Break-in schedule

Taking delivery of my new 2015 Micra
Taking delivery of my new 2015 Micra

I just took delivery of my Micra today. For the next 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles), I need to follow Nissan’s recommendations to obtain maximum engine performance and ensure the future reliability and economy of my new vehicle.

Took my new Micra for a visit to the beach
Took my new Micra for a visit to the beach
  • Avoid driving for long periods at constant speed, either fast or slow, and do not run the engine over 4,000 rpm.
Next, we visited the Courtice flea market
Next, we visited the Courtice flea market
  • Do not accelerate at full throttle in any gear.
Then we went to Home Depot to pick up some things
Then we went to Home Depot to pick up some things
  • Avoid quick starts.
I got an Europlate from the dealership.
I got an Europlate from the dealership.
  • Avoid hard braking as much as possible.

So far, it’s been a lot of fun and a great car!

Understanding safety

Every time a new small car is introduced to the North American market, countless of the big car faithful, most of whom I suspect are financially dependant on the sales of large North American cars and trucks, go on about how inherently unsafe small cars are.

One thing they love to share are tests where a smaller car is crashed head on at a high rate of speed into a larger car; for example, a Honda Fit into a Honda Accord. As we would expect, the Fit fares significantly worse than the Accord. The second piece of evidence they trot out is the vehicle make and model death rates, which show that, on an overall average, death rates are higher in the smallest vehicles compared to the larger vehicles. Both of these arguments are over-simplified to the point of being terribly flawed, and neither are sufficient for justifying buying a larger vehicle purely on those merits.

In the first matter, we witness what happens when a smaller vehicle collides head on with a larger vehicle at a high rate of speed. The flaw in this logic is the fact that, in the event of a high speed head-on collision, you have no say in the size and weight of the opposing vehicle. You might get lucky and hit a car that’s smaller and lighter than yours, but you could just as likely hit something larger and heavier. The only way to ensure the odds will be in your favour is to buy the largest, heaviest vehicle you can, perhaps a full sized SUV. Except what if the vehicle you’re going to crash head on into is a tractor trailer? You’re going to be just as dead as you would in a small car…or would you? The other flaw in this logic is the fact that a small car like the Micra is inherently more nimble and agile due to its lighter weight and smaller size, as demonstrated by autocrossers. When that 18 wheeler comes bearing down on your hood, a skilled driver in the Micra actually stands a better chance of avoiding the head on collision compared to the full size SUV. Given the option, I’m going to opt for accident avoidance every time.

When we look closely at the vehicle death rates by make and model, we see some anomalies. For example, the four door Toyota Yaris shows 65 deaths per million, while the two door version shows 79 per million. One might expect that a two door provides less protection in a side impact, except for the fact that the two door version had one less death attributed to multi-vehicle accidents. Its higher rate is attributed largely to single vehicle accidents. What’s more is that the four door Toyota Yaris is equal in death rates per million to the significantly larger Chevrolet Impala. Neither model of the Yaris compared to the Chevrolet Malibu, at 99 deaths per million. What’s also notable is the fact that the Chevrolet Aveo, a car that received slightly better crash test ratings and is a tad heavier than the Yaris, scored a comparatively dismal 119 deaths per million.

What’s really going on here? The reality is, these death rates have very little to do with how safe a car is, and have more to do with how safe the drivers are. For example, the driver of an Aveo is likely to be young and inexperienced compared to, say, a Honda Accord driver. A young person looking to drive more aggressively is more likely to buy a two door coupe over a four door model. That said, a young driver of a Toyota Yaris might be more inclined to have spent money on professional driver’s training than a price-sensitive, budget conscious young Chevrolet Aveo driver. Indeed, scanning the list of vehicles that made the highest rates of driver deaths reveals that, along with inexpensive sports cars, the list is filled with some of the lowest price cars available. Meanwhile, there’s a lot of expensive cars, along with family-oriented vehicles, on the list of cars that scored the lowest death rates.

At the end of the day, a vehicle’s safety is nearly 100% due to the skill of person who drives and properly maintains it. If you want a safer car, invest in professional training in defensive driving, and buy a small car like a Micra with the confidence that you too can be just as safe as drivers in cars with the lowest death rates, and the money you save on both buying the car and savings in gas will pay for those lessons many, many times over.

The Nearly Everlasting Nissan Micra

This is the kind of story that motivates me to want a new Micra. This person owns a 1994 Micra today, and keeps on putting the kilometers on it even after it passed the half million kilometer mark.  Because the Micra is so reliable, inexpensive to operate, and gets excellent fuel economy, he’s used his Micra to travel all over Europe.

But wait, the story isn’t over! This man wants to keep his relationship with his Micra going, even after 18 years. Happily, he sees fit to undertake on-going repairs.

