Remember the Micra? How about the Versa Note? Both were subcompact hatchbacks from Nissan, and both were discontinued from our market in 2019, at least partially due to our collective love affair with…
Remember the Micra? How about the Versa Note? Both were subcompact hatchbacks from Nissan, and both were discontinued from our market in 2019, at least partially due to our collective love affair with SUVs.
A quick glance at the new 2021 Kicks and it will be easy to see that the auto industry’s bigger is better trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down, with the new models’ grille augmented significantly over the original design it replaces. This makes for a more imposing visual presence, albeit with a feistier, more impish attitude than the brand’s larger SUVs. The chromed grille surround nicely flows up and outward into a sharply shaped set of horizontal headlight clusters, while new LED fog lamps can be found just below on the model’s sportiest and priciest SR trim line. Changes are less noticeable down each side and in back, the former including new LED turn signals integrated into the side mirror caps, and the latter including a redesigned bumper.
Making the slight bump in pricing still more palatable, new standard exterior features include automatic on/off headlights, heated side mirrors, and a rear wiper/washer, while updates to the interior include a new standard 7.0-inch infotainment display with standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration. This gets upgraded to a larger 8.0-inch touchscreen in mid-range SV and top-line SR trims, while additional options include a leather-wrapped steering wheel rim and shift knob, a single-zone automatic climate control system, plus Bose audio.
Those wanting more power will need to be satisfied for the time being, as the Kicks’ sole 122 horsepower 1.4-litre four-cylinder engine remains unchanged, including its 114 lb-ft of torque. This entry-level model is more about fuel economy than all-out performance anyway, aided by an efficient continuously variable transmission (CVT) the continues into 2021 as standard equipment. Although fuel economy details have yet to surface for the 2021 model, today’s Kicks is rated at 7.7 L/100km in the city, 6.6 on the highway and 7.2 combined with its front-wheel drivetrain, and take note Nissan doesn’t offer an all-wheel drive upgrade for this model.
Along with excellent fuel economy, the 2021 Kicks comes well equipped with advanced safety and convenience features including standard automatic emergency braking, rear automatic braking, lane-departure warning, blind spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, and high-beam assist. Moving up to SV or SR trims adds driver alertness monitoring and a rear door alert system that warns when something or someone may have been left in the rear seating area, while top-line SR Premium trim includes a 360-degree surround parking camera.
If you think this market segment is packed full of competitors, consider that Ford’s EcoSport, Honda’s HR-V, Jeep’s Compass and Renegade, plus Fiat’s 500X and Mini’s Countryman (arguably a premium subcompact SUV) weren’t even mentioned because they’re all priced over $25k (some well over), while Dodge and Volkswagen don’t even offer anything in this category, but the domestic and German brands should ante up something soon if they want to build their brands with first-time new car buyers, and thus remain relevant.
Hyundai’s popular Accent hasn’t changed all that much since generation-five was introduced for the 2018 model year. Still, the adoption of a new brand-wide trim level naming convention for the 2019 version probably threw a few diehard Hyundai buyers for a loop, with the previous L, LE, GL and GLS lines being creatively redubbed Essential, Preferred and Ultimate.
The car before you would’ve been named the Accent GLS 5-Door Manual back in 2017 when the 2018 model debuted, but for 2019 was renamed the Accent Ultimate 5-Door Manual. The manual in this top-line trim won’t exist for 2020, incidentally, so being that this exact model in 2019 form was still available at the time of writing, I thought I’d tell you about it along with changes made to the new 2020 Accent, plus let you know about any potential savings on either car.
For starters, the Accent Sedan is gone. Yes, those who love subcompact four-door sedans can no longer look to Hyundai to satiate their desires. Hyundai isn’t alone, with Toyota dropping its Mazda-built Yaris Sedan for 2020 as well, Nissan saying goodbye to its Versa Note and not bringing its redesigned Versa sedan north of the 49th, Ford killing off its entire Fiesta line that included a sedan and hatchback last year, and Chevy having done likewise with its Sonic the year before, leaving Kia’s Rio as the sole option for three-box city car buyers.
Also new, the Accent gets a fully redesigned engine for 2020, plus a new optional continuously variable transmission (CVT). Gone is this car’s very reliable 1.6-litre four-cylinder that’s good for a commendable 132 horsepower and 119 lb-ft of torque, replaced by the South Korean brand’s all-new 1.6-litre Smartstream four-cylinder engine making 120 horsepower and 113 lb-ft of torque.
The new powertrain is obviously more about fuel economy than performance, having said goodbye to 12 horsepower plus 6 lb-ft of torque, and to this end it achieves an impressive 7.8 L/100km in the city, 6.1 on the highway and 7.0 combined with its base six-speed manual, or an even better 7.3 city, 6.0 highway and 6.7 combined with its most fuel-efficient CVT. It really shines when compared to the outgoing model shown here, which could only achieve a claimed rating of 8.2 city, 6.3 highway and 7.3 combined no matter whether using its six-speed manual or six-speed automatic.
Of course, the 2019 example before you really shines when taking off from a standing start or passing on the highway. True, I haven’t driven the new 2020 model yet, so Hyundai may have made up for its engine output disadvantage with shortened initial gear ratios, but I’m guessing those trading up from old to new will still find it difficult not to notice a sizeable difference in performance. Hyundai is no doubt hoping the car’s fuel economy improvements will more than make up for any accelerative shortcomings.
