A New Car for $10,000? Why Not?

You need a car to bring you from point A to point B, and your most important purchase criterion is the smallest possible monthly payment. Engine power is of little importance, just like comfort and convenience features. Four tires and a steering wheel, with a new-car warranty for peace of mind.

This year, there are two models available on the Canadian market that cost less than $10,000 before adding on taxes as well as freight and delivery charges. The 2016 Nissan Micra is the blue-light special with an MSRP of $9,988, while the 2016 Chevrolet Spark is a close second at $9,995. The difference is the price of a Big Mac, fries and a Coke. However, the Spark does offer a little more equipment than the Micra, notably its more modern infotainment system and connectivity features.

Would you trust a new car that costs ten thousand bucks? Are these two minicars reliable? Are they pleasant to drive? Are they stripped of features to the point of making the daily commute a wrist-slitting experience? The answers to the three last questions are, in order: probably, yes and no.

On the safety front, the Nissan Micra offers six airbags, traction and electronic stability control systems as well as LATCH child seat anchors. Same thing for the Spark, except that it also includes 10 airbags, a rearview camera and the brand’s OnStar communication system (subscription required).

For the rest, the feature list remains minimalistic: crank-it-up windows, no air conditioning, non-adjustable seats and no keyless remote. It’s no fun to have to stretch an arm and reach the manual door locks while the kids are impatiently waiting to climb in, but that’s a small sacrifice to for being able to afford a new car.

What’s really interesting is to realise how well built cars are today compared to twenty, ten and even five years ago. And when’s the last time we could buy a new car for less than $10,000?

For a limited time in 2008, Hyundai Canada offered a $3,600 rebate on the Accent L Hatchback. Its MSRP being $13,595 at the time, Canadians could enjoy buying a new car for just below ten grand. More recently, Mitsubishi slapped a hefty rebate on the 2015 Mirage, selling it at $9,995 to rival the Micra.

However, if we exclude rebates and concentrate on MSRPs, we must go all the way back to 1997 to find the last new car sold in Canada for less than $10K. That car was… the Lada Samara, which retailed for $9,445.

That Russian marvel was available in sedan and five-door body styles, both equipped with a 1.5-litre, four-cylinder engine. Having just received an electronic fuel injection system provided by GM, the Samara rippled pavement with its 69-horsepower output. According to data pulled from the 1997 Edition of our Guide de l’auto buyer’s guide, the little Lada wheezed its way from 0 to 100 km/h in 14.5 seconds, and consumed fuel at a rate of 7.8 L/100 km. That’s when it actually started.

And to obtain a car at a price that low, we had to deal with after-sales service and parts availability that were mediocre at best. Quite a contrast compared to today’s Nissan and Chevrolet dealer network.

In a nutshell, we can get a very decent new, 2016 automobile for less than $10,000.

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