(Note: I am not a car reviewer/journalist. In fact, I think you should be mighty skeptical of the things many reviewers say, which is why I tell people: if you're curious about a car, GO TRY IT YOURSELF. When it comes to separating your hard earned money from your wallet, your opinion is vastly more important than anyone else's, and you might be surprised at how little a "professional" opinion matches your own.)
Nissan has kindly loaned me this base Micra S with manual transmission for a couple of weeks. (I paid for the gas, and I drove to Montreal to pick it up/drop it off.)
This is the $9,998 special. (OK, it's a touch over $9998: the single option on it is the pleasant Caspian Sea paint colour, at $135.) With shipping, before taxes, it stickers at $11,533.
I drove an S once before, as part of the transmission fuel economy showdown: Head to head: 2015 Micra manual vs. automatic MPG/fuel economy comparison. But that was only for about half an hour and 20 kilometers -- not ideal for getting the most thorough impression of a car.
I've already started scribbling in the notebook I keep in the door pocket, and will be updating this thread with my thoughts & more pics as the two weeks go by.
Engine: it's got the same zippy 1.6L engine that the top spec SR has. Long gone are the days of multiple drivetrain options in economy cars when only the top trim got the most powerful engine.
Handling/ride: again, surprisingly, the base car has the same suspension set-up as the top-trim Micra -- including Canada-only standard front & rear stabilizer bars. Yes, the SR gets lower profile tires, but the S retains the same pleasingly well-sorted ride & handling characteristics for a short-wheelbase car.
Not your father's entry level car
Some perspective: I drove my little old Pontiac Firefly (36,000 km on the clock) to pick up the Micra, and OH MAN what a difference! Despite both being bare bones budget cars, let's face it: 17 years separates them, and there's almost no comparison. It's almost comical. Back to back, the Micra feels so much more grown-up, refined and sophisticated.
Those auto journalists who have been "fondly remembering" their base model cars from decades past when reviewing the Micra S -- this theme has shown up in several reviews -- are so far off their rockers, their rose tinted glasses have almost fallen off.
Although I will say there were a couple of things about the Firefly that I missed immediately when I drove off in the Micra. I'll get to those soon.