This said, fewer and fewer new vehicle buyers are trading up from subcompact cars to the same type of vehicle, but instead are opting for a small SUV. Hyundai has the subcompact SUV category fully covered with its new city car-sized 2020 Venue and slightly larger Kona, the latter model introduced for 2018. The sales of these two have grown exponentially, whereas the Accent’s numbers are dropping at a relatively rapid rate. From a high of 29,751 units in 2018, and still strong Canadian sales of 23,173 in 2014, the Accent’s deliveries have steadily slumped downward from 19,371 in 2015, 19,198 in 2016, 13,073 in 2017, 9,021 in 2018 and just 5,989 in 2019.
As noted, small SUV sales have been the benefactors, with the Kona finding 14,497 new buyers in its first partial year (it arrived in March) of 2018 and a whopping 25,817 units throughout 2019, making it number one in its class last year, and the same over the first three months of 2020 too. The Venue is too new and the 2020 calendar year too wonky to make any sense of how it will do overall when things normalize, but if it sells anywhere near as well as the similarly sized Nissan Kicks it should rank somewhere amongst the subcompact SUV segment’s top three or four (the Venue outsold the Kicks in March and had its best sales in May, but Nissan Canada only reports its sales quarterly so we’ll need to wait a little longer to find out—I’ll tell you in my upcoming 2020 Venue and Kicks reviews). Of more importance to this review, in Q1 of 2020 the Venue outsold the Accent by about 1.6 to 1, making it easier to appreciate why Hyundai dropped the slower selling sedan variant.
This said there are a lot of reasons to choose the Accent over one of its taller more SUV-like brethren. I say SUV-like because most modern SUVs are little more than raised hatchbacks or wagons with chunkier, beefier styling. Some, like the Venue, don’t even offer all-wheel drive, so their buyers are opting for a more rugged go-anywhere design and a taller ride-height for better outward visibility. They give up some handing chops and oftentimes fuel economy too, but that’s ok in today’s oh-so image conscious society.
The Accent’s 2018 redesign was a major improvement over its more sheepish predecessor, its much bolder wide mouth grille adding a little Audi-like presence to this entry-level commuter. In Ultimate trim there’s more chrome bits to brighten the exterior, particularly on the front fascia that incorporates a set of fog lamps with metal brightwork bezels on each corner, while the side window belt mouldings and each of its four door handles are chromed as well. The LED headlamps with LED signature accents help spiff up this top-line trim too, as do the LED turn signals integrated within the side mirror housings, while a sporty set of 17-inch multi-spoke alloy wheels round out the look nicely, these framing a set of four-wheel disc brakes in Ultimate trim (lesser versions use rear drums).
I have to say, the Accent’s exterior styling never left me feeling as if I was living at the entry level of the market. Along with the big, bold grille is a wonderfully detailed front fascia worthy of hot hatch respect, albeit the car’s dramatically sculpted rear valance is even more eye-catching thanks to a large, body-wide black mesh grille insert resulting in a particularly aggressive look. A rear roof top spoiler gives the Accent’s profile a longer, leaner appearance, although it’s not as if they need to visually stretch this car in order to make it look longer than it actually is.
This is the largest Accent in its 18-year tenure, or at least it’s been on the Canadian market for 18 years. The Accent nameplate has been in existence longer, but here in Canada it was previously dubbed Excel, and before that Pony. I’ve driven every generation since the mid-‘80s rear-wheel drive Giorgetto Giugiaro-designed original took our market by storm, and believe me it’s come a long way (as has everything else).
The current 4,190-mm long Accent hatchback is 90 mm lengthier than its 18-year-old predecessor, with a 2,580-mm long wheelbase that now spans 180 mm more, while the new car’s 1,729-mm width shows its greatest growth at 109 mm from side-to-side, its 1,450 mm in height only 55 mm taller. Of course, this makes today’s subcompact more like the compacts of yesteryear, which actually means they’re better value than ever when factoring in that the Accent’s price hasn’t really gone up when compared to inflation.
The base Essential starts at just $14,949 plus freight and fees for 2020, by the way, which is quite a bit cheaper than last year’s $17,349 base price. Unusual I know, especially when factoring in the thrifty new engine, but the 2019 model came standard with a Comfort Package that’s extra with the 2020 model, the new 2020 Essential with Comfort Package now starting at $17,699. The price for the Accent’s second-rung Preferred trim has increased too, from $17,549 last year to $17,899 this year, while the as-tested Ultimate has added $1,250 from $20,049 to $21,649, but take note the new CVT auto is now standard whereas last year’s six-speed automatic was an extra (what do ya know?) $1,250 across the line.
Another interesting point about small car value that most Canadians don’t realize is the great deal we’re getting here compared to the U.S. The base 2020 Accent south of the 49th (that just happens to be a sedan as no hatchback is offered there) is $15,295 USD, which was $20,735 CAD after calculating the exchange rate at the time of writing. Likewise, their top-line 2020 Accent Limited is $19,400 USD or $26,300 CAD, while our full-load Ultimate is once again just $21,649. We’re getting a stellar deal.
