Entry-level cars are still as important in the local car market as SUVs and bakkies. Despite the latter two segments always growing and being a significant part of domestic car sales, smaller vehicles still sell volumes each month in SA.
Nissan's entry-level version would be the Micra, the smallest car in their current range, albeit in the 'upper' B-segment. However, Nissan still sells the Micra Active - priced from R187 000 - concurrently with the fifth-generation model. The updated offering has a starting price from R257 100 for the 66kW version.
Towards the end of 2019, the automaker launched a more savvy, 1.0-litre Turbo, 84kW version that clocks in with a price tag of R311 100 rand for the Acenta Plus, and up to a whopping R342 600 for the range-topping Tekna Plus model. And when you look at it on paper, the vast price difference will leave you scratching your head. However, Toyota recently launched its refreshed C-HR compact crossover, and while this vehicle is in a different segment, it still has a 1.2-litre turbo engine which produces 85kW and 185Nm. Starting price for the C-HR range is from R371 700.
Again, smaller vehicle, smaller engine but loaded with standard kit that pushes it into a premium bracket, but you're paying for the niceties. And, gosh, they are rather lovely to have and it gives you genuine peace of mind that you're driving a quality vehicle.
Consider you'll pay R344 500 for the range-topping 1.0-litre EcoBoost Ford Fiesta, or R331 100 for a VW Polo TSI 85kW version in Highline trim, mated to that lovely DSG. However, most standard equipment is included in the Micra's price, and you'll have to fork out extra to have the niceties in its rivals.
But here's the interesting part: in December, Naamsa reported that Nissan sold 26 Active models and 87 of the latest offering. In February, Nissan sold 102 models and 185 units, respectively. We're not clued up on the derivative distribution, but yet users opt for the pricier model, and surely that speaks volumes.
Quality products like the new 1.0-litre Micra with standard features to knock it out of the park will always outweigh the need to buy a 'cheapie' when you can afford to pay more.
We recently had the new Tekna Plus model on test. If my daughter was at the age of having a first car, and I could afford it, this is the kind of car I would have peace of mind. It's reliable, chic, and fully kitted with all the tech and safety equipment you could think of in a small car.
It's also just a flipping cool car to drive. It's comfortable, easy to operate and that gearbox is just the cherry on top for smooth shifting. The Micra is incredibly nippy whether you're cruising on the highway or doing some spirited driving around Franschhoek Pass or down Clarence Drive.
Rear legroom is a bit cramped, but if want more space you'll have to buy a bigger vehicle. The space is suffice for kids in child seats and the boot has enough room to take your Mom grocery-shopping at the end of the month - perhaps not during panic-buying which is a current trend due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Here are three reasons why this little car is a good buy, despite its high-end price:
1. Mobile connectivity
Like most new vehicles in the market, the Micra compatible with Apple Carplay and Android Auto so connecting your mobile phone is as easy as plugging in your cable to sync your apps, Google navigation, and it acts as a telemetry system. And it comes equipped with the automaker's patented Nissan Intelligent Mobility (NIM) technology.
2. Bose Personal sound
The range-topper Micra comes standard with built-in Bose speakers into the driver's seat headrest, and that is pretty awesome and a first for its segment as it acts as an immersive 360-degree soundstage for the driver in a smaller vehicle.
Only the Tekna and Tekna Plus models come fitted with the Bose Personal sound system.
The system includes an amplifier under the driver's seat, wide-range speakers in the front doors, tweeters in the dashboard and two 6cm UltraNearField speakers in the driver's headrest.
It's such a funky addition to the car, and the sound quality made me love listening to music so much more again. I couldn't help thinking of my old sound system in my old Golf Mk2, so who wouldn't want to have that same feeling in a modern, smaller car?
Nissan says: "The headrest set-up makes use of Bose PersonalSpace Virtual Audio Technology to produce a wide sound field with a clear sound image and musical depth and offer a range of listening options, from precise front-focused sound to a much wider and enveloping experience in which the sound feels like it's coming from places in the car where there aren't any speakers."
3. Fully loaded
The new 84kW engine is available in three derivatives; the Acenta Plus, Tekna and Tekna Plus grade.Standard goodies include a sport suspension, sport exhaust tailpipe, keyless entry, push start button, rear parking sensors, automatic folding mirrors, leather steering wheel and shift lever, Intelligent Around View Monitor, Moving Object Detection, and blind-spot warning.
The Tekna model comes with LED headlights and front fog lights, automatic air conditioner and automatic headlight leveller. The Tekna Plus has an 'Invigorating Red' interior which could take some time to get used to, but it works well with that the 'Enigma Black' body colour, so you'll fall in love with it sooner than later.