"It's one of Britain's cheapest new cars, and with its functional, no frills interior and lacklustre engine. Problem is, it feels it too..."
The Nissan Pixo is the sister car to the Suzuki Alto and is a collaboration between the two Japanese manufacturers. The resulting city car has a very low list price that starts at around £7,000 – you won’t find many cheaper cars outside of a Dacia dealership. In fact, it's reckoned that if you shop around hard enough you’ll be about buy a Pixo on finance for less than £100 a month. That is good value for money but the Pixo has been made with a no-frills approach to engineering and design, so don’t expect anything too exciting. That said, top-specification Tekna models do come with some decent equipment, including air-conditioning and stability control as standard. Running costs and insurance rates are low, economy is good and safety standards are adequate. It's good around city streets buts noisy on the motorway.
While the Pixo's low-budget feel isn’t likely to surprise any drivers, the total lack of any sort of performance is nonetheless disappointing. Especially when you consider that cars such as the Peugeot 107 offer much more from smaller engines. Thanks to the soft suspension, there's lots of body roll when cornering, but, surprisingly, the Pixo doesn’t smooth many potholes or bumps either. You will want to avoid any large holes in the road to avoid having your bones rattled. You can only get the Pixo with a 68bhp 1.0-litre petrol engine that takes 13.5 seconds to go from 0-62mph, up to a top speed of 96mph. Obviously this means that motorways and larger roads are a bit of a struggle, especially in terms of engine and wind noise in the cabin. Basically, it's fine to drive at town speeds and from A to B. Just hope B isn’t 90 miles down the motorway. It does handle on par with other cars in its class, and you can get a four-speed automatic that is actually quite decent, but beware – it eats into fuel economy by up to 10mpg.
It's a bit basic, but the Pixo is built to a price so you should expect a budget feel. The front seats are reasonably comfy on shorter trips and there's also space in the back for a couple of passengers. It only comes in a five-door model so at least access to the back is good and is pretty decent for children and child seats, especially as the windows are pop out units, not wind down. Be warned. though, fully load the car and the engine will struggle. It's worth noting that you can only get air-conditioning in the top-spec Tekna models, too.
Nissan has dropped eight places to number 12 in the 2013 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, but it's still a maker of reliable cars and there have been few problems for the Pixo so far. What's more, its Suzuki underpinnings are tough and reliable. Safety isn’t bad either, with electronic stability control fitted as standard, although its sister car the Alto's disappointing three-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests is a bit troubling, given that most of its rivals have four stars or more. The entry-level Visia model only gets two front airbags; concerned parents should go for the top-spec Teckna model to get curtain airbags for the back.
You don’t expect bags of boot space or abundant practicality in small city car, but you expect more than 129 litres of luggage space – 10 litres less than a Peugeot 107 and much smaller than a Kia Picanto. Plus it has a high lip and narrow opening so it's even awkward getting what little you can fit inside, in. It goes without saying that adults will feel cramped in the back seats and should only squeeze in there for short journeys. The back seats fold down (but not flat) to increase the capacity but it's still below class standard. There's also a lack of storage cubbies and compartments, while the door bins are particularly narrow and there's no glovebox. You have to be sure that the Pixo's value for money is high enough to justify such shortcomings.
Value for money
Here's the crux of the argument – other than Dacia models, you won’t find many new cars on sale in the UK that have cheaper prices than the Nissan Pixo. Whether you think that's a good deal, depends on what you expect a new car to offer – and even then we’d recommend drivers to avoid the entry-level Visia cars with their limited equipment and basic spec. We’d advise attempting to haggle a better car down in price or looking at a Dacia Sandero first.
Given its budget price you’d be forgiven for expecting the Pixo to at least fall below the magic 100g/km of CO2 emissions and thus cut out the cost of road tax. But, alas, no. The 1.0-litre petrol engine can return more than 60mpg in fuel economy and insurance costs are incredibly low, too, but sadly it emits 103g/km, which goes up to 122g/km with the automatic gearbox. That's cheap to tax, yes, but it's now the norm for city cars to be tax free – putting the Pixo some way behind its main rivals for running costs. Expect servicing costs to also be low, and resale values in the used market to be reasonable, simply because it was so cheap to begin with.