2016 Nissan Micra SR

A pint-sized package that delivers big time value

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Nissan Micra, huh? Where have I heard that name before?

If your bells of familiarity are ringing, you are dating yourself. The last time you could buy an Nissan Micra in Canada was from 1984 to 1991, a time when C + C Music Factory was basking in the success of Gonna Make You Sweat, the Pittsburgh Penguins were hoisting the Stanley Cup and Brian Mulroney was Prime Minister. Much has changed since the Micra was relaunched in 2014, and yet some things remain the same- this little runabout is still meant to serve the purpose of maximizing your dollars where cheap transportation is concerned.

Is it really the cheapest new car you can buy in Canada?

This is a bit of a moving target, what with exchange rates and manufacturer incentive programs available at any given time. If you require a new car and want to spend the least amount of money as possible, your choices will include the Micra, the Mitsubishi Mirage and the Chevy Spark, all of whom boast a starting MSRP of less than ten thousand dollars. These base models represent a small percentage of overall sales- and they are so lightly equipped that they’ve got roll up windows and no air conditioning- but they exist to lay claim to the easiest access financially to a new car in 2016.

The Micra seen here certainly doesn’t look like it costs that little…

That’s because it doesn’t, and at $18,854 it’s quite a bit more expensive than the bargain basement price we just talked about. The Micra you see here is the top-of-the-heap SR trim level and adds a whole bunch of stuff- 16” aluminum wheels, Bluetooth, a rear-view camera and $135 worth of Metallic Blue paint. There a few dealer installed options you may elect to add to your Micra, but other than those inconsequential bits the Micra SR has the whole shebang. We admit that the value proposition fades the closer you climb to the top-rung trim level, but not everyone wants something so spartan, and they are willing to pay for the privilege.

What about those interior bits? They look kinda cheap.

That’s because they are.  And with that being said, don’t you think burled walnut and glove soft leather trim would look out of place in a Micra? It would, and adding stuff like that would increase the amount of dollars to the price of admission thus contradicting the whole economy car premise. Yes, there is some undue noise, vibration and harshness as you drive along and yes, if you look around you’ll find evidence of where the bean counter’s axe swung. But it feels weird to complain about these things in the car whose sole purpose is to deliver transportation on a budget. If these things mattered that much you probably wouldn’t be shopping this segment anyhow. So to that end, but Micro excels at what it’s meant to. It may be at the cheapest end of the automotive spectrum, but you can tell Nissan tried hard not to make it feel that way.

Hey, at least it doesn’t have a CVT!

This is actually a cause for celebration- a CVT and its relentless droning would have taken away from the overall experience. In other markets, Nissan saddles the Micra with this transmission but they mercifully decided to give us Canucks a four-speed automatic instead (a 5-speed manual is available as well on lower trims.) It’s a good gearbox and matches up well to the 1.6 litre engine. It could use perhaps another gear-  the engine RPM on the highways is a bit busy- and yet it will still return exemplary fuel mileage. We averaged 7.9L/100km over the course of our Road Test.

It must be a real hoot to drive.

The production version of the Micra isn’t like the slightly massaged Micra Cup spec racers you can catch at racetracks across Canada, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun to wring out once in a while. Scan below for the Micra’s vitals and you’ll probably guess that it is not going to win many stoplight Grand Prix’s or play the role of giant slayer against any faster cars, but that isn’t the point. We found the Micra refreshing in its honesty for providing the driving experience that it does- shod on skinny tires that don’t offer a ton of grip, suspension providing enough body roll to communicate clearly where the car’s limits are. There’s no torque vectoring or limited slip mumbo-jumbo, and it’s a nice change of pace from the smothering net of electronics intervening that fool you into thinking you’ve got more talent that you actually do.

So it’s the perfect car, then.

Not quite. The Micra does suffer from some issues as is the case with every car. For instance, the air-con isn’t terribly effective when you’re sitting in gridlock on an unseasonably warm day. The suspension evinces a wince here and there when it crashes into the bump stops at the top of its travel. And there’s a pricing dilemma you might face when you are about to spend $18K on a Micra when you could step up to a Versa or Sentra for the same (or less) money within Nissan’s own offerings. Niggles aside, the Micra is a vastly superior to the vintages that used to ply our roadways 20 some-odd years ago and is definitely worth a look if cheap wheels are what you seek.

2016 Nissan Micra SR- Specifications

  • Price as tested: $18,854
  • Body Type: 4-door, 5 passenger hatchback
  • Powertrain Layout: Front engine/front-wheel drive
  • Transmission: 4-speed automatic
  • Engine:  1.6-litre inline four, DOHC, 16 valves
  • Horsepower:  109 @ 6,000 rpm
  • Torque (lbs-ft.): 107 @ 4,400 rpm
  • Curb weight: 1,091 kg (2,405 lbs)
  • Observed Fuel Consumption: 7.9L/100km (30 mpg)