscreen filled with a colourful interface, this especially true when placing the shifter in reverse and enjoying the big new backup camera on the display, while Bluetooth audio, Siri Eyes Free, and plenty of other functions provide a fully up-to-date user experience, but the black cloth seats come up a bit short on creativity, and the three-dial HVAC system is, while perfectly functional, easy to use, and adorned with blue and red highlights on the temperature knob and some backlit orange elements elsewhere, hardly exciting.
The steering wheel is new, and in its most basic form gets a fresh set of metallic silver audio system and Bluetooth phone switchgear on its leftmost spoke, but the two-dial gauge cluster hasn’t changed for as long as I’ve been testing this car, my first review being a 2015 version of this very Micra S, with its only option being a sparkling coat of Metallic Blue paint. This 2019 tester’s $135 worth of Magnetic Gray paint aside (the price of optional paint hasn’t gone up one cent), the gauge package is large and easy to read in any light, while the little LCD gear selector, odometer, fuel gauge, and trip computer display, capable of showing current and average fuel economy plus distance to empty) is kind of cool in a retro Seiko digital watch sort of way.
I reviewed 2016 and 2017 examples of the top-line Micra SR too, the former in a beautiful blue-green Caspian Sea hue (that’s still available), and the second in a less playful Gun Metallic grey (that’s been replaced by this car’s aforementioned Magnetic Gray—Metallic Blue is now only available in upper trims, incidentally), but Charcoal Cloth (black) is the only interior colour choice, albeit upper trims get some patterned colour woven into the seat inserts that’s a big move up in visual stimulation.
What else do you get with the base Micra? The new infotainment system and steering wheel switches aside, the Micra S comes with thoughtful little luxuries like rubberized knobs for the manual winding windows, cool little toggles for manually adjusting the side mirrors (although you’ll need to stretch across the car or ask for help to set up the one on the passenger’s side), carpeted floor mats front to back, and did I mention the genuine cloth seats? Of course, I’m poking a little fun at the expectations of our first world life, because very few cars available on the Canadian market have wind-up windows these days, let alone require a key to get into each front door as well as the rear hatch. Seriously there’s not even an interior latch to remotely release it, but once it’s unlocked you have the luxury of opening and closing it at will.
Standard features of note that have not yet been mentioned include tilt steering, micro-filtered ventilation, variable intermittent wipers, an intermittent rear wiper, two-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3/WMA audio with Radio Data System (RDS) and speed-sensitive volume control, a USB port and aux-in jack, a four-way manual driver’s seat, 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks, and more.
If you want air conditioning and/or cruise control, not to mention an upgraded steering wheel featuring switchgear on its right spoke, simply opt for the Micra S with its available automatic and these features come standard. That upmarket move requires a surprisingly hefty $3,810 resulting in a new total of $14,298 before freight and fees, which, once again to be fair to the Mitsubishi, is $2,100 more than the Mirage CVT that already includes the autobox-infused Micra upgrades as standard. The thing is, you’ll be hard pressed to get up a steep hill in the Mitsubishi, while you’ll be hard charging in the Micra.
The fancier cloth isn’t all you get when moving up from the Micra’s base S trim to its $15,598 mid-range SV or $17,598 top-tier SR grade, with the former trim’s standard features list swelling to include the automatic transmission, body-coloured mirror caps and door handles, power locks with auto-locking, powered windows, heated power-adjustable side mirrors, chrome interior door handles, cruise control, air conditioning, four-speaker audio, a six-way manual driver’s seat with a folding armrest, etcetera, while factory options for this trim include a $400 SV Style Package with 15-inch alloy wheels and a rear spoiler.
The top-line Micra SR gets the same rooftop spoiler and its own set of aluminum wheels, although its standard machine-finished rims grow to 16 inches and ride on 185/55 all-season rubber, while the rest of its standard features list includes upgraded sport headlights and taillights, front fog lamps, side sill spoilers, chrome exterior accents, a chrome exhaust tip, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a leather-wrapped shift lever with the manual transmission (which once again comes standard), even nicer Sport cloth upholstery, and more.