On top of this, Hyundai Canada is offering factory leasing and financing rates from zero percent on 2019 models or up to $750 in additional incentives for 2020 models according to CarCostCanada, where you can find out about available rebates, financing rates and even dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands on your next new car purchase. They’ve even got a free mobile app to make your car shopping experience easier, so make sure to find out how their smart system can save you big time before you purchase your next car.
The Accent’s larger exterior dimensions translate into a much roomier subcompact hatchback than you might have been expecting, especially when it comes to width. The seats offer plenty of adjustability as long as you’re not looking to modulate the driver’s lumbar area, which is static as is usually the case in this class. I could’ve used a more pronounced lower backrest and better side bolstering, but I can understand this is a one-seat-fits-all compromise and therefore it’s not going to match everyone’s body type ideally. The rest of its adjustments are more than adequate, however, while the tilt and telescopic steering column’s reach was particularly good, enough so that my long-legged, short-torso frame was able to feel right at home with excellent control of the wheel and pedals, not always the case in this category.
Rear seat spaciousness was very good too, but take note that even in this top-line trim there’s no folding centre armrest in back. Instead, the seatbacks fold 60/40 to expand the already generous dedicated cargo area when the need to load in longer items arises. When folded the seatbacks are about four inches above the load floor, which therefore isn’t flat, but most will probably prefer that Hyundai chose to maximize available volume instead of creating a level load area when the rear seats are lowered. A spare-saver tire and some tools can be found below the load floor, while a hard-shell cargo cover hovers above, all par for the course in this segment.
More out of the norm for this subcompact segment is the Accent 5-Door Ultimate’s tastefully sporty interior design, plus its impressive load of features. The fact you can leave its key fob in your pocket or purse when opening the door via proximity-sensing access before starting the engine with a button just goes to show how far Hyundai has gone to lift up this lower class into a more sophisticated crowd. The cabin is further enhanced with a sharp-looking two-tone red and black motif. Hyundai doesn’t go so far as to finish any surfaces with soft-touch synthetics, other than the padded leatherette armrests and of course the nicely upholstered seats, these complete with red leatherette side bolsters, red stitching and a stack of six hexagonal shapes embroidered onto their cloth backrests, all of which match the door panel inserts, the red stitching on the shifter boot, and the red baseball stitching on the inside rim of the leather-wrapped steering wheel. Once again everything mentioned impresses more than most shopping in this category will expect.
The steering wheel spokes include very high-quality switchgear left and right, the toggles on the former for the audio system and surrounding buttons for audio mode control, voice activation, and connecting to the phone, whereas the latter spoke’s switches are for scrolling through the monochromatic multi-information display and cruise controls.
The gauges ahead of the driver are a simple fare, with backlit dials surrounding the just-noted multi-info display, so if you want to be impressed by a digital interface as you’ll need to look to the right at the centre stack which gets a large touchscreen infotainment display complete with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, regular audio functions, the latter including satellite radio, plus more.
Just below is a single-zone automatic climate control interface that’s made easy to use thanks to large dials that accept winter gloves, while below that is a row of buttons for three-way heated front seats and even a heatable steering wheel rim. At the base of the centre stack is a large bin for storing your smartphone, with connections for a USB-A charge port and an auxiliary plug.
Forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking is included in the top-line Accent, as is a powered glass sunroof, while features pulled up from lesser trims include the tilt-and-telescopic steering (an improvement over the tilt steering wheel in base trim), cruise control, front seat warmers and the 7.0-inch infotainment display noted earlier (the base model gets a 5.0-inch colour touchscreen), plus automatic on/off headlights, six-speaker audio (up from four speakers in base trim), keyless entry, and a rear seating area USB-A charging port from Preferred trim, the automatic transmission and Bluetooth mentioned before, plus power-adjustable and heated side mirrors, air conditioning and power windows from the Essential Comfort package, and lastly variable intermittent front wipers, six-way driver and four-way front passenger manually adjustable seats, plus power door locks from base Essential trim.
As noted earlier my test car came with a six-speed manual gearbox that’s no longer available in top-line Ultimate trim, this a shame to those of us who appreciate the sportier nature of a DIY transmission. The little car really comes alive with the manual, which makes the most of its aforementioned 138 horsepower. Takeoff from standstill is quick, the shifts are smooth and clutch take-up good, while braking is strong too. High-speed handling is more than adequate for the class, the Accent’s previously noted width and lower ride height (than an SUV) allowing for less body roll than you might expect. Likewise, it feels nice and stable at highway speeds, making this a car I could cruise in all day. Truly, it’s a comfortable and confidence inspiring little ride, which is no doubt a key reason it remains such a strong seller in this class.
Yes, the Accent’s entry-level car category might seem like a dying breed, but all it would take to reignite interest in small, cheap commuters like this is an extended downturn in the economy, and that could very well be just around the next corner. Combined with rising fuel prices (we’re once again experiencing that too), the Accent makes a good case for itself, with the icing on its cake being a five-year, 100,000 km comprehensive warranty. I recommend you check this little car out, and remember to opt for the 2019 if your prime focus is performance, or 2020 if you’re looking to save a bit more at the pump.
