May 16, 2014 12:30 AM | By Justin Couture, MSN Autos editor

2015 Nissan Micra first drive



2015 Nissan Micra S (© Photo: Justin Couture)
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  • 2015 Nissan Micra S (© Photo: Justin Couture)
  • 2015 Nissan Micra S (© Photo: Justin Couture)
  • 2015 Nissan Micra S (© Photo: Justin Couture)
  • 2015 Nissan Micra S (© Photo: Justin Couture)
  • 2015 Nissan Micra S (© Photo: Justin Couture)
  • 2015 Nissan Micra S (© Photo: Justin Couture)
  • 2015 Nissan Micra S (© Photo: Justin Couture)
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2015 Nissan Micra S

A solid 10 (grand)

2015 Nissan Micra (© Photo: Justin Couture)

The $9,998 Nissan Micra S

Montreal, Que. – In the market for a new car and don’t want to spend a lot of money? The good news is that there’s plenty of choice. There’s an abundance of inexpensive automobiles, compacts and subcompacts included, many of which offer solid value for your hard-earned cash. But what if you’re looking to spend as little money as possible? That’s a different story.

Where it was once common for brands to offer base “loss-leader” models for less than $10,000, the only brand to do it today is Nissan. Its new subcompact Micra is the replacement for the Versa Sedan, and it undercuts the next cheapest car on the market, Chevrolet’s Spark, by nearly $2,000. This, of course, prompts the question: just how much car are you getting? And is it a one-way ticket to motoring mediocrity?

It costs how much?

2015 Nissan Micra S (© Photo: Justin Couture)

Instead of listing what you don’t get with the $9,998 car, it’s better to focus on what you do. Here, the essentials are covered: a split-folding rear seat, a CD-MP3 player with an aux-in jack and four speakers, a rear windshield wiper, and all the essential safety equipment: ABS, stability control, and six airbags. You still have to crank your windows (nature’s air conditioning), unlock your doors with a key, and adjust your mirrors manually, but it’s far from being completely devoid of equipment.

Equipping the Micra with the other two modern-day essentials (air and automatic) bumps the price up to $13,298. This sounds like a steep jump, but it’s less of a jump than the competition. Barring the Spark, which sells for about $15k, all of its rivals will see you shelling out $16,500 or more when equipped this way. For that price, a Micra comes fully loaded with all the power toys, cruise control, Bluetooth and a back-up camera ($16,748) – all equipment that’s particularly compelling.

Does the base Micra turn a profit? Andrew Wilton, Nissan’s chief marketing director responds with an emphatic, “Yes!” Top boss Carlos Ghosn (aka Le Cost Killer), wouldn’t stand for anything else. But enough about the dollars and cents, and on to the car itself.

About the car

2015 Nissan Micra SR (© Photo: Justin Couture)

Exactly how Nissan managed to bring the Micra to market chock full of gear is the direct outcome of globalization, and the desire to build transportation that’s affordable to buy and affordable to run. The Micra is based on Nissan’s V Platform, which is shared with the Versa Sedan, the Note, and a bunch of other products not sold here. Together, they total about a million units per year. With the Versa Note sitting at the large end of the subcompact scale, Nissan felt there was enough wiggle room at the smaller end of the sector to fit in the Micra. Break out the measuring tape and the Micra is 330 mm shorter than the Note and has 150 mm less space between its wheels. Size-wise, it’s more Mitsubishi Mirage than Hyundai Accent.

While you might expect Canada’s cheapest car to have Canada’s weakest powertrain, this is far from the case. The Micra uses the same engine as the Note – a 1.6-litre four-cylinder with dual fuel injectors and variable valve timing. It makes 109 hp and 107 lb.-ft. of torque. The five-speed manual is also from the Note, while the optional four-speed automatic comes courtesy of the old Versa Hatchback. It’s all put together at Nissan’s Aguascalientes II plant. Micras sold elsewhere are built in China, Russia, Thailand, and India. And while the Micra is sold in well over 100 countries around the world, you won’t find one south of the border, where Nissan will continue to sell the Versa Sedan.

(Continued): An appealing look
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