I can’t wait to see what adventures my new Micra has in store for me and my family for the next twenty years!

Midway Nissan – a class act

My current car, a 2002 Grand Am GT, has issues. It’s getting rusty. The low coolant and change oil light came on last week. This weekend, I topped up the coolant, and as I was letting it warm up to temperature to drain the old oil, it promptly dumped all the coolant I added onto my driveway.

There were other issues. The engine is seeping oil through all the gaskets that are supposed to hold it in. The front frame is rusty, and there’s rust along the leading edge of the hood and around the gas filler cap. The struts are shot and need to be replaced; same with the brakes. There’s a “Wub-wub” sound that emits from the front end as I lift my foot off the accelerator, and a clunk whenever I press it. She’s letting me know she’s ready for retirement.

Surprisingly, all of the power options, including the windows and sunroof, still work, and the air conditioning still blows ice cold. I’ve never done any work on these. The engine still has plenty of power and, overall, the body is in remarkable shape. I suppose it should be, considering it’s half plastic. Still, I was not happy when the trim lifted from one side of the windshield, and the windshield promptly cracked due to rust forming along the A pillar; then, after replacing the windshield and having the trim glued down, the other side started to lift, to which I responded successfully with Goop. The rubber seal around the doors aren’t working as well at keeping the water out. Let’s face it; I’d have to love this car to want to commit the time and money fix it up, and with gas costing what it does today, and with the 3.4L V6 being a comparatively thirsty engine for the kind of driving I need to do these days, it’s best to leave this car to someone who can appreciate it. At least I always changed the oil on schedule.

oldgrandam

So the first three paragraphs of this blog post have been dedicated to my old car, yet the title told you that this was about a Nissan dealership. Well, it does. I needed to explain to you, dear reader, the situation I am in. I consider myself a reasonably frugal man, and, given the insane depreciation of domestic cars, bought my Grand Am GT as a 2 year used low mileage car for nearly half the price it was new, and intended to drive it into the ground. She’s got one trip left, and that’ll be either for repairs to someone who can love her, or to be parted out as an organ donor. Either way, she will live on.

My Micra is later than expected. It was anticipated that my silver 5 speed SV would arrive by the end of April, but now it’s nearly the end of May. I explained my situation to my salesperson, Andrew Lindsey, at Midway Nissan, and, sympathetic to my situation, immediately arranged for me to drive something safe and reliable until my Micra arrives. That car is the Nissan Altima coupe:

altima

This baby has a sunroof, push button ignition, and is a sheer joy to drive. At no cost to me, all I need to do is return it with the full tank of gas I started with. Just like Dad’s car when I first got my license. That’s a dealership that cares about its customers. They want me to have the car that I want, and are going to extraordinary lengths to ensure my satisfaction and safety. I don’t think I need to tell you where I’ll go when it’s time to replace the ’09 Torrent, and where you should go to get a Micra for yourself.

Micra Pen

I stopped by Midway Nissan in Whitby to check on the status of my Micra, and I got an official Micra pen:

pen2

pen1

Micra vs. Toyota Yaris

micravsyaris

One of the cars that renewed my interest in small cars was the Toyota Yaris. They are a very popular choice for Canadians, and their owners seem generally pleased with them overall.

In this category, the Yaris is one of the more expensive choices. For me to get the options I wanted (4 door hatchback, air, cruise control), I would need to get the 5DR LE 5M with the convenience package, priced at $15,995. This is $2,297 more than the Micra SV, and $1,797 more than the Micra SV with convenience package. While both cars are in the same class and compete against each other, the Yaris costs significantly more than the Micra.

yaris_hb_interior_more_space

Compared to the Micra, the Yaris feels a little cramped. It has 35mm less headroom up front and 22mm less headroom in the rear. The legroom also comes up short in the Yaris, with 19mm less legroom up front and 13mm less legroom in the rear. While the seats are comfortable, this car feels just a little too cramped for my 6’4″ frame. When it comes to cargo space, the Micra offers significantly more with the seats up, 121.8L more, to be precise.

05-15TDI_MICb009x-large

The Yaris, being a slightly smaller car, weighs 37 kg. (81 lbs.) less than the Micra. Its slightly smaller engine makes a very decent 106 horsepower, so each horse is charged with moving 21.217 pounds of Yaris, very close to (and just ever so slightly better than) the Micra’s ratio of 1:21.21.376. Given that the Yaris is slightly lighter with a slightly smaller engine, it yields slightly better fuel economy estimates; it beats the Micra by 0.8L/100km in the city and by 0.3L/100km on the highway. My opinion is that the slight improvement in fuel economy estimates is negligible and not worth the loss in headroom, legroom, and cargo space.

yaris_hb_interior_information_power

Both cars are similarly equipped when it comes to safety features and options, with the exception of the lack of a back up camera option for the Yaris. The Micra also offers a few extras in the SV trim level that would require a step up to the even more expensive SE trim level in the Yaris, including steering wheel mounted audio controls and the intermittent rear wiper. When it comes to options, the Micra clearly has the edge.