Story and photo credits: Trevor Hofmann
Photo editing: Karen Tuggay
How do factory leasing and financing rates from zero percent sound to you? That’s what Nissan is offering in order to entice you into a new 2019 Versa Note. Yes, I know the Versa Note was recently discontinued,…
How do factory leasing and financing rates from zero percent sound to you? That’s what Nissan is offering in order to entice you into a new 2019 Versa Note.
Yes, I know the Versa Note was recently discontinued, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good car. In fact, Nissan’s second-smallest hatchback is a great little runabout that provides more interior room than most subcompact competitors. It’s just passed its best-before date, and is therefore being replaced by an all-new subcompact sedan for 2020.
If you haven’t seen the new four-door Versa yet (and you may not have as it’s only being offered in the U.S. so far), imagine a shrunken 2020 Sentra or a smaller version of the recent Altima crossed with Nissan’s newest Leaf. If you’re not sure what the Altima looks like, Nissan’s mid-size family car was recently redesigned to look like a smaller, less dramatic Maxima sedan, the latter being Nissan’s ultimately stylish flagship four-door (it really is a nice looking car), while the current second-generation Leaf was recently normalized in order to appeal to a larger audience (the first one was a bit whacky). All in all the new Versa sedan looks fresh and modern, and the outgoing Versa Note doesn’t.
While not the latest, greatest Nissan on the block, this final Versa Note nevertheless incorporates most of the brand’s newest frontal design trends for much more attractive styling than the original version sold here, which was in fact the second-generation sold elsewhere. That car ended up replacing the even blander Versa sedan as well as the unorthodox (but brilliantly cool) Cube crossover, and actually did rather well on the sales charts when first arriving on the scene in late 2013.
To be clear, the 12,297 Versas sold in 2013 and 13,314 delivered in 2014 were a combination of the Note hatchback and Versa sedan, the latter cancelled in Canada after the 2014 model year. Thus calendar year 2015 resulted in just 9,120 Versa Note unit sales, which by hindsight should have been celebrated as a banner 12 months being that Canadian sales slipped to 7,417 units the following year and only climbed up to 7,865 in 2017, before dropping all the way down to 5,385 examples in 2018 and only 2,369 last year.
Despite losing favour with the buying public as the years continued, which was partially due to the extremely well received Micra city car that arrived in 2014, and also because of Canadian consumers’ continued purge of cars for crossover SUVs (Nissan currently leading the market’s small SUV charge with its popular Kicks and Qashqai subcompacts and Rogue compact), the Versa Note is a well-designed four-door hatchback that delivers big in space and comfort.
The Note offers loftier occupants an incredible amount of headroom thanks to a tall overall design that makes it feel more like a subcompact SUV or a mini-minivan than an economy car. The seats are especially comfortable too, thanks to memory foam that really cushions and supports the backside, and the upholstery is attractive as well, with a nice blue fleck on black cloth. The driver even gets a folding armrest attached to the right-side bolster for added comfort.
Other nice details include a leather-wrapped steering wheel with tilt function, and some attractive satin-silver detailing on its spokes. The silver treatment circles around each HVAC vent too, plus it adorns the centre stack and surrounds the shift lever. What’s more, the gauge cluster is particularly impressive, with backlit dials and some great looking digital displays. In fact, it’s so nice that it makes the infotainment touchscreen seem dated by comparison. The truth is that the centre display does look a bit behind graphically, especially when compared to interfaces in Nissan’s newer more recently updated models, but it’s nevertheless plenty functional and easy to use, plus at 7.0 inches in diameter it’s quite large, which works well for the backup camera.
Due to the lack of telescopic steering, the Versa may not fit your body type ideally however, my long legs and short torso necessitating a seat position that was closer to the pedals than I would’ve liked, causing me to compromise with a more upright backrest than normal. I managed to get reasonably comfortable after spending some time setting it up, after which it also provided an adequate driving position for decent control.
On the positive, the rear seating area is spacious with more legroom than average for this class (Natural Resources Canada actually classifies the Versa Note as a mid-size car), so like I mentioned a moment ago, this little car (with a long wheelbase) is perfect for large people on a budget. A flip-down rear centre armrest gets filled with dual cupholders, plus there are two cupholders on the backside of the front console that are easy to access for rear passengers, while a magazine holder gets added to the backside of the front passenger’s seat.
The Versa Note is good for those that haul a lot of cargo as well. It includes 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks, which is normal in this class, but unusually welcome is the fancy Divide-N-Hide adjustable cargo floor that moves up and down as needed. It’s good for stowing tall cargo when left at the bottom, or when lifted allows for a totally flat loading area once the seats are lowered. The Note’s dedicated cargo volume measures 532 litres (18.8 cubic feet) behind the rear seats, while laying the seatbacks flat results in a really generous 1,084 litres (38.3 cu ft) of maximum space.
All of that spacious interior volume comes well stocked with features, but of course its content will depend on which trim you choose. Take note, Nissan dropped the model’s sportiest SR trim for 2019 and its most luxurious SL trim for 2018, but they introduced the $700 SV Special Edition package for the model’s final incarnation, which adds fog lamps, a rear rooftop spoiler and Special Edition badging to the exterior, plus proximity-sensing keyless access to get you inside and a pushbutton ignition system to turn on the engine, while the cabin includes upgraded NissanConnect infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as well as SiriusXM satellite radio.
