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Nissan March

The Nissan is a supermini produced by the Japanese automaker Nissan since 1982. It is known outside Asia as the Nissan Micra, and since 1992 has also been built in Europe at the NMUK plant in Washington, Tyne and Wear, England.

K10 (1982–1992)

The original March (chassis name K10) was introduced in October 1982 as a challenger to the highly successful Honda City. It was intended to replace the Nissan Cherry as the company's competitor in the supermini sector, as the Cherry model itself had progressively become larger with each successive generation. It was introduced in the European market in 1983, and in the Canadian market in 1984. Although Nissan was slowly phasing out the Datsun name, a small appeared on the tailgate for the first two years, and in some European markets, the car was known as the "Datsun-Nissan Micra". The March was initially available with an extremely refined all-aluminium MA10S SOHC engine. The Datsun badges had disappeared completely by the end of 1984.

The model was revised in June 1985, identifiable by the slightly larger rear lamp clusters. The Japanese market saw the debut of the first March Turbo/MA10ET, where Nissan grafted a turbocharger to the small 1.0 L engine. Another facelift came in March 1989, which consisted of some minor upgrades such as deeper bumpers, a new front grille, minor interior details, and headlight changes. It also saw the introduction of an electronically controlled carburettor, the larger MA12 1.2 L engine with 60 PS (44 kW/59 hp) and a 5-door hatchback version.

In 1988, Nissan launched a limited 10,000 unit run of its homologated Nissan 1989 March Superturbo (EK10GFR/GAR). Both this and the 1988 March R (EK10FR) featured the same highly advanced sequential compound charged (supercharger plus turbocharger) engine in an all-aluminium straight-4 930 cc 8-valve 4 cylinder Nissan MA MA09ERT unit that produced 110 PS JIS (81 kW/108 hp) at 6400 rpm. This car came with either a 3-speed automatic or 5-speed manual gearbox with viscous limited slip differential, as well as options such as air conditioning and electric mirrors. The March Superturbo still holds the crown for the fastest production March in Nissan's history, with factory performance figures of 7.7 seconds to go from 0 to 100 km/h (62 mph) and 15.5 seconds to run a quarter mile. It has a top speed of 180 km/h (112 mph).

The March's chassis spawned a number of variations. The Be-1 (BK10), launched at the Tokyo Motor Show in 1985 (but not sold until 1987), was a limited edition model with a more rounded bodyshape, and only 10,000 were sold. In 1987, the canvas-topped, retro looking hatchback Pao (パオ) (PK10) was launched (also at the Tokyo Motorshow) and sold to the public in 1989; 51,657 models were sold. The canvas-topped Figaro (フィガロ) (FK10) coupé was unveiled at the same show in 1989, but not released until 1991. Because demand for the Figaro exceeded the 20,000 vehicles built, Nissan sold the car by lottery: winners could place orders for the car. Despite being a JDM-only model, the Figaro is one of the most imported models of the K10 derivatives; its popularity among numerous celebrity owners helped it earn cult status. The K10 ceased production on 21 December 1992. During its lifetime, it gained a good reputation for reliability and economy.

In August 2006, the K10 was still receiving credit for its impressive durability. An Auto Express survey revealed that of the 340,000 K10 Micras registered in the UK between 1983 and 1992, 96,000 were still on the road — nearly 30%, an impressive figure for a car which had been out of production for 14 years. This gave it a far higher rating than the Fiat Uno and the Austin Metro, both of which had dwindled away to less than 3%.

In Canada, the K10-J was sold and branded as the Nissan Micra. It came standard with the larger MA12S inline 4 cylinder OHC 1.2 L (1235 cc) engine. The Nissan Micra was finally discontinued in Canada in 1991, but many K10s are still running on Canadian roads today.