Paint colours aside there aren’t any factory options for the Micra’s two upper grades, but Nissan provides plenty of dealer-installed accessories no matter the trim, and some really celebrate the car’s sporty nature. For instance, there are Colour Studio packages that include contrasting coloured mirror covers and sport stripes available across the line for $219, or alternatively you can swap out the body-colour door handles on SV and SR models with the same contrasting colour from the aforementioned City Package by choosing the $461 Trend Package, while the $599 Intensity Package ups the ante with a contrasting coloured rear hatch finisher and a custom “Premium Package” emblem.
Alternatively you can get all of the above individually, as well as colour centre wheel caps, a rear rooftop spoiler (for S and SV trims), a chrome exhaust tip (ditto), etcetera, plus a whole host of more conventional accessories like all-season floor mats, a cargo mat, bicycle and ski/snowboard/wakeboard carriers, and more.
I should mention that the Micra and Mirage aren’t the only hatchbacks vying for your attention in this class. As noted earlier, Chevy’s little Spark is also a credible competitor for about $500 less than the Micra, while it bridges the gap (more like a chasm) when it comes to performance thanks to 98 horsepower and 94 lb-ft of torque (still 11 hp and 13 lb-ft less than the Micra), and fuel economy that’s rated at 7.2 L/100km combined, plus it offers an identically sized 7.0-inch touchscreen with standard CarPlay and Android smartphone integration, etcetera. It was redesigned for 2019, which spurred the strongest year-over-year growth within Canada’s entire small car sector (including larger subcompact and compact models) at 24.2 percent, resulting in 4,945 units and second place in the city car segment.
At the other end of the positivity spectrum Fiat’s much pricier $22,495 500 lost even more ground than the Micra at -68 percent and just 269 units down the road during the same 12 months—year-over-year Micra sales were down 39 percent, incidentally. The Smart Fortwo, which doesn’t really face off directly against any of these five-place competitors due to having just two seats, now being solely electric and thus starting at $29,050 and wearing a new EQ badge, saw its sales shrink by 13.9 percent to 317 units last year, while the entire city car segment has been contracting in recent years due to the cancellation of the all-electric Mitsubishi i-MiEV last year and the Scion iQ the year before.
Glancing back at that list of rivals and it’s not too unreasonable to surmise some future cancellations. Truly, if it weren’t for Daimler’s brilliantly innovative Car2Go sharing program (it was first) it’s highly unlikely the Smart brand would exist anymore, at least in our part of the world, while both Fiat, which is repositioning itself as a boutique premium brand like Mini, and Mitsubishi, that’s only having any notable success with Outlander compact SUV that saw growth of nearly 50-percent last year due to a plug-in hybrid version, may not make it through the next inevitable recession.
I mean, if Fiat only managed to sell 596 vehicles brand-wide up until October of 2018, which is a 73 percent drop from the year prior, and then conveniently forgot to mention the brand in its monthly and yearly totals in November and December, there’s a pretty good chance they’re about to say arrivederci to the North American markets sooner than later. We sourced the information from Automotive News Canada that reported 645 calendar 2018 sales for a 72.4 percent downturn compared to the 2,339 units sold in 2017, but that’s still got to be beyond challenging for the Italian brand’s 55 independent retailers.
I’ve driven all of the above so therefore it’s easy for me to understand why the Micra is Canada’s best-selling city car, not to mention more popular than plenty of other small cars including the Mini Cooper at 4,466 units, the Honda Fit at 3,520 (although a flood at its Mexican assembly plant was the cause of its 29.9 percent downfall), Chevrolet Sonic at 2,836 (which will soon be discontinued), Volkswagen Beetle at 2,077, Ford Fiesta 1,323 (also cancelled), and Hyundai Veloster at 1,077 units (but it’s more of a niche sport model). I’m not saying this final list of cars aren’t more appealing than the Micra overall, but when value is factored into the mix, only the Honda Fit measures up.