One glance at my tester’s lack of fog lamps and it’s easy to see that it’s not an SV Special Edition, but instead its 15-inch alloy wheels make its regular $18,398 SV designation clear (the base Note S comes with wheel covers over 15-inch steel rims). The SV also adds the impressive instrument cluster and leather-wrapped steering wheel I mentioned earlier, plus power door locks with remote keyless entry, powered windows, a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) as standard equipment, cruise control, a six-way manual driver’s seat (that now includes height adjustment), heatable front seats, a cargo cover, and more.
The $14,698 base S model is the only trim available with a five-speed manual transmission for 2019 (it came standard in the SV as well for 2018), but the CVT can be had for $1,300 more. No matter the transmission, the base model also includes power-adjustable heated side mirrors, a four-way manual driver’s seat, air conditioning, the aforementioned 7.0-inch infotainment touchscreen, Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity with audio streaming, audio and phone switches on the steering wheel spokes, a hands-free text messaging assistant, Siri Eyes Free, aux and USB inputs on the lower console, a four-speaker audio system, and more.
Of course, all the expected active and passive safety features are included too, but if you want the latest advanced driver assistive systems such as collision warning with automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitoring with lane departure warning, or dynamic cruise control with Nissan’s semi-autonomous ProPILOT assist self-driving technology, it’s best to look toward one of the newer SUVs in the Japanese brand’s lineup.
The Versa Note is more traditional than those trendier utilities, and in this respect it does everything that most practical consumers need. It’s not quite as fancy or edgy as the newer Nissans, yet along with its comfortable seats, and thanks in part to its aforementioned long wheelbase it provides an extremely nice ride for its subcompact price, plus adequate performance off the line or when passing, while its CVT is very smooth if not particularly sporty.
The same 1.6-litre inline four-cylinder found in the tiny Micra puts out an identical 109 horsepower and 107 lb-ft of torque in the Note, which means the larger, heavier car doesn’t feel as enthusiastic when going about its business. Of course, the focus is more on fuel-efficiency in this class, and to that end the Versa gets a Transport Canada five-cycle fuel economy rating of 8.6 L/100km in the city, 6.6 on the highway and 7.7 combined with the manual, or 7.6 city, 6.2 highway and 7.0 combined with the CVT, which doesn’t sound all that good until comparing it to the just-mentioned Micra that when fully loaded has an identical 1,092-kilo curb weight as the base Versa Note’s starting point (the as-tested Note SV weighs in at 1,124 kg), yet nevertheless manages just 7.9 combined with its manual and 8.0 combined with its less advanced four-speed auto. A better comparison is the similarly roomy Honda Fit that’s good for 7.0 L/100km combined with its six-speed manual or just 6.5 with its most efficient CVT.
The Note is a tall hatchback as mentioned, so its high centre-of-gravity works against performance when pushing hard through the corners, but if you don’t mind a little body lean when trying to make up time, it manages fast-paced curves reasonably well. This said, if you’re looking for a sportier runabout and don’t mind slightly less room, the considerably less expensive Micra that I mentioned a moment ago is a very good bet. The Versa Note, on the other hand, is designed more for comfort than speed, and therefore does a great job of shuttling one to five adults around town with ease, and would likely make a decent road trip companion as well.
If you’d like to take advantage of the zero-percent financing noted earlier in this review, and think this little Nissan might suit your lifestyle and budget, I’d recommend checking out CarCostCanada’s 2019 Nissan Versa Note Canada Prices page where you can go over all trims and packages in detail, not to mention quickly scan the available colours within each trim, while also learning about the latest manufacturer rebates that could save you even more.
Best of all, however, is a CarCostCanada membership that provides access to dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands upon purchase. All of the above is available online at CarCostCanada’s website or via a new CarCostCanada app downloadable for free from your phone’s app store. So before you call your local Nissan retailer or connect with them online (it’s probably a good idea to deal with them remotely during this time of crisis) make sure you’ve first done your homework at CarCostCanada, so you can get the best deal possible on your new Versa Note.
Well you’ve gone and done it now Canada. You lost your love for the Hyundai Accent Sedan and now its gone. It could be worse. Our American friends felt similarly about the hatchback and now they’ve…
Well you’ve gone and done it now Canada. You lost your love for the Hyundai Accent Sedan and now its gone.
It could be worse. Our American friends felt similarly about the hatchback and now they’ve lost the more versatile five-door variant that becomes Hyundai’s sole subcompact car offering here in Canada for 2020. The U.S. market loves four-door three-box models a lot more than we do, and with car sales slipping as crossover SUVs rise, it was only a matter of time before something gave way.
Hyundai’s U.S. division will fill the void left by the Accent Hatchback with the same entry-level Venue sport utility we’re getting for 2020 (I just picked one up for a weeklong test and so far I’m impressed), while the slightly larger Kona has been selling like gangbusters for nearly two years, resulting in significant sales leadership in the same subcompact crossover SUV segment.
