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I remember the introduction of the Nissan Versa in the North American market around 2006. I had a 1990 Nissan Micra up until 2000. I bought my Micra in the pre-Internet days, when I thought my choices were either a rusty used car or a Yugo, because even a 3 cylinder Suzuki Swift and Geo Metro were still expensive, but then the Micra showed up, bringing back the magic of cheap, reliable, small Japanese cars of the 1970’s in the late 1980’s. Of course, it had been around for a few years, but it was the first time I saw one, and never regretted buying it.
I really wanted the next generation Micra that came after, but was told that they would not be available to the Canadian market and that I should just buy a boring Nissan Sentra. I was so mad, I actually bought a Dodge Neon instead. Then the K12’s came along, and I was like, “WTF? Why should Europe keep getting Micra’s and not us?” It was clear to me that the car was continuing to evolve in interesting ways, and was just not available in our market. Then Nissan said to me, “We are going to bring back a small car to your market, this car will be the Versa.”
At first, the Versa was an insult. It was nothing like the new Micra’s that Europe was enjoying. It looked bland, boring, the engine was too big, the car was too big, it was a misfit that just didn’t belong in the Nissan line-up. Then Nissan brought the Micra back to the Canadian market in 2014 as a 2015 model. A real, genuine Micra, straight from Europe, with a perfect 1.6L engine. Of course, I bought one right away, and since then, I’ve grown to really like the Versa, and so has my wife.
The first thing Nissan did right was to drop the bland sedan. Cars in this class should only be made as hatchbacks. It also shares the engine and other components with the Micra, which means Nissan ditched the 1.8 for the proper 1.6L. It’s still bland compared to the Micra, but that’s perfectly fine.
I now see the Versa as a logical move up from the Micra. Sure, a six footer can sit in the back seat of a Micra with enough headroom and just barely enough legroom, which is a feat for such a small car, but after our trip to Florida, we all agreed that an extended Micra would have been perfect.
The Versa is a perfect compliment to the Micra; it’s like a “Grown-up” responsible version of the fun little go-kart with all the sensibilities inherent with the Micra. Like the Micra, it’s designed from the inside-out. The new CVT promises greater fuel economy on those inevitable family road trips, and allows for a fuel-efficient 1.6L engine to deliver adequate power in the process.
The Micra-Versa lineup of today reminds me of the Civic-Accord cars of the mid to late 1970’s. Of course, back then, Nissan was known as Datsun, and the Micra was then known as the Cherry, with its larger companion known as the Violet and then Stanza, but those cars were unknown to me at the time as Honda captured the headlines. Still, I firmly believe the Micra and Versa Note of today are closer in design and execution to the Civic and Accord Hatchback of the late 70’s than anything Honda makes today. It’s almost as though these two cars are a modern day representation of what was great about Japanese cars in the late 70’s, as though there’s a division of Nissan that wants to keep alive what made them great in the first place.
So we decided to buy a Nissan Versa. This one, specifically. We take delivery of it tomorrow. It’s my wife’s new car, and joins my Micra in our family.
My Micra is celebrating 20,000km of trouble-free service today with an oil change. This one is different, as I’m using an aftermarket oil filter – a Fram – which is a couple of dollars cheaper than the genuine Nissan oil filter.
The past 20,000km have been great. The manual transmission has been a pleasure, even in heavy traffic. It’s made my commute fun again. Happy 20,000km, Micra!
Haven’t had much time to blog about the things I’ve been doing, but I passed a milestone today and thought I’d share it. Happy 10,000km, Micra!
This past weekend, we filled the tank, loaded up my Micra, and left Oshawa to visit family in Bancroft, Ontario.
After climbing to the top of Eagle’s Nest in my Micra, we continued on a little further to Bird’s Creek. The next day, we went to Peterborough for a family reunion.
When I got home, I still had plenty of gas left in the tank to drive to work the next day. Work involved an early morning drive to Concord, Ontario, followed by a trip from there to Woodbridge, Ontario, then a return trip home from Woodbridge back to Oshawa, where my fuel gauge finally registered empty and needed 35L of gas to show full again.
It’s quite amazing that a mere $46 worth of gas in this day and age would cover a weekend road trip for a family of three with all our stuff, and still cover a long distance commute both ways Monday morning.
The first thing I learned when I got my original Micra was how to do my own routine engine maintenance checks. It’s a process that takes all of two minutes, costs one tissue, and stands to save me a lot of money in costly repairs, as well as keeping me safe from the inconvenience of being stranded.
The routine engine maintenance check is something anyone can do, even if they have very little mechanical aptitude. Imagine you telling the mechanic what is wrong, instead of the other way around. You could tell your mechanic whether you need a new belt or if there’s a problem with your cooling system with confidence, your mechanic will know you are right, and there will be little room for “Misunderstanding.”
You’ll be able to find small problems before they turn into big problems. You’ll gain a better understanding of how your car works. Most importantly, you’ll look like a champ every time you raise your hood and perform your basic maintenance check.
Raising the hood
Many people avoid the basic engine maintenance check because they don’t know how to raise the hood of their car properly or safely. That’s too bad, because it’s really a simple process once you know how. The first part, which everyone knows, is to pull the appropriate lever located next to the fuel filler door lever:
Most people soon discover that this is only one step in a two-step (well, three step) process. The hood will pop up, but there is a safety mechanism that prevents the hood from fully opening. This is to protect you; if you were to inadvertently pull this lever while driving down the highway, the hood would otherwise fly open and smash into the windshield. And so, the trick is to release the safety mechanism, which is very easy to do once you know where it is.
