Tag Archives: Nissan Micra

Battle for the bottom

Nissan Micra, kingmaker? (Image: Nissan Motor Co.)

Nissan Micra, kingmaker? (Image: Nissan Motor Co.)

Who’s winning in the bargain-basement price field?


For well over a year now, lucky Canadians have basked in the joy that comes from knowing they’re able to purchase the two cheapest cars offered in North America.

Both the Nissan Micra and Mitsubishi Mirage come with window stickers reading ‘$9,998’, making the diminutive imports the cheapest way (by far) to get into a new car.

Canada gets an added bonus with the Micra, which isn’t yet available in the United States. We’re special!!

The Micra, which landed in dealerships in the spring of 2014, trades as much on its quirky, fun-to-drive rep as it does its low starting price. The Mirage, which appeared on these shores in late 2013, offers better fuel economy (and a lot less power from its standard 3-cylinder) but less distinctive styling.

In a two-way race, there can only be one winner, so which subcompact hatch are Canadians lusting after the most?

"Hey, is that the 2015 Mitsubishi Mirage ES??" (Image; Mitsubishi Motors)

“Hey, is that the 2015 Mitsubishi Mirage ES??” (Image; Mitsubishi Motors)

Numbers don’t lie, and the Micra is the clear winner (though a corner of west Quebec this writer lives near seems to have an affinity for the Mirage, especially those in gross, retina-burning colours).

The Mirage posted 4,048 sales in 2014 and 2,137 so far this year (ending in July). Its best sales month ever was April of last year, which happened to be when gas prices were nearing their highest spike.

Lately, it seems like sales could be tapering off, though it’s hard to say if that’s a sustained trend.

The mighty Micra, on the other hand, posted 7,815 purchases in its abbreviated 2014 sales year, with year-to-date sales running at a healthy (in contrast) 7,151 units.

If it was ever really a consideration, the recent dip in gas prices would be more incentive to go with the cheap car that has the most horsepower – Micra’s gain.

In Quebec, which seemingly values cheap imports more than other provinces, the Micra has the added boost of starring in its own racing circuit, the Nissan Micra Cup.

Now, who can resist that allure?







Load me up

Now with bacon, cheese, and a slice of tomato!

Now with bacon, cheese, and a slice of tomato!

Earlier today, I found myself driving past a Nissan dealership’s overflow lot and was suddenly seized by a strange compulsion.

Pulling over,  I hopped out to take an impromptu stock of their inventory.

Nissan’s been going great guns lately, aggressively taking to the airwaves in an attempt to boost its sales and market share. The spring introduction of the tiny, bargain-priced Micra into the Canadian car market was a gamble that seems to be paying off, with early sales figures showing much interest from the car-buying public.

I could easily see Canada being a test case for an eventual entry into the lucrative U.S. market, which Nissan seems to be counting on to get that bigger slice of the pie. Nissan’s second-quarter 2014 revenues were up a very substantial 37% from the same period a year before, driven by surging North American sales. Total sales were up 10.4% during the second quarter, despite stagnating demand in Nissan’s home country of Japan.

Nissan brass seem optimistic about the company’s fortunes in the foreseeable future, as well.

(Read more dollars and cents talk here: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/d531613e-163f-11e4-93ec-00144feabdc0.html#axzz38osoWV3I)

Now, back to my sleuthing.

Noticing a good number of Micras in the overflow lot, I was curious to record the ratio of trim levels for little hatch, which starts at a tantalizing advertised price of $9,998 for a stripped-down ‘S’ model. Overflow lots are generally filled with dealers’ best guesses as to what will be big sellers, so there is some unscientific value in taking stock of their stock.

Early reviews of the Micra noted that Nissan didn’t expect to sell tons of the base model, given that young people are now used to creature comforts like air conditioning and power windows, but having that four-figure starting price was invaluable as an attention-grabbing marketing tool.

(More on that here: https://driventoattraction.com/?p=287)

The Micras on the lot took that assertion and ran with it – in fact, there wasn’t a single real base model on the lot. Not one Micra, despite many being the ‘S’ model, stickered for less than the neighbourhood of $14,000, with the many ‘SR’ models going in the $16,000 + range.

Room at the top: the mighty Nissan Micra RS.

Room at the top: the mighty Nissan Micra RS.

The reason? All the base models came with a creature comforts package that added automatic transmission, air and power goodies. That optional factory equipment adds $3,435 to the base price, which, when coupled with freight and PDI (and an almost unavoidable extra-cost metallic paint), brought the cost to $14,833.

Not stratospheric by any means, but still a nearly 50% increase over the much-touted entry price. However, if your jar of rainy day pennies doesn’t runneth over, I’m sure a dealer would be happy to order a stripped ‘S’ for your motoring pleasure.