A quick glance at sales numbers makes Hyundai Canada’s decision to trim the fat easy to understand. The Kona, which went on sale in March of 2018, sold a phenomenal 25,817 units during its first full calendar year of 2019, by far the best any subcompact SUV has ever done and more than 7,000 units ahead of the second-place Nissan Qashqai. Bolstering its entry-level SUV roster, Hyundai just added the even smaller Venue to the mix, which found 456 buyers in its first month of January 2020 alone. While that number didn’t come anywhere close to the Kona’s 1,651-unit tally during the same month, it nevertheless outsold the Accent’s 202 sales by 225 percent. It’s hard to argue against those numbers, which is why cars like the Accent are slowly fading away and small SUVs, like the Venue and Kona, are taking over.
To be fair, at least amongst subcompact cars, the Accent has long been number one in its entry-level segment, only beaten by the Toyota Yaris for the first time last year. The Yaris, by the way, only sold 190 units last month, which is 12 fewer than the Accent, but this said last year’s third-place Kia Rio actually stole the show with 243 deliveries so it’s anyone’s guess as to the subcompact car category’s top dog in 11 months’ time.
One thing’s clear, the Accent Sedan won’t help push that tally up by much. Plenty of dealers across the country still have this great little four-door available, although most have made their farewells and ushered in the 2020 Accent Hatchback, which continues forward looking the same, albeit updated with a new engine and new optional continuously variable transmission (CVT), the latter replacing the six-speed automatic tested in this 2019 model.
I’ve got mixed feelings about the 2020 updates, as the changes were all about fuel economy. This 2019 Accent sports a fairly punchy 132-horsepower 1.6-litre four-cylinder with 119 lb-ft of torque, whereas the new 2020 model gets an identically sized four utilizing Hyundai’s new Smartstream technology, but the result is just 120 horsepower and 113 lb-ft of torque. It wouldn’t have been long ago that losing 12 horsepower and six lb-ft of torque would be a nail in the coffin for a new model, but now that improvements at the pump and emissions reductions are so important, at least in this entry class, the update seems like progress.
To be clear, the Smartstream G1.6 DPI engine used in the new Accent has very little in common with the Smartstream G1.6 T-GDi engine found in the new Sonata. The former is a naturally aspirated inline four-cylinder with dual-port injection (DPI), continuously variable valve timing, and a new thermal management module that helps warm the engine up faster for optimal performance and efficiency, whereas the latter is a radical turbocharged V4 making 180 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque thanks in part to industry-first Continuously Variable Valve Duration (CVVD) that ups performance by four percent, improves fuel economy by five percent, and reduces emissions by 12 percent (I’ll go into more detailing when reviewing the new 2020 Sonata Turbo), while Low Pressure Exhaust Gas Recirculation (LP EGR) particularly helps Hyundai to achieve the last figure.
While the Sonata Turbo’s new Smartstream G1.6 T-GDi is a significant progression in engine technology, a mechanical rethink that will allow for myriad packaging benefits and potentially shrink the size of future engine bays while making hybrid tech easier to adapt for existing models, plus it also stands as a witness to the importance of the internal combustion engine (ICE) in future products (why would Hyundai invest so heavily in a dying technology if hey didn’t believe it had decades of life left), the Accent’s Smartstream G1.6 DPI should be seen as more of an upgrade to an existing powerplant rather than anything revolutionary.
Then again, factor in the gains in fuel economy and the word revolutionary might be apropos. The 2019 model on this page is good for a claimed 8.2 L/100km in the city, 6.2 on the highway and 7.3 combined whether using its standard six-speed manual or optional six-speed automatic, whereas the new 2020 model ekes out 7.8 L/100km city, 6.1 highway and 6.9 combined with its six-speed manual or 7.3, 6.0 and 6.6 respectively with its new CVT. That latter number represents a 12-percent improvement in fuel economy.
I like the six-speed automatic in the current Accent as it shifts smoothly, provides good mechanical feel and even comes across quite sporty when slotted into manual mode and operated by hand, but with more of its mission focused on fuel economy the 2020 Accent’s optional CVT, dubbed ITV by Hyundai for “Intelligent Variable Transmission,” should be considered an upgrade. Hyundai claims it simulates shifts well, so I’ll be sure to report back on that when tested, and most CVTs are smoother than conventional automatics, unless those simulated shifts aren’t executed ideally. I won’t go into much more detail about this gearless box right now, but will say it incorporates a wide-ratio pulley system claimed to provide a broader operation ratio when compared to rival CVTs, this improving fuel economy when higher gear ratios are in use and benefits performance when using its lower ratios.
As it is (or was) for 2019, the Accent sedan provides relatively sporty performance from its more potent engine and at least equally engaging transmission, while its ride is good thanks to a well-calibrated front strut and rear torsion beam suspension, and should continue being so moving into 2020 as the two model years are identical other than their powertrains. Likewise handling is about average for the class, its electric power steering providing good directional response yet only moderate feedback, but it’s still fun to fling through corners. The standard four-wheel disc brakes provide strong stopping power too, the Accent always feeling safe and stable even when practicing emergency manoeuvres.
Another positive is interior roominess. For such a small car it certainly feels spacious inside, particular for headroom. Front legroom is good and it should be more than adequate for side-to-side hip and shoulder room too, unless those inside are particularly large folk. It’s easy to get the driver’s seat into a good position, thanks to ample steering column rake and reach, while fore and aft seat adjustment is excellent. The backrest reclines, of course, but there’s no way to adjust the lumbar. Fortunately the seat is well designed for good support all-round, so shouldn’t be a problem for most body types.
