Test Drive: Nissan Micra (the $10,000 edition!)

Base-level Nissan Micra delivers a comfortable ride and snarly little powerhouse engine from $10,000

Whether you’re after a thrifty and affordable first car, a spritely second car, or something to take to and from work when you don’t need the size and fuel bill of the family SUV, the Nissan Micra should fit the bill as an attainable, affordable and basic transportation package.

On our side of the globe, the Nissan Micra is a Canada-only subcompact offering  which competes largely with the Mitsubishi Mirage in terms of feature content, pricing and sizing. This is a basic car first and foremost, and as such, horsepower, a luxurious ride, and spleen-shattering handling aren’t primary purchase considerations. Affordable access to a basic new-car motoring experience are what’s selling this machine. Other competitors include the Fiat 500 and Toyota Yaris.


In very base trim, with its manual transmission, key-operated locks, stick-operated mirrors and lever-operated windows, the tester carried a price-tag of less than $10,000. That’s under 10 grand for a brand new car! Your brand new car. One that nobody else has sullied, one with a big fat “0” on the odometer, and one with a driver’s seat previously visited by no buttocks but your own. Various packages and trim grades allow shoppers to fine-tune Micra to their exact needs and tastes, pushing the price past $16,000 for a nicely-loaded unit.

Standard equipment includes a 1.6 litre four-cylinder engine with 109 horsepower, and a five-speed manual transmission.

Handling and steering are fitting of a $10,000 car: when you steer, the car goes in the direction it’s pointed, and when you don’t steer, it carries on straight. Its ten grand remember, and that’s all the steering needs to do. Of course, as a bonus, the steering is tight and turns sharply at low speeds, plus its light during parking, turning Micra into a parking-lot ninja capable of sniping any parking space it likes, with ease. The tiny turning circle makes tight-quarters maneuverability even more entertaining, too.

The ride is well done. Suspension feels more tough and robust than your writer expected, and it’s sprung fairly soft, meaning it’s typically comfortable, even on rougher surfaces. At or slightly beyond the highway speed limit, Micra’s light weight and slightly-soft suspension tuning can cause it to feel a little uneasy, especially on windy days or near transport trucks. Though it feels its size and weight at highway speeds and beyond, Micra is a pleasant and comfortable machine to drive overall.

The tester was rolling a set of winter tires, which shoppers should consider absolutely mandatory if driving the lightweight Micra in the snow. The ABS system works effectively and with less vibration and buzzing than I’d expected when engaged, and the traction control keeps wheelpsin to a minimum on slippery surfaces—though both of these systems are only as good as the tires attached.

Best thing about Micra? The engine. The 1.6 litre, 109-horsepower four-cylinder motivates one of the lightest cars in the game, giving Micra one of the best power to weight ratios going. The engine operates smoothly at lower revs, makes enough low-end torque that you needn’t downshift for most hills, and It makes a nice growl when you give it some redline. So many engines in cars like this sound like an old Hoover choking on a shag carpet when you give it the beans—but this one sounds like it loves it, and the Micra goes like the wind when called upon.

Micra has room, snugly, for four adults providing they’re of average height and width, with the rear seats best left for the kids where possible. Be sure to ask rear-seat passengers to lock the doors themselves before leaving, since the rear locks can only be worked via an internal lever fixed to the door handle that’s nearly impossible to reach from up front.

The rear seats fold down to make extra room for your things, your stuff, or maybe your pet when there aren’t people sitting in them. Flip the seats up, and there’s still room for a few bags, or a day’s worth of shopping for one or two people with little issue. You’ll find a few spaces on board to store your at-hand items, wallet, phone, cup of coffee and so on, too.

End of the day, Micra competes most closely with the Mitsubishi Mirage, which is sized and trimmed and priced  very similarly. Mirage also feels more confident and planted at highway speeds. Mirage’s 3-cylinder engine doesn’t come near the Micra for power output, though Mitsubishi’s lengthy warranty, of 160,000 kilometers might compensate for some. If you’re test-driving driving one of these, be sure to test-drive the other.