It has been hailed as Nissan’s little wonder. It is a car that has managed to get itself quite a fan base the world over, despite its vintage roof line, and its bug-like face. It is really the practicality that goes with the unconventional looks that has made Nissan’s Micra popular.
The Micra was first introduced in Japan as the March way back in 1982. That model was also sold in other Asian markets and it lived on till 1992, when the second generation was launched. That is when this car debuted in Europe. The third generation came in 2002, and the car now on sale globally is the updated, facelifted version of the third generation. The makeover was carried out in 2007, to see the Micra through the last three years of its lifespan.
The current generation has been the true worldwide hit. The car is still known as the March in Japan, but is sold as the Micra in most other markets.
But why am I telling you all this?
Well, the big news is that Nissan is currently developing the fourth generation of the Micra. And that car will be made primarily in India—even for sale in Europe. It will, of course, be sold in India, too, and I expect it to debut late next year in the Rs4-5 lakh price bracket.
This means that the car will enter the already hot, premium hatchback space. This is one segment that is buzzing with activity. We have already got the Suzuki Swift, Hyundai Getz, Chevrolet Aveo, Skoda Fabia and Fiat Palio slugging it out. Joining the party by spring 2009 will be Honda’s Jazz and Fiat’s Grande Punto.
So, what can Nissan really do to set itself and its Micra apart?
Well, there are plenty of variants on offer, including the SR version—a powerful Micra launched in 2005 to cater to buyers who want a small zippy runabout, but one that also displays a sporty character when out on the open road. Then there is the Micra C+C—with an electrically retractable hard-top roof. Just push a button, and voila! —the car goes coupe to convertible in seconds. Now launch something like that, even as a niche model-flagship, and it would certainly be quite a first for this class of vehicles in India.
Convertible and affordable
The roof system was designed and supplied by Karmann, and I expect the system to be supplied to Nissan’s Chennai facility for the new model, too. This would cut the cost of importing a fully built convertible considerably—making such a car more affordable for the first time.
The current engine options on the Micra include a 1.2 litre petrol with two versions—65bhp and 80bhp outputs. There is an 88bhp, 1.4-litre motor, and the 110bhp SR. But the engine that gets my attention is the 1.5 litre common rail diesel with 86 bhp on tap. Nissan offers a 4 speed auto or a 5 speed manual gearbox option currently, which I expect will be replaced with a 5 or 6 speed auto/manual.
It is confirmed that the new Micra will be the first of eight cars Nissan will have in its Indian portfolio by 2012. So, if you like the sound of it—expect similar appeal, space and driving dynamics. But the bad news is—all this is still a few months away, and will come at a price. This means similar Suzuki or Hyundai offerings will still look like a steal in comparision.
Siddharth Vinayak Patankar is editor, auto, NDTV. Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org