It’s fairly small in back, but it should be suitable for two average sized adults or three slender passengers, kids included. With the front seat positioned for my five-foot-eight longer legged, shorter torso frame, which meant I had to push it further rearward than most measuring my height would, I had about two inches remaining between the seatback and my knees, plus enough space for my feet while wearing winter boots. Fortunately the seatbacks get finished in a nice cloth, which would be a bit more comfortable if touching the knees, but no one likes to experience that either way. I had a reasonable room from my small-to-medium build torso to the door panel, measuring about three to four inches at the hips and slightly more next to my left shoulder, while approximately two and a half inches of air space was left over above my head (but remember I’ve got a shorter than average torso).
Unfortunately Hyundai doesn’t include a folding centre armrest in back, and there were no vents on the backside of the front centre console to keep the rear quarters aerated, but at least Hyundai provides a rear USB charge point for powering passengers’ devices.
As far as interior finishings go, Hyundai has eschewed the latest subcompact trend to soft-touch surfaces, which I found both disappointing and odd. Touch the dash, the instrument panel, the door panels or anywhere else and, other than the leather-wrapped steering wheel of this top-line model, fabric door inserts, centre armrest, plus of course the seats, there isn’t a single pliable composite surface at all. Most unusual are the hard shell plastic side armrests, that I have to say are very uncomfortable. In this segment I’m able to accept a lack of soft surfaces elsewhere, such as the dash top and door uppers, but using hard plastic for the armrests is going too far.
This oversight is a shame because most everything else about the new Accent is praiseworthy. I say most because it only included a monochromatic trip computer in this top-tier model, which should really have a full-colour TFT multi-information display in this day and age. Again, I don’t mind the analogue gauges, although some competitors are starting to digitize more of their primary clusters.
Hyundai hopes such shortcomings are forgotten quickly when adding up all the other standard and available features, plus this car’s fairly low price point. Just for a sampling, on top of everything already mentioned my top line Accent Sedan featured proximity-sensing entry with pushbutton ignition, a nice infotainment touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, plenty of apps, a backup camera with active guidelines, and more. The climate control system is automatic, albeit single zone, while this model includes three-way heated front seats as well as a heatable steering wheel, the former capable of getting warmer than the class average (it can get very cold in Korea) and the latter downright hot.
The just-noted leather-wrapped steering wheel rim is nicely finished and padded for extreme comfort, while the switchgear on the 9 and 3 o’clock spokes is superbly done with voice activation, audio controls, and phone prompts on the left side, plus multi-information display and cruise controls on the right. The turn signal/headlight and windshield wiper stalks are upscale too, these, along with most of the cabin’s switchgear making its owner feel as if they’ve paid more than they really have. Likewise for the overhead console that incorporates old-school incandescent lights, yet features one of the nicest most luxuriously finished sunglasses holders I’ve ever felt, not to mention controls for the powered glass sunroof.
The rear seatbacks are split 60/40 for stowing longer items via the trunk, and dedicated storage space is fairly generous at 388 litres (13.7 cu ft), but take note the lid is very short so you’re limited as to how much you can angle in. A hatchback would remedy this, of course, so be glad Canada chose to keep the more versatile of the two body styles moving into 2020. A benefit to trunks over hatches is security; a trunk being more difficult to access by would-be thieves and therefore passed by more often when easier prey is available, but a simpler solution is to bring valuables inside. Hyundai provides a fairly large compartment underneath the trunk’s load floor, mostly filled up with a compact spare tire and tools, but there’s space around the edges for small items.
So there you have it. If you must have a new Accent Sedan, start calling around to your local Hyundai dealers to find one. I’ve checked, and there are some available, but you’ll need to act quickly. According to the CarCostCanada 2019 Hyundai Accent Canada Prices page, the base Essential with Comfort Package Sedan starts at $17,349 plus freight and fees, while this top-line Ultimate Sedan starts at $21,299. Of course, discounts will be available, as retailers are motivated to sell, and information about any manufacturer rebates will be available to CarCostCanada members, plus deals on factory leasing and financing rates, which were available from zero-percent at the time of writing (and 0.99 percent for the new 2020 model), and as always dealer invoice pricing that can potentially save you thousands, depending on the car being purchased.
As an alternative you can also walk over to your local Kia dealership for a 2020 Rio sedan, which is basically identical to the U.S.-market Accent Sedan under the skin, drivetrain upgrades and all. Interestingly, the Rio is now the only new subcompact sedan available in Canada, so Korea’s other auto brand has an opportunity to pull in a few sales it might not have been able to earn previously (they also have a 2020 Rio Hatchback).
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):
Listen up. Just in case you haven’t already heard, there’s no better new car for your money than Nissan’s Micra. For just $9,988 plus freight and dealer fees, which makes it the least expensive…
Listen up. Just in case you haven’t already heard, there’s no better new car for your money than Nissan’s Micra. For just $9,988 plus freight and dealer fees, which makes it the least expensive new car in Canada, the 2017 Micra represents the best value in the entire auto industry.