K11 (1992–2002)

The second-generation K11 was built and launched in Japan in early 1992, and released in Europe in the fourth quarter of the year. The Micra (as it is known in Europe), was the second model after the Primera built in Nissan's NMUK plant in Washington, Tyne and Wear. It was powered by brand new all-aluminium 1.0 L (CG10DE) and 1.3 L (CG13DE) DOHC 16 valve engines, with 55 PS DIN (40 kW/54 hp) and 75 PS (55 kW/75 bhp) respectively (higher outputs in Japan), both with ECCS (Electronic Concentrated Control System) fuel injection. Power steering was an option on some models, and the equipment list included security features not usually available in this market segment: a toughened safety-cage and side-impact door beams were standard and pre-tensioning seat-belts and a driver's air-bag were optional. However, the MK2 Micra scored only a modest two stars in Euro NCAP testing in 1997. Airbags, antilock brakes, electric windows, central locking and air conditioning were available as options on some of the March range as it developed in its life cycle. The car soon won the European Car of the Year award for 1993 (the first Japanese car to do so) and the Good Design Award (a Trade and Industry Design award in Japan) along with the Car of the Year Japan award in 1993. This would spawn the V3 Award edition.

After minor changes in 1996, in 1998, six years after its launch, the March received a facelift which saw the whole range get power steering as standard. This also saw the introduction of the Peugeot-sourced 1.5 L TUD5 Diesel engine into the Western European range.

Also in 1998, the Washington plant produced its millionth Micra, becoming the first Japanese manufacturer in Europe to achieve the milestone.

A final facelift came in 2000 for the K11, when the original 1.3 was replaced by a revised 1.3 L unit (CGA3DE) known as 1.4 but with an actual displacement of 1348 cc, which would be discontinued in late 2002 for the K12 model.

In the Republic of Ireland, the Micra was a popular car. The trim levels were aligned with the Continent rather than the United Kingdom. However, there was no diesel option.

In Taiwan, where the car has been sold since February 1995, the K11 March is still sold with an entirely facelifted and improved version called the Super March. It has a digital instrument cluster, LED rear light clusters, indicators built-in to the side mirrors and a facelifted front end with modern crystal headlights. It also comes with a semi leather interior with rear headrests. The car still retains the original CG13DE engine.

The UK-built Micra was briefly exported to the Australian market beginning in 1995 with a three model line up, base 3-door LX, 5-door SLX and 3-door Super S (of which only 303 were ever sold in Australia and demand a hefty price premium over the other models). Class leading performance, a surprisingly dynamic chassis with well sorted suspension, roomy interior and above average build quality were the Micra's strengths in comparison to its Korean competitors like the Hyundai Excel, Daewoo Cielo and Ford Festiva. A poor exchange rate between the UK and Australia meant the Micra's pricing was rather steep and Australian buyers saw the cheaper Koreans and more established Japanese-sourced superminis, such as the Suzuki Swift and Daihatsu Charade, as offering better value for money. Also, the Micra received the lowest possible rating (one star) in Australian crashtests. The Micra was dropped from Nissan Australia's lineup in 1997. Like the Japanese March, the Micra's success in Australia has reached what some may consider a "cult-car" status as people become aware of its underestimated capabilities as a cost-effective runabout and a competitive track/rally car.

Like the K10, the K11 spawned numerous spin-offs, which were all sold only in Japan. In April 1994, the V3 Award edition was released to commemorate the three awards the car won in the first year of production, based on the C# with a coloured roof spoiler. It came with a special commemorative tachometer and sticker. There was a specially retro facelifted model called Tango in June 1996, based on the F and A# model, and the Collet was unveiled in October 1996 to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the March in Japan, with central locking. Initially sold for five months, this became a regular model soon after. In October 1997, another facelifted 5-door model called the Bolero made its appearance, with a round headlight and a large grille, resembling a classic British saloon of the 1960s. The Juke (December 1997) , Rumba (November 1998) and Polka (December 2000) kept the retro theme alive, all of them with slight variations. In April 2001, there was a Muji 1000 edition, which was sold through the MUJI website. The car came with an exclusive one piece grille and unpainted bumpers and wing mirrors. Like the Box estate car, this version had a double folding seat. The car was only available in white and production was limited to 1000 units. At the same time, there was a Collet F, a 20th anniversary model. Most of these spin-offs were produced by Autech.

