Driving the Streets of New York in a 2017 Nissan Micra

Strong points
  • Low starting price
  • High value for the dollar
  • Easy to drive in urban setting
Weak points
  • S trim is really barebones
  • Small motor
  • Poor rear visibility
Full report

The Big Apple is America’s largest and most densely populated city. It’s the financial capital of the world, the diplomacy capital of the world and arguably the cultural capital of the world. It’s a gigantic powerhouse in every facet of the word, and therefore, a perfect setting for Nissan to draw a contrast with the smallest vehicle it sells in North America—the Micra.

During an event called Manhattan Under a Microscope, the company invited Canadian journalists to tour the city while driving the Micra. Hosted by author and former Montrealer-turned-New Yorker Marie-Joëlle Parent, we were taken to various points of interest among the many outlined in her new book, 300 Reasons To Love New York.

First, let’s talk about the car a little. The 2017 Nissan Micra is Canada’s most affordable vehicle with a starting price of just $9,988. It offers a 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine rated at 109 horsepower and 107 lb.-ft. of torque that feels sparingly peppy. There are three trim levels: S, SV and SR. Standard equipment on the base S trim includes a five-speed manual transmission (a four-speed automatic is available), 60/40-split folding rear seats and an AM/FM/CD audio system with auxiliary audio input jack, so it’s pretty bare-boned. You’ll probably want to get at least the SV trim which adds Bluetooth connectivity, power windows, keyless entry and steering wheel-mounted audio controls. Navigation and leather aren’t available on any trim level.

Photo: Nissan Canada

Not quite a New York minute

We flew into La Guardia on a Monday afternoon and were guided to the parking lot where our flock of Micras was ready to go. The first journey would be to drive the 14 or so kilometres to our hotel in Times Square in the middle rush hour. This took a wee bit longer than anticipated—about two hours—though the group did a bang-up job attempting to stick together so the Nissan film crew could get a few shots of the Micras entering the city. We even went so far as to stopping on the Queensboro Bridge in an attempt to gather all the Micras together, but that effort proved unsuccessful.

The drive in the Micra is very good for such an inexpensive car. The power-to-weight ratio is such that those 109 horses do the job quite effectively. I didn’t feel that this car was underpowered. Things like agility and braking are slightly above what I had expected. Interior space has been maximized and the vehicle fit all of our luggage and equipment without issue.

Finally we arrived at the W Hotel in Times Square where the journalists would stay for the duration of the trip. In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that Nissan picked up the tab for all accommodations during the trip.

Later that evening, we were taken to a trendy restaurant called Top of the Strand. Listed at number 180 in Marie-Joëlle’s book, this is a year-round rooftop bar and lounge on the 21st floor of The Strand Hotel NYC and offers spectacular views of the both the Empire State Building and the New York skyline.

Micrascoping around the city

The next morning, it was time to start our journey around the city to interesting spots to take photos of the Micras. Followed by two camera crews (one in a Nissan Titan pickup and the other in a Pathfinder) we headed to the D.U.M.B.O. district of Brooklyn. The acronym stands for Down Under The Manhattan Bridge Overpass and is predominantly an art district. There is an iconic spot on the corner of Front and Washington streets, where you can get a photo of the Empire State Building in the distance through the legs of the Manhattan Bridge, and that’s exactly what we did with our 2017 Nissan Micra. Other drivers won’t be too pleased if you’re blocking the roads like we did, but if you’re quick enough, it’s not a problem at all. The spot is number 236 in the book.

Since the Micra is a tiny car, Nissan thought we could visit some of the other tiny attractions that New York City has to offer. Our next stop was a miniature museum built into a renovated elevator shaft. The museum is barely five square metres and features everyday objects from around the world. Several times per year, the artefacts are replaced with a new collection and our tour was the first to see this season’s collection before anyone else. It’s number 17 in the book and located in Cortland Alley, between Franklin and White streets.

After the smallest museum, it was onto the smallest house in New York. Located at 75½ Bedford Street, it measures just 2.9 metres wide and was recently purchased for 3.25 million dollars. Constructed in 1873, it’s had a number of notable owners including actor Drew Barrymore’s grandfather. The smallest house is number 77 in the book.

Photo: Nissan Canada

Afterwards, the film crew needed more stock footage of the Micras driving around the city and I was more than happy to volunteer for a quick drive up to Central Park and back. In the end, the “quick” drive took about an hour each way, but despite its length I found myself relaxed and comfortable in the Micra. The small dimensions made navigating the hazardous flow of taxis, trucks, bicycles and pedestrians relatively easy.

We ended up at Zucotti Park for lunch at a row of street vendors. If you recall, this is the former home of the Occupy Wall Street movement which camped out there for months in the fall of 2011. Zuccotti Park is within walking distance from the Charging Bull and Fearless Girl statues and I didn’t pass up the opportunity to go see them. The crowds were heavy and it was photo after photo after photo being taken with the statues, but I managed to snap a pic between people. Fearless Girl is something I find to be a very powerful image, especially in the times we’re living in. It’s a must see if you’re in the city.

After lunch, it was on to our last stop of the day, the building at 667 Madison Avenue where a miniature version of the Statue of Liberty is on display. This isn’t just any statue, but one of only twelve replicas cast in bronze from the original plaster sculpture that was scaled sixteen times to make the real one in New York Harbour.

No hidden meaning

The Nissan Micra is available overseas and in Canada; however, the company doesn’t sell this model in the United States. One might ask what the point is in touring New York with a vehicle that isn’t available to the local populace to purchase. Nissan was very firm when asked whether or not there was some hidden meaning to this trip, as if to prelude a possible announcement to sell Micras South of the border: there wasn’t. This is simply a case of drawing attention to the Micra in a quirky way for Canadians to read about.

I quite enjoyed my time in Manhattan behind the wheel of the Micra. It’s a fun car that’s made to be driven in an urban setting and we have plenty of those in Canada, so the Micra fits right at home here. Nissan has priced it such that it can be had for peanuts and it should continue to do well in its class for some time.

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