2015 Nissan Micra SR Road Trip
2015 Nissan Micra SR loaded with cargo
2015 Nissan Micra SR Road Trip. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Brendan McAleer

As was remarked upon in our round-up of Canadian automobiles, we Canucks like our landscapes wide and our cars wee. While the US gobbles up heaping mounds of Toyota Camrys, we nibble on portion-controlled Honda Civics, a predilection for cheap and cheerful that extends right back to the beginning. You get the sense that early Canadians tried to order their horses without the optional mane extensions and with smaller-displacement feed bags.

From time to time, manufacturers recognize that our tastes extend beyond either dunking things in Maple syrup or coating them in cheese curds n’ gravy, and they build a small car just for Canadians. Generally, even when they aren’t very good long-term (hi there, Hyundai Pony) we can’t get enough.

These days, the Nissan Micra is the least expensive new car in Canada. A rebadged version of the March subcompact, it replaces the outgoing Versa Sedan with a dollop of useful hatchback style, and for less money too. It’s all the car you really need – or is it? Sure it might be decent at the stop-and-go stuff, but to find out whether the Micra could go the distance, I decided to drive it from Calgary to Vancouver, a thousand kilometres across the spine of the Rocky Mountains, taking along along my wife and my daughter, who is just under two.

Now, I decide to do lots of idiotic things like this, but generally my slightly more sensible wife usually steps in and says something like, “Don’t be a something-something idiot,” where the phrasing of something-something is on a sliding-scale matched to the silliness of the idea in question. In this particular case she wasn’t paying attention to the whole “Micra” part of the equation (or perhaps I mumbled), and thus we found ourselves trying to cram a car seat, folding cot, and all the accoutrements required for a road trip with a toddler into a tiny Japanese subcompact that costs the automotive equivalent of ninety-nine cents.

2015 Nissan Micra SR Road Trip2015 Nissan Micra SR Road Trip
2015 Nissan Micra SR Road Trip. Click image to enlarge

Well, not this one, actually. This is the super-deluxe version of the value-meal Nissan, the one with curly fries and pepper jack cheese. While the base car comes with a stick shift and no air-con, the SR ups the ante with 16-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, a USB iPod connector, and a back-up camera. Considering that this thing’s the size of a Cozy Coupe, the back-up camera seems a bit surplus to requirements, and the whole shebang’s a bit too spendy – I’d prefer a more lightly optioned ride.

Whenever you look at a Nissan Micra, the theme song from MadTV’s Lowered Expectations dating-site spoof should play in your head. Sure, the 1.6L four-banger’s only got 109 hp, but $9,998! Sure, you don’t have power windows, but $9,998! Sure, the automatic transmission option only has four gears, but that’s only a thousand bucks more! Looowered expectatioooons…

Point is, for that cheap, I’m impressed you get doors. Flipping through the Micra’s sub-site does give the impression the copywriters didn’t have much to work with though. “The 2015 Nissan Micra wears the PUREDRIVE® badge, just one aspect of Nissan’s commitment to developing more environmentally friendly and fuel efficient transportation for all of us.” Wow! Wait, what does that badge do exactly? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

2015 Nissan Micra SR Road Trip2015 Nissan Micra SR
2015 Nissan Micra SR Road Trip. Click image to enlarge

And then there’s: “Variable Intermittent Windshield Wipers. Adjusting the Nissan Micra’s wiper speed and frequency depending on the amount of precipitation outside has never been easier.” Well, finally. I can’t wait to get rid of this squeegee attached to a coathanger.

I kid – I kid because the Micra actually impressed the hell out of me by swallowing all our junk without a hiccup. The bulky Bjorn travel cot fit in the trunk standing straight up, along with three backpacks and a folding stroller. The car seat wedged in behind the passenger’s seat, leaving my admittedly not-very-tall wife with just enough space, and there was still room for a suitcase, a couple of grocery bags worth of road supplies, coats, computers, and several bottles of water.

If we’d had to do it, there was even enough room for a third adult passenger, and when we all piled in, the Micra’s comically high roofline gave an impression of space, even if driver and passenger were sitting close enough to be technically in a sort of automotive loveseat.

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