Micra interior

While I like the outer style of the Yaris hatchback and can appreciate its slightly better fuel economy, the Micra is, in my opinion, a better buy with a significantly lower price, equally as appealing styling, more options, more headroom, more legroom, and more cargo room, while yielding similar performance characteristics. I would also argue that the Micra has a much nicer interior. While Toyota has a great reliability record, I believe the Micra’s own reliability record has been demonstrated all the way back to 1983. As far as I’m concerned, the Micra is the clear choice.

Micra vs Chevrolet Spark

micravsspark

Before settling on the Micra, I shopped around and compared it to other cars in its class and price range. In this blog post, I explore my comparison to the Chevrolet Spark.

To get the features I wanted (air, cruise), I would need to opt for the 1LT Manual, with an MSRP of  $13,940, $242 more than the Micra SV at $13,698. Add in the backup camera and upgraded stereo options for the Micra to balance out the features and the Micra costs $258 more. Thus, I consider these cars to be comparatively and competitively priced.

Trying on the Spark
Trying on the Spark

In terms of interior space, the Spark is more cramped with 32mm less headroom in the front and 29mm less headroom in the rear. To its credit, the Spark does offer slightly more legroom, 16mm more in the front and 34mm more in the rear, but that’s in addition to an already adequate 1051mm front and 860mm rear legroom in the Micra. With the back seats up, the Micra offers 85L greater cargo space; with the seats folded down, the Spark gets a 64.1L advantage over the Micra, as the Spark’s seat bottoms tumble forward. When sitting behind the wheel, I found the Micra’s seats to be noticeably more comfortable than the Spark’s seats.

Spark's engine bay

The Micra is 28 kilograms heavier than the Spark, and has an engine that produces 25 more horsepower. Consequently, the Spark gets slightly better estimated fuel economy ratings (6L/100km highway on the Spark vs. 6.6L/100km highway on the Micra). Each of the Micra’s horses is charged with propelling 21.376 lbs. of car, whereas each of the horses in the Spark’s engine are charged with moving 27.012 lbs. of car, giving the Micra a significant power-to-weight ratio advantage. I believe this significant power to weight advantage overcomes the slight penalty in fuel economy estimates; a penalty which, I believe, will disappear in real world driving that involves hills and fewer downshifts in the Micra required to tackle those hills.

Both of these cars are very competitive when it comes to features and price. The Spark has a slight edge when it comes to legroom, seat down cargo space, and fuel economy, whereas the Micra has the edge when it comes to headroom, seat up cargo space, seat comfort, and performance. Feature content requires a deeper examination.

sparkinterior

A more refined look at the options shows that, while the Micra offers a fuel economy computer with real time and average fuel economy along with distance until the next refuel and two trip counters, the Spark includes this and an outside temperature sensor, oil life system, tire pressure system, driving time, and average speed. The Micra does tell the driver when the washer fluid is low, whereas the Spark has no such warning. Also, where the Spark offers only a tire inflation kit, the Micra offers a real spare tire, although the Spark gets alloy wheels versus the Micra’s steel wheels with hubcaps. To get the Micra’s heated power mirrors, I’d have to move up to the next tier of the Spark. Both have nice interiors, though I find the Micra’s interior feels and looks more upscale, with the buttons on the steering wheel for bluetooth, audio controls, and cruise control to have a better ergonomic feel to them. I do not consider the monthly OnStar subscription to be an advantage; instead, it represents yet another frivolous monthly expense and annoyance I can do without. The rear wiper on the Micra features both an intermittent and on setting, whereas the Spark appears to have a simple on-off toggle.

Micra interior

I opted for the Micra, as I preferred the more comfortable seats, style, power, performance, interior, and headroom. The Spark’s feature set seems to be geared more towards dazzling buyers, whereas the Micra’s features seem to be geared towards real world practicality; for example, knowing when the washer fluid is low is of greater importance to me than is knowing the outside temperature, and when the sidewall of a tire is shredded from a blowout, the real spare tire won’t leave me stranded like the tire inflation kit would. The slight advantage in the Spark’s estimated fuel economy did not compel me. Given that I do a considerable amount of commuting on the highway, I felt the power from a 1.6L engine would provide an advantage in terms of real world highway fuel economy and engine longevity over an engine with 1.2L of displacement. Finally, I felt as though the Spark was a very youth-oriented car, clearly targeted towards people under 25, whereas the Micra seems to target a much broader range with a classier interior and exterior style.

The Spark is a very compelling car, and with the rising cost of gas, I wouldn’t fault anyone for buying it. It really comes down to a matter of tastes.