Find the right side of the Nissan emblem on the front of the car. Directly up from there, in between the hood and the front of the car, is the release lever. Simply push it to the left (towards the center of the emblem), and lift up on the hood. Hold the hood up with your right hand.
Just like that. This is the most difficult part of this process, and it really wasn’t that hard at all. Everything else is just knowing where to look, and what to look for, which I’m going to show you now.
You can “Read” the engine bay like you’re reading this page, from left to right. I’ve labelled the points of interest in the image above of the left side of the engine bay, towards the front.
A is the windshield washer fluid reservoir. There’s nothing to check here, but if the low washer fluid light appears on the dashboard, this is where to pour in a bottle of fresh windshield washer fluid. This is for both the front and back window washers.
B is the belt. All you’re looking for here are cracks or signs that the belt is fraying. If you see small cracks or signs of fraying, don’t fret; these belts are very well engineered and can run for a little while with a few cracks or frays. However, you will want to make arrangements to have the belt changed in the near future, because it will eventually break if you don’t change it.
C is the dip stick. Stick your finger through the yellow loop, pull up to extract the dip stick, then wipe the dip stick clean with a tissue or paper towel. Since the engine had been running, oil had been splashed up all over the stick, so it needs to be cleaned first. Now, stick it back in all the way, then pull it back out. Keep the tip pointing downhill, and read the tip.
There are two letters, L and H, separated by a space marked with crossing hash marks. L means low, and H means high. If the oil level is below the line at the L mark, you need to add oil, or have oil added to the engine. I’ve labelled that with “D” two images above. If the oil registers past the “H” line, there is too much oil in the engine. If this happens suddenly, there may be some other issue that’s causing this, and that needs to be addressed. Anything between these two points is ideal.
Another thing you can check is the condition of your motor oil. In the image I posted, the oil is a good colour and doesn’t need to be changed. If the oil is looking black, you’ll probably want to arrange to have an oil change performed.
Moving on to the right side of the engine bay…
E is the brake fluid reservoir. There is a “Min” and a “Max” line. Your fluid is probably at the “Max,” and will be clear if your Micra is new. However, if you can clearly see fluid below the “Min” line, you’ll want to address this as soon as possible.
F is the positive battery terminal cover. Lift this and check for corrosion. It looks like white fuzz. If you see no white fuzz, you’re okay. If you do, you’ll want to get that cleaned up before the car stops starting.
Now, look down towards the front of the car…
There’s a cap that has an orange warning. To the right of that is the engine coolant reservoir bottle. If you look down towards the side of that bottle, you’ll see it as a “Max” and “Min” line. You want to ensure the coolant falls between these two lines; if it’s above the Max line, there may be an issue with the engine that’s causing it. If it falls below the “Min” line, you’ve likely got a coolant leak somewhere, and, at the very least, you’ll want to top up the bottle with properly mixed coolant. Water can be used in a pinch, but the next stop ought to be addressing this problem.
That’s it for the check; all of this can be done in about two minutes. Now, take the pressure off the prop rod by lifting the hood gently with your right hand, move the prop rod out of the support bracket, snap it back down into its clip, and drop the hood. Literally. Hold it approximately 8 inches (20 centimeters) above the front of the car, and let it drop. If it doesn’t snap down on the first try, re-release the safety catch, raise it a little higher, and let it drop.
That’s all there is to it. I do this check with every other full tank of gas, or every 1,000km. It provides me with peace of mind and confidence.
To help further illustrate, I’ve made this video. Enjoy.
I left to go to work this morning with two bars left showing (a quarter tank). By the time I got to Toronto, it dropped to one bar and started flashing. It also displayed the estimated distance to the next refill. By the time I arrived to the job site, right in downtown Toronto, it showed I had 70km to go.
When I left work this afternoon and merged onto the Don Valley Parkway from the Gardiner Expressway, it was still showing between 60 and 70km left to go, but partway up the Don Valley Parkway, it dipped below 50km and the estimated range disappeared. I had one bar, and the display was flashing. I decided to get off at Salem Road and get gas at the Costco in Ajax.
I was surprised to see the pump stop at 36.697L of gas. I know the Micra has a 41L gas tank, and I drove what I thought was a considerable distance on empty. This means the Micra has a very good amount of reserve gas left when it shows empty.
I was happy to spend so little time at the pump to fill it up, and I drove an impressive 575km on that first tank of gas. Doing the math, that works out to 6.38L/100km. A little lower than what the car’s computer has been telling me, but definitely still very good considering that I have not been trying to drive economically, and it blows away the EPA estimates for this car. All in all, I’m very pleased.
Today was a great day to be driving my Micra. The morning started out with pouring rain, but the Micra parks easy in my garage, so I stayed dry getting to my car. The drive in was heavy with traffic, and I had to turn on the defroster to keep the windows from fogging up because of the rain, which caused the air conditioning compressor to turn on, which made the drive in comfortable. Then I got to the jobsite, and was able to park in a great parking spot that nobody wanted because it was too tight for a larger car.
It was hot and humid on the drive home, but the air conditioning kept me comfortable all the way.
The best part? In spite of running the air conditioning condenser a lot today, my fuel economy actually improved to an average of 6.1L/100km, and I’m not even trying for better fuel economy. I spend more than my fair share of time in the hammer lane, I accelerate briskly (within the limits of the break in requirements), and I spent a lot of time in stop-and-go traffic. I travelled 448km so far on my first tank of fuel, and still have three bars (out of eight) showing on the fuel gauge, so between a quarter and half a tank. My old Grand Am GT would have run out of gas by now, in spite of having a larger (54.1L vs. 41L) fuel tank.
I really love this car; all smiles today. 🙂