This is a fantastic simple car for short distance running around town.
I absolutely love cheap cars. There’s a certain high one can achieve by buying a car for practically nothing, and making it useful again. It’s one of the reasons my driveway often looks like a used car lot; but maybe you need a car that’s actually going to work all the time when you need it to. Enter the 2018 Nissan Micra S; one of the cheapest brand new cars in Canada and also a car that’s not sold in the United States. Toting a base price of $10,488, the Micra is one of the most economical ways into a brand new vehicle today, so we opted to try this base model to see what exactly you get for your hard earned cash.
On the outside, the Micra looks just like any other subcompact hatch. It’s cute and cheerful, but colour selection on the base model leaves a bit to be desired, only coming in red like our tester, silver, black, and white. The Micra’s closest competitor, the Chevrolet Spark comes in a long list of cheerful colors, but I do find the Micra looks much more substantial on the road than the Spark. The Micra S sports black plastic handles and trim, as well as silver plastic wheel covers on the 15” wheels wearing 185/55/R15 tires, worth noting for their low replacement cost. Larger 16” alloys are available on higher trim levels to spice up the looks a little.
Inside the base S model it’s equally sparse; hard grey and black plastics, seats covered in a stretchy cloth material, and low-grade carpeting. Really though, would you expect anything else at this price point? Everything you need is here and in easy reach; AM/FM radio with an auxiliary input and a single CD player, two cupholders in the console, two more in the door pockets, and a large glove box.
There is no center armrest, which is annoying, and this base model doesn’t have power locks, windows or air conditioning. I could probably get by without the latter two, but not having power locks gets old pretty fast when you find yourself reaching through the front door into the back to unlock the door just to put your stuff in the back seat.
What the interior lacks in amenities it does make up in space. For a subcompact, the Micra is very space efficient and offers decent leg and headroom both up front and in the rear, as well as a very respectable rear cargo area. The split 60/40 rear bench seat folds flat as well, making the Micra very handy for household cargo. You will notice that the rear cargo hatch doesn’t have an interior panel. Visible is the painted metal, but it’s cutbacks like this that allow the Micra to be priced where it is.
The Micra comes powered by a good little 1.6L naturally aspirated four-cylinder, and thanks to technology like Nissan’s continuously variable valve timing control system (CVTCS) and direct injection, it’s a surprisingly refined, peppy and efficient little motor. It only puts out 109 horsepower and 107 lb-ft. of torque at 4,400RPM, but given the Micra’s minimal weight this is actually plenty of pep to have some fun.
In the base model the standard transmission is five-speed manual. This can add to the fun of tossing the happy little Micra around, but if you don’t like driving standard, or you have a long stop-and-go commute like I do, the manual can get tiring really quick. The gearbox feels decent for what you’ll be asking it to do, but the clutch is a bit strange in that the uptake isn’t exactly linear. Combine that with a small engine and it can be difficult to launch the car from a stop as smoothly as you might want to.
If the manual isn’t your thing, and I wouldn’t blame you, you can opt for an automatic transmission. However, to many potential buyers’ dismay, on the base S trim the automatic transmission only comes paired with cruise control and air conditioning. This pushes the price to $14,298, an overall 36% increase to the cost of the car, and suddenly the Micra’s appeal as a true bottom-dollar bargain begins to fade.
But, if you’re satisfied with a manual transmission, this can be a fun little city or town run-about. The steering is nice and direct and even offers a bit of feedback, the Micra feels stable on the road, rides respectably on city streets and is competent enough to toss through some low speed corners and come out smiling. The Micra is one of the few cars on the road today that still captures the true joy of driving a slow car fast, and how a simple basic hatchback can put a smile on your face.
I spent most of my time with the Micra commuting for hours each day both on the highway and in heavy traffic. At speed on the highway the noise levels in the car become a problem, especially if you want to hear the news on the radio, or have a conversation with a passenger. There is little insulation from road noise, wind noise is aplenty, and the little four cylinder hums along at around 3,400RPM at highway speeds. After a bit of time in traffic, the seats get uncomfortable, even for my narrow frame, and the lack of amenities like climate control and air conditioning start to be noticed.
Where the Micra did shine on my commute was in the fuel economy department. After a full week of commuting, I averaged 6.4L/100km, and still had some gas left in the Micra’s 41L tank. I also have to admit that parking in the city was an absolute breeze in the Micra thanks to its tight turning circle and great outward visibility.
This is a fantastic simple car for short distance running around town. It has plenty of versatile space, fun driving dynamics, great fuel economy, and perhaps most important is that it’s very simple mechanically. A well-maintained Micra stands a good chance at outliving its pricier brethren just because there are very few things to go wrong. In the scheme of things, at $10,488, the 2018 Nissan Micra S really is good value for your money. There are cars on the market today for twice that money that are barely better to drive, and really, that’s success for a car priced this aggressively.