Austerity measures
THE GOOD
  • Zippy handling
  • Hatchback utility
  • Value
THE BAD
  • No air conditioning
  • Gets pushed around in crosswinds
  • Lots of great used cars out there for 10 grand
2019 Nissan Micra Review

The current-generation Nissan Micra came to the Canadian market in 2013, hanging its hat on a sub-$10,000 sticker price. Not much has changed since then, but for 2019 the price of the base Micra S jumps to $10,488, thanks in part to the addition of a rear-view camera – a feature standardized by Transport Canada. While this stripper model accounts for less than 10 percent of Micra sales, it surely is an entertaining, efficient, and eager little tyke for those who like to stir their own gears, manually roll up their own windows, and, perhaps more importantly, roll them down, as the S has no air conditioning.

Styling: 7/10

As far as sub-compact hatches go, the ovoid Micra is a cute little thing, all perky and wide-eyed and nicely proportioned. There’s a bit of aggression to the snout, and the optional paint, dubbed Caspian Sea ($135), adds a touch of class. This base S model runs with 15-inch steel wheels but the plastic wheel covers are a handsome seven-spoke design. Hey, it looks way better than a Mitsubishi Mirage.

Safety: 6/10

Of course, physics dictate that a car this small will not fare well if it gets into an argument with a large SUV, but that said, the Micra S has six airbags, brake assist, traction control and electronic stability, as well as the government-mandated child seat anchors and rear-view camera. If you count agility as a safety feature, the Micra S has that in spades.

Practicality: 8/10

For a car with such a small footprint, the Micra is plenty functional. Front seat room is generous, rear-seat passengers will find ingress and egress through the rear doors perfectly acceptable, and, while the accommodations are tight back there, no international human rights standards will be violated. Headroom is generous. Fold the 60/40-split rear seats down and you can fit a surprising amount of stuff in the Micra. Even an upright bass and a small amplifier, for those who were wondering.

User Friendliness: 8/10

If you can operate a manual transmission, the Micra S is an easy device to drive. The five-speed shifter handily finds the gears, and the clutch take-up is smooth and progressive. This would be a good car in which to learn the art of self-shifting. You sit upright, and outward visibility is excellent. The heating/ventilation and audio controls are refreshingly simple, as is the rotary arm motion required to raise and lower the windows. About the only real inconvenience is having to manually lock all five doors.

Features: 5/10

It’s really not fair to hammer this Micra S for a lack of features because this is what strippers are all about – austerity. If you’re looking for a rock-bottom price, you shouldn’t be expecting surround sound audio, 50 shades of ambient lighting or, um, heated seats. Yes, your butt will be both roasting in the summer and freezing in the winter, but the Micra S does give you both USB and auxiliary connections for the two-speaker audio system, as well as Bluetooth streaming and a seven-inch touchscreen with Siri Eyes Free.

Power: 7/10

With only 109 hp and 107 lb-ft of torque from its 1.6L four-pot, you might think the Micra S is a slug. Not so. It’s all about power-to-weight ratio here, and with not much mass working against it, the engine provides plenty of zip. It’s also a smooth and eager unit, with a nice, linear power delivery, meaning the Micra never feels flat-footed – even lower in the rev range. The gearing of the five-speed gearbox is well judged, keeping the engine spinning along nicely, although highway driving is a bit busy as you’ll see 3,100 rpm at only 100 km/h. Keeping up with the cut-and-thrust of city driving is a breeze. It’s called agility and throttle response.

Comfort: 9/10

For this class of car (and there are very few to choose from here) the Micra gets high marks for comfort. The fabric seats are well contoured, and the ride remarkably quiet and compliant. Lots of headroom means you can wear you best Sunday hat – even in the rear.

Driving Feel: 9/10

There’s a reason why Nissan Canada made the bold – and fun – move to launch a race series based on this basest of Micras. The Micra S is indeed a hoot to drive. Lean into it, and this tiny tot congeals into something much more than the sum of its parts. Sure, the limits are low, but as they say, it’s more fun to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slow, and the Micra certainly relishes being thrashed. Good steering feel, a willing chassis and eager engine are a recipe for motoring fun. And the kind that won’t land you in jail. Not that you have to drive it like this all the time, and the Micra S is equally satisfying when just puttering around.

Fuel Economy: 6/10

This is not Prius Hybrid territory by a long shot, being rated at 7.9 L/100 km combined. It won’t put you in the poor house, but neither is it particularly parsimonious, lacking the now mainstream technology of direct injection.

Value: 9/10

Value is whole raison d'être for the Nissan Micra S’ existence, so if you are indeed looking for a new car with a bargain sticker, it delivers.

The Verdict

For those of us old enough to remember roll-down windows and the quaint practice of inserting a key in the door, let alone the ignition, the Micra S will be a charming throwback to simpler times. It truly is a fine driving and solid-feeling subcompact, but in reality, anyone considering buying the ebullient Micra will opt for the next-up SV trim level that, at $15,598, adds such conveniences as air conditioning, power door locks, power windows, four-speed automatic transmission, power heated outside mirrors, cruise control, upgraded seat fabric, and more. Regardless of trim, those looking to cash in on this bargain better act quick: Nissan plans to axe the Micra next year with no replacement in the pipeline. Bon voyage, petit ami.

Austerity measures 10/29/2019 1:00:00 AM

Competitors

Specifications

EngineDisplacement 1.6L
EngineCylinders I4
PeakHorsepower 109 hp @ 6,000 rpm
PeakTorque 107 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm
FuelEconomy 8.7/6.8/7.9 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb
CargoSpace 408 / 815 L seats down