Please be advised: don't believe a word of what you're about to read!
How's that for the opening sentence of a test drive report?
If you're in the habit of reading multiple reviews of a particular car that interests you (as I often am), you'll very quickly discover that reviewers regularly contradict one another about subjective things that are presented as fact. Where one reviewer loves the seats, another can't quite get comfortable. Where one praises the composure of the suspension, another proclaims it to be too rolly-polly. You get the idea. It's surprisingly common.
So my up front advice is: if you're interested in a car, stop reading reviews and GO DRIVE IT YOURSELF! Your opinion is the only one that matters.
With that out of the way...
I got a chance to try both the 5-speed manual and 4-speed automatic (conventional slushbox) Micra this week at the car's media launch in Montreal. I spent about an hour in each car.
Engine: pleasantly smooth and quiet in normal driving.
With the manual, I sometimes had to keep an eye on the tach when taking off from rest because with the windows open I couldn't hear the engine above the ambient city soundtrack.
Although outside the car, at idle, I noticed a quiet "ticking", possibly an injector sound (the car has twice as many injectors per cylinder as most vehicles, a fuel efficiency measure. See thread: dual fuel injection on 1.6L Micra engine HR16DE)
Obviously there is plenty of power on tap (109 hp, 107 lb-ft) to make for zippy driving if you're so inclined.
Transmissions: the manual has a pleasant shift action and an easy, light clutch. A nicely calibrated throttle made it easy to drive smoothly in city traffic (throttle tip in & release).
The 4-speed automatic was unobtrusive (invisible, really). It sometimes held on to higher gears longer than I would have expected when slowing from higher speeds, to the point of not quite lugging the engine when getting back on the power, but you could feel a bit small amount of vibration under load. This was minor, and it would aid fuel economy.
Suspension & steering: to be honest, I didn't push the car hard at all, but it felt reasonably taut & flat. Canada is the only country that gets both front and rear anti-roll bars as standard on the Micra, and Nissan is confident enough in the car's handling that it set up a closed course handling track for journalists to fling the car about. (I didn't get to do that.)
Yet it also has decent damping that absorbed Montreal's myriad potholes, bumps and famous road work with minimal fuss.
The steering is light & easy to use in the city, with an impressively tight turning radius, just short of the Mitsubishi Mirage's. It makes a late model Civic feel like maneuvering a battleship by comparison. The Canadian Micra gets the Euro spec steering with a faster ratio and tighter turning radius than the Mexican March.
The Micra's handling/steering felt more responsive than the Mirage's, which has been regularly criticized by journalists for its soft suspension & exaggerated body roll. On the flip side, the Mirage has a surprisingly plush ride for a smaller, lighter car.
Brakes: my only negative comment is about the brakes in one specific situation. In moderate/hard braking -- such as when getting on the binders when a light turns amber -- I found them tricky to modulate. They seemed to grab harder about halfway through the pedal application. I experienced this in both cars. The Nissan rep riding with me thought it may have been the Brake Assist safety feauture being triggered (which applies the brakes more than the driver actually requests during a "fast" or "sudden" stop). Would this be a deal breaker? No... but I take a small amount of pride in trying to drive smoothly, and this feature makes that harder to do. If it was brake assist, I think it is activated too soon.
Comfort: This is one of those areas that is pretty subjective. I'm average height and I found the driving position fine, and the seats comfortable enough for the hour or so I spent in each car. I didn't get to drive the base S model which lacks the height adjustment of the SV & SR, but I suspect that's something that you wouldn't necessarily miss unless you're well above or below average height.
Waving the flags: Nissan had a pair of Micras done up in Canadian and Quebec colours, using the dealer personalization options (stripe, mirror caps & door handle trim), plus custom roof decals.
One of my main goals in testing the cars was to get a sense of their fuel economy when using basic eco-driving techniques.
With expert navigator / Micra marketing manager Andrew Wilton riding shotgun, I drove two identical 34 km (21 mi.) loops that were a combination of downtown Montreal traffic leading to a moderate speed highway run and return to the city.
The conditions were close to ideal: warm weather (around 25C / 77 F) which allowed for comfortable windows-down driving in the city and judicious use of A/C with the windows up at higher speeds; engines were warm to start; highway speeds were in the fuel-friendly 80-100 km/h (50-60 mph) range.
On the car's trip computer we saw 5.1 L/100 km (55 mpg Imperial / 46 mpg US) for the 5MT and 5.6 L/100 km (50 mpg Imperial / 42 mpg US) with the automatic (the fuel economy difference between the manual and automatic was no surprise, despite their similar ratings). The numbers are much better than the car's official "5-cycle" ratings of 7.7 and 7.8 combined.
Read more details of the eco-driving comparison: 2015 Micra fuel economy/mileage test: ecodriving a 5-speed and automatic in Montreal
The car punches above its weight. I think it looks, drives & feels more expensive/refined than people will expect for the price. I didn't get to try out the $9,998 special (too bad!), but we already know that minus options and trim items, it's the same car.
Micra is going to give the competition a very serious run for its money. The $9998 starting price is marketing gold and is going to get a lot of attention. The last time a company sold a $10k car in Canada, it dominated the segment (Hyundai in the late 90's with a stripped down Accent).
The gloves are off! This is going to be fun to watch.
(And now that you know what I think of the car, disregard everything I just said and go try it yourself!)