With 109-horsepower on tap for a light, nimble little car, you’d think Nissan would have offered an upgrade package that omitted the automatic transmission, thus allowing drivers to maximize their car’s sportiness while still enjoying comfort and convenience (and saving a possible $1,500 or so).

Now that the car’s success in Canada seems a sure thing, perhaps Nissan will loosen up and increase the range of options and trim packages for the coming model year. I think it would serve to make an already appealing subcompact even more worthy of consideration.


Price chopper

"Guys! Hey, guys!... Over here!"

“Guys! Hey, guys!… Over here!”

There’s a war brewing.

The population is dividing into camps, taking sides, circling the wagons. How this will end, and what will be left when it’s over, nobody knows.

Yes, I’m talking about entry-level subcompact cars.

Nissan Canada created a splash earlier this year when it introduced (re-introduced, technically) the diminutive Micra hatchback, priced at a rock-bottom, take-off-your-sunglasses-and-squint $9,998.

“What the hell?” cried a heavily taxed, half-frozen Canadian public. “Those are 1990 prices!”

The sub-10K sticker price was a big coup for Nissan and for advertisers, as they could now say they were selling the cheapest car in Canada.

“Step up, Millennials! Don’t be afraid – it won’t hurt you!” the ads shouted, implying there would still be income left over for bike spokes and craft beer.

To achieve that low starting price, buyers of the base Micra will have to do without such must-have’s as air conditioning, automatic transmission, cruise control and power windows/door locks, and  it remains to be seen how many drivers will be willing to go forward in such a primitive way.

Frankly, this setup reminds me a lot of my first car, a ’93 Plymouth (I survived the ordeal).

Lost in all the hubbub generated by the Micra’s launch was a vehicle launched last fall that also claimed to be an economic superstar. The Mitsubishi Mirage debuted under a loud banner of ‘America’s most fuel-efficient gasoline car’, touting a combined 40 miles per gallon (U.S.).

In Canada, ads cheerleaded the Mirage’s diesel-like 4.4 litres/100 km highway mileage, which works out to 64 mpg (Imperial). However, in order to achieve these savings at the pump, drivers had to fork over more cash at the dealership.

The Mirage launched with an MRSP of $12,995, a price that was already undercut by other vehicles, including Canada’s previous cheapest car, the Nissan Versa sedan. In Quebec, the vehicle listed slightly less than in the Rest of Canada.

The mileage figures got some press, but nothing like the Micra’s starting price, and it makes sense. The Micra would save you money on Day 1, while the Mirage would save a driver money over time, depending on how much driving was done.

No surprise that winning the lottery is sexier than creating a high-interest investment portfolio.


Guess who’s back?

Not content to have the Micra soak up all of the cheap car limelight, the Mirage is fighting back the only way its manufacturer can – by reducing its price.

As of June, after a consumer cash discount of $2,500, a new Mitsubishi Mirage will set you back – wait for it – $9,998.

Yes, there are now TWO cheapest cars in Canada, both battling for sales ground amid a struggling economy and record high gas prices.

The vehicle sales website goodcarbadcar.net sheds some light on why Mitsubishi adopted this aggressive approach (see chart here: http://www.goodcarbadcar.net/2013/10/mitsubishi-mirage-sales-figures-usa-canada.html)

Mirage sales were pretty much flat for the first quarter of the year, not surprising considering the brutal winter endured by almost all of the country. Come spring we see a sharp uptick in Mirage sales, more than doubling in April compared to the month before, followed by a huge drop in May – the month the Micra debuted.

In the United States, where the Micra isn’t being sold, sales of the Mirage continued to climb as spring progressed. Clearly, Canadian sales were being jeopardized by the Mirage’s newfound competition.

Certainly, the time is right for a low-priced, fuel-efficient car, given the environment we live in, but I’m willing to bet Mitsubishi will have the harder time in this battle.


Make up your mind

Reviews of the Micra point to a driving experience out of synch with the model’s bargain-basement price tag. Capable suspension, a 107-horsepower 1.6-litre four-cylinder, and beefier 15-inch tires sets it apart from the Mirage, which makes do with a 1.2-litre 3-cylinder making 74 horsepower.

The Mirage also rests atop skinny, 14-inch tires and is not known for its handling prowess.

Now that their starting prices are equal, it will be up to the individual buyers to decide what’s important to them – mileage or motoring pleasure. Because there is quite a difference between the two vehicle’s fuel consumption numbers.

On the highway, the tiny Micra consumes fuel at a rate of 6.6 litres/100km, according to the manufacturer. This translates into 43 mpg (Imperial), or 21 mpg less than the Mirage’s highway figure –  a consideration for those making long commutes.

Of course, if the buyer just wants a cheap car for running errands every now and then, it’s doubtful this will matter much. After all, the 2014 Micra is not a 1972 Caprice.

With the opening volleys now fired, we eagerly await updates in this ongoing battle.