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 stock machine being sold for less than $10k, its DOHC, 16-valve, 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine making an equal 109 horsepower and 107 lb-ft of torque, which is sports car territory when factoring in its scant 1,044-kilo (2,302-lb) curb weight.
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. It was ruddy 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 utilized standard five-speed manuals and optional four-speed automatics.
Rather than be forced to respond to all the MR2 faithful’s hate mail pointing out the obvious benefits of a short-throw manual gearbox, lower centre of gravity, mid-engine rear-wheel drive chassis layout, etcetera ad nauseum, let’s just agree that owning a modern-day subcompact with a similar power-to-weight ratio to a revered classic sports car can result in plenty of smiles at the wheel, whether you have the talent of current 2017 Micra Cup season leader Olivier Bédard, or simply enjoy a spirited drive while commuting back and forth to work, university, or running errands.
In truth, today’s Micra has more in common with Toyota’s superb little 2004–2005 Echo Hatchback, which was also a tall, two-box front-drive subcompact, albeit with a 1.5-litre four making 108 horsepower and 105 lb-ft of torque, a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic, and once again a featherlight curb weight of 944 kg (2,081 lbs). It was a cute looking little hatch as well, especially in sportier RS trim, a car I’d love to pick up with its base manual gearbox in good condition. Being that the base Echo Hatch started at $12,995 back in its day, the pricier RS still fetches $4,000 to $5,000 now, which makes the 13-year newer Micra seem all the more appealing.
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 woos us down to its dealerships to check out. 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 in air-conditioning and steering wheel-mounted switchgear complete with cruise controls (the base model’s “naked” steering wheel looks a bit odd in a new 2017 model).
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, 60/40 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 the chosen transmission, while also adding illuminated audio and Bluetooth phone controls to the left spoke of the steering wheel, powered windows and locks, the latter featuring remote keyless entry with a panic alarm, body-colour power-adjustable heated side mirrors, body-colour door handles, two more driver’s seat adjustments for a total of six, a flip-down driver’s seat armrest, upgraded cloth upholstery, chrome interior door handles, two more stereo speakers totalling four, and more.
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 by 185/60 all-seasons) on the outside, plus a leather-wrapped steering wheel rim, a leather-wrapped shift knob (on manual transmission models), sport fabric seat and door insert upholstery, a 4.3-inch colour display audio system with an integrated rearview parking monitor, a USB port, and more for $16,188 plus freight and fees.
My $17,188 tester, which includes $1,000 for the automatic transmission, adds $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 looks so great and drives so well, minus the autobox for improved performance and a lower price.
I’ll go into more detail describing this 2017 Micra SR’s driving dynamics in my upcoming review, while also going into more detail about features usability, interior quality, comfort, roominess, and more. I might even talk sales numbers, being that the Micra outsells all of its key competitors by a grand margin, even shaming larger subcompact models when it comes to popularity. Of course all this makes sense, the Micra being a street-legal race car and all. Come back soon for my full review…
Cars don’t come more basic than the Mirage in Canada, but here at TheCarMagazine.com we celebrate simple. After all, where else can you buy a new car for just $12,698? Over at Nissan where the equally…
Cars don’t come more basic than the Mirage in Canada, but here at TheCarMagazine.com we celebrate simple. After all, where else can you buy a new car for just $12,698? Over at Nissan where the equally small and even simpler Micra hatchback sells for just $9,988 and is a whole lot more fun to drive.
The Mirage focuses more on comfort, especially in new four-door G4 guise, which is how Mitsubishi dressed up our 2017 loaner. We’ll leave our thoughts about styling for the upcoming review, but suffice to say it excites our eyes as much as it’s 78 horsepower 1.2-litre three-cylinder ignites our Evo X aspirations, but then again its as-tested 6.9 L/100km city and 5.7 highway fuel economy put a smile on our faces.
That’s with the optional continuously variable transmission (CVT), the base model quite not quite as thrifty with its five-speed manual gearbox. The CVT comes standard in $18,298 SEL trim, lesser models including the $14,498 ES 5MT and the $15,698 ES CVT.
As tested the G4 SEL is actually very well equipped with 15-inch alloys, auto-off halogen headlamps, fog lamps, heated power-adjustable body-colour side mirrors with integrated turn signals, variable intermittent wipers, cruise control, a multi-information display, a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel with tilt, piano black and chromed interior accents, micron-filtered auto climate control, Bluetooth phone connectivity with audio streaming, voice activation, a USB port, remote powered locks, powered windows, four-speaker display audio with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (Porsche doesn’t even offer the latter), a rearview camera, premium fabric upholstery, heatable front seats, a rear centre armrest with integrated cupholders, hill start assist, all the expected active and passive safety equipment including a driver’s knee airbag, and more.
As noted earlier, the Mirage was built (in Thailand incidentally) for comfort, while it’s also built for peace of mind thanks to a 10-year comprehensive and 160,000 km powertrain warranty (can’t get that at Nissan, or anywhere else for that matter).
As for convenience, the trunk is well proportioned for a subcompact city car at 348 litres, while it offers a lot better security for your belongings than the more accommodating 487-litre hatch.
A full review is on the way, so if you’re looking for a simple, straight-forward commuter car that’s great on fuel, plenty comfortable, feature filled, and backed by an incredibly good warranty, you’d best come back to find out what we think about everything else…