While we most likely won’t see a redesign of our Canadian-exclusive Micra anytime soon (most other markets received an all-new Micra in 2017), because it’s not available in the U.S. and therefore may not warrant the investment, it’s possible that a change in market conditions could see it quickly become even more popular than it already is with price- and interest rate-sensitive first-time and fixed-income buyers. Still, as much as I’d like to get my hands on the more up-to-date version, the current Micra offers so much value for its asking price and provides so much fun at the wheel that it’s impossible to beat, and now that Nissan has given this base model new life with a fresh infotainment touchscreen it’s even better than ever, putting the new 2019 Micra S high on my budget conscious shoppers recommendations list.
Nissan Micra Cup 2018 – RACE #1 (37:56 – Note: race starts at 4:55):
The Qashqai might only be second-most popular amongst Nissan models in Canada, but since arriving two years ago it has quickly swept into first place within its subcompact crossover SUV segment thanks…
The Qashqai might only be second-most popular amongst Nissan models in Canada, but since arriving two years ago it has quickly swept into first place within its subcompact crossover SUV segment thanks to 19,662 unit sales during calendar year 2018, a 119.2-percent increase over the previous year.
All the more reason to give the upcoming 2020 Qashqai a mid-cycle refresh, featuring Nissan’s more rugged looking Vmotion 2.0 grille surrounded by revised headlamps with LED signature daytime running lights, a more dynamic lower fascia, and a new sculpted hood design up front, plus available 19-inch alloy wheels down each side and reworked rear styling with sharper looking combination taillights. From front to back the new Qashqai has been modernized with a sportier yet still classy look for a subcompact SUV.
The Qashqai received Intelligent Emergency Braking (IEB), radar-based Blind Spot Warning (BSW), Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA), and Nissan’s Rear Door Alert (RDA) system, that reminds if you’ve left something or someone in the back seat, across its the entire for 2019, and these important safety features continue into the 2020 model year, but even better the upgraded Qashqai will get the entire Nissan Safety Shield 360 system in base S trim too.
Nissan Safety Shield 360, currently available in SV and SL trims, upgrades the Intelligent Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, plus adds Rear Intelligent Emergency Braking, Lane Departure Warning (LDW), and High Beam Assist (HBA) to the 2020 Qashqai’s list of advanced driver assistance systems, for a full slate of Nissan Intelligent Mobility strategy functions.
Of note, Nissan made its ProPilot Assist semi-autonomous single-lane “hands-on-wheel” driving system standard on the top-line Qashqai SL for 2019, while making it optional on the SV model. ProPilot Assist has the ability to completely drive itself, but due to safety concerns only lets you remove your hands from the steering wheel for about eight seconds at a time. Still, it can reduce driving fatigue by limiting the need to apply acceleration, steering and braking inputs and, together with the aforementioned Nissan Safety Shield 360 system, may even help to avoid a potential accident.
“Our Qashqai is a critical vehicle in Nissan’s popular CUV lineup; slotted strategically between the Nissan Kicks and Rogue,” said Steve Rhind, director of marketing, Nissan Canada Inc. “We’re committed to keeping our crossover/SUV portfolio fresh – which also includes the redesigned Murano, new Pathfinder Rock Creek Edition and flagship Armada. Nissan is on a roll and we’re not letting up heading into 2020.”
The current Qashqai also received a standard 7.0-inch infotainment touchscreen for 2019, complete with standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, satellite radio, live navigation, plus mobile apps and services. The upcoming 2020 Qashqai appears to have the same centre display included, which would certainly keep it up to date with others in the subcompact crossover SUV segment.
Like the current Qashqai, the new 2020 model will once again be available with both front-wheel and “Intelligent” all-wheel drivetrains, depending on whether choosing base S, SV or SL trims. Today’s 141-horsepower 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine will continue as the standard powerplant for the 2020 model year as well, mated to either a six-speed manual transmission in base S trim, or with an optional Xtronic continuously variable transmission (CVT). Expect additional trim and pricing information closer to its launch date later this year.