There was a cabriolet unveiled first at the Tokyo Motorshow in 1995, but it was not sold until August 1997, with an electric top. There was also an estate version called Box (WK11), which was unveiled on November 1999, with a double folding rear seat, along with an automatic transmission four-wheel drive model.

In Japan, several speciality companies modified the March, often catering to the vogue for "classic" styling:

  • Mitsuoka made a latterday interpretation of the 1960s Mark II Jaguar called the Viewt. Launched in 1995, this car is regarded as a luxury model compared with the other March/Micras: it was only made as a four-door saloon or two-door convertible, with wooden interior panelling, leather interior and chrome plating available.
  • Companies such as Copel, Mooku and Lotas produced Marches modified to resemble the Vanden Plas Princess 1100. The extent of the modifications ranged from circular headlamps and a chrome grille in the case of the Copel Ministar, to a remodelled bootlid and new rear lights on the Copel Bonito. Mooku also modified the March Box.

In 1999, Renault bought a 36% stake in Nissan, and in 2000 there was talk of moving production of the Micra to Flins, near Paris. However, the UK government stepped in with £40 million to help: a grant that was approved by the European Commission in January 2001. The Micra's next incarnation was also be made in Britain.

K12 (2002–2007)

The next version of the March/Micra, the K12, was unveiled in late 2002. The car was radically redesigned: it featured a new, 70 mm longer wheelbase (developed with Renault) and an even more curvy exterior that was taller and slightly wider. Its most distinctive feature was a pair of prominent headlamps that extended to the wing-tops. Other additions included a sliding rear seat and the option of keyless ignition on higher specification models. The range of engines included improved 1.2 (CR12DE) and 1.4 (CR14DE) petrol models, and a Renault-sourced 1.5 diesel unit (HR15DE).

The K12 was well received by the motor industry and set a new standard for the superminis that followed it.

In July 2004, Nissan announced that a Coral Blue K12 Micra had become NMUK's one millionth car for the UK market, and that its Washington plant had produced over 250,000 K12s since the model's launch, for sale in up to 45 markets.

In 2005, Nissan Europe released a performance model of the K12. Dubbed the 160 SR, it was released as a direct competitor to the MINI Cooper, Ford Fiesta Zetec-S and the Citroën C2 GT, with a 1.6 L HR16DE engine, giving 113 PS (83 kW/111 hp) and uprated sports suspension. In 2006, Nissan renamed the 160 SR to the Sport SR in line with name changes across the board for the K12. However, this rebranding was shortlived: the performance model reverted to the 160 SR name in late 2007.

The launch of the 160 SR coincided with a revision of the K12. The radiator grilles were given a chrome strip through the centre and the original amber indicators were replaced with clear ones. The rear bumper was restyled and made more robust (apparently in response to French parking habits). The interior was also given a makeover, with more supportive seats, thicker glass and better soundproofing.

There were originally six trim levels of the K12, but in 2006 they were simplified to just three: Initia, Spirita and Sport. In addition, the launch line-up of six engines was reduced to the most popular four.

Autech, a Nissan-owned company, has unveiled alternative models called the Bolero and the Rafeet. The Bolero, like Autech's versions of the K11, has the usual retro front end (which with the standard March headlights makes the car resemble the Lancia Ypsilon); the Rafeet has a more modern approach, resembling a BMW MINI, with either a black or white leather interior, whereas the Bolero has partial wood panelling and exclusive seating.

While Nissan Europe has the 160 SR, in Japan the 5-door only March is available with the 12 SR and 15 SR-A versions, the first one with a tuned 1.2 L CR12DE engine giving 110 PS (81 kW/108 hp). It is equipped with an exclusive HKS exhaust and has a set of 15x6 wheels on a 185/55R15 81V Bridgestone RE-01R tyres. From 2005 in Japan, 3-door models and the CR10DE were dropped from the range, the CR14DE was only used for 4WD models, and the HR15DE was introduced.

In 2003, Nissan UK, inspired by the Andros Trophy K11, unveiled the Micra-R, a one-off mid-engined K12. Shown at the Geneva Motor Show without running gear and engine, being only a display car, it was later given the go-ahead and Nissan commissioned Ray Mallock Ltd to insert a mid mounted BTCC-derived Primera QG20DE engine for show and press demonstration purposes. In 2005, Nissan UK decided to replace the Primera engine with a VQ35DE from a 350Z with a modified Altima SE-R gearbox for user-friendliness on the road. This model was baptized 350SR, although it was not offered for sale. It was taken on to EVO magazine's "fast fleet" for a period of time where it became a favourite of many of the writers. Other modifications to this car include a vented rear arch and a set of Rays Engineering wheels. To date, Nissan has no plans to put this model into production.

Micra C+C

In 2005, the K12 chassis spawned the coupé convertible model called the C+C. It was designed at the new London-based Nissan Design Europe studio, developed at the Nissan Technical Centre Europe at Cranfield, Bedfordshire and built, as with its predecessor, at the Washington plant. The electric folding glass roof is made by Karmann coachworks and has a 2+2 seating layout. The car is powered by an 1.4 or 1.6 L engine. It is also the first European-specification Micra to be sold in Japan.

There were originally four trim levels: Urbis, Sport, Essenza and Active Luxury.

K12C (2007–present)

In late 2007, the Nissan March/Micra was facelifted for the final time before its successor is launched sometime in 2009. It has had several cosmetic tweaks: every model now comes with the standard racing grille taken from the K12 160 SR; the front headlights have been tidied up (incorporating light blue-tinted sidelights) and the grilles housing the indicators are edged in chrome. In addition, the B-pillar trims are no longer colour-coded. Inside, there are new seat fabric designs, and the dashboard features parts taken from other Nissans. New equipment includes an audible speed warning, bluetooth connectivity with the vehicle and reversing sensors. All models (save for entry-level) are fitted with sport bumpers and spoilers on the sides and rear.

The model grades have been brought into line with the rest of the Nissan UK range, namely Visia, Acenta, Tekna, 160 SR and Active Luxury.

K12C models in Europe:

  • Visia: old K12 model with facelift
  • Acenta/Acenta +: luxury models
  • Tekna: sportive model
  • 160 SR: sportive/performance model
  • Active Luxury: luxury/sportive model

The 1.2 litre engine for the entry-level Visia is a 65 PS unit, as opposed to the 80 PS version on other grades. In addition, the Visia does not have the option of a 1.4 litre engine. The 1.6 litre engine is reserved for the 160 SR and as an option on the Active Luxury grade.

Nissan re-introduced the Micra to Australia in 2007, being sold only as a 5-door hatchback, and coming from Japan and not the UK.

The Micra C+C convertible is available in Visia, Acenta, Tekna and Active Luxury grades. However, the 1.6 litre engine is available for all models, save the Visia.

March in motorsports

Nissan first entered the March in motorsports with the March Superturbo R. Introduced in 1987, this rare pre-facelift K10 weighed in at 740 kg (1630 lb) with half interior, roll cage and tool kit. It was built for the new sub-1600 cc Group A class, and shortly after in 1988 Nissan released the March Superturbo as a road car.

While the March was a favourite with the drivers in the Japanese Rally Championship, veteran Swedish rally driver Per Eklund finished the 1988 RAC Rally in 21st position and the 1989 Acropolis Rally Greece in 10th place.

During the K11's production life, there was a series of national rally championship trophies held all over Europe called the Micra Challenge. This was intended as a cheap introduction to rallying, as the cars all had identical 1.3 L race-prepared engines. The UK series ran between 1995 and 1999. This model is still used in club and national rallies. In France, the 1.3 L model was used as the basis for a circuit racing one-make cup for celebrity drivers, the Nissan Stars Cup. In Portugal, the Micra spawned a one-make trophy alongside the National Rally Championship for Beginners.

In the late 1990s, a K11 was adapted into a VQ30 mid-engined 4WD configuration to race in the Trophée Andros, the French ice racing series. Drivers who raced this car include Érik Comas, Philippe Gache, Stéphane Peterhansel and Emmanuel Collard.

Nissan sponsors a one-make series in Japan called the March Cup, which has been running since the introduction of the K10. Usually a JGTC support race, it is held in two separate five-round championships called West Japan Series and East Japan Series, and a ladies series running simultaneously. At the end of the season, the best performing cars from both sides meet up for the Champions Cup final at the end the season.

Reputation and popularity

The March/Micra is known for its reliability, excellent build quality, and user friendliness. The K12 model has received consistently good overall reviews, with the main criticisms being the lack of head room and luggage space in the rear.

There are numerous tuning parts available for the car. Engine transplants are not new for the March, as many owners with mechanical skills have installed the SR20DE and more commonly, the GA16DE into their K11s. Turbocharger kits are a popular choice for the K11 and K12s.

The insurance company Folksam rated it as a dangerous car in case of crash for the years 1988–1995. However, safety specification has improved with successive models. The Micra's Euro NCAP ratings are two stars for the K11 and four for the K12.

The K12 Micra came top of its class in What Car? magazine's Security Supertest in 2003, passing both entry and driveaway tests and achieving a maximum score for its locking system and immobiliser.

In 2005, the UK motor insurance research expert Thatcham introduced a standard for keyless entry, requiring the device to be inoperable at a distance of more than 10 cm from the vehicle. In an independent test, the Micra was found to be the most secure, while certain BMW and Mercedes models failed, being theoretically capable of allowing cars to be driven away while their owners were refuelling.

In What Car?'s Reliability Supertest in 2007, Nissan was ranked 6th out of 26 manufacturers overall, with the K11 Micra (1998–2002) being its most reliable model.

Micra in the UK

The Micra K10 first went on sale the UK over the summer of 1983, and it was an instant sales success. In its best year, 1990, it was the eleventh most popular new car in the UK with just under 50,000 sales. It was a popular choice with driving instructors and undemanding motorists thanks to its ease of driving, solid build and durable mechanical components. As of 2007, 15 years after its demise, tens of thousands of Micra K10s are still on British roads, a survival rate which compares well with many other small cars of its generation, such as the Austin Metro, Fiat Uno, and Renault 5.

The second incarnation of the Micra was launched in the UK at the end of 1992, with production taking place in Britain at the Washington plant rather than in Japan. Like its predecessor, it was a very popular car thanks to its quality, ease of driving and fuel economy. However, it was available with a limited range of engines: 1.0 and 1.3 petrol units. A facelift over the summer of 2000 saw the 1.3 shelved and replaced with a 1.4 unit. This upgrade, after a previous makeover in 1998, enhanced the Micra's appeal and it was still fairly popular on the launch of its successor in December 2002.

Like the previous version of the Micra, the third generation model was made at the Sunderland plant. It had a wider range of engines, including Renault-sourced 1.2 petrol and 1.5 direct-injection diesel powerplants, and offered an improved driving experience. Its chassis would form the basis of the next Renault Clio, launched in 2005 but still built in France. This stylish, all-new Micra helped Nissan bolster its market share of the supermini sector, which had been declining in the final year or two of its predecessor's life. Although it has never featured in the SMMT's official top 10 best-selling cars in the UK, it has been among the best-selling 10 cars in Britain among private buyers for virtually all of its production life.

In 2003, the BBC's Top Gear programme featured a segment on cars that gave value for money, highlighting specification that could be purchased for £9,000. The Micra K12 was selected and tested by presenter Richard Hammond, who gave it a positive review. This was despite comparing its qualities to those of a Boeing 737, concluding that the Micra "had all the toys". However, when Hammond tested the Micra C+C in 2006, he was less than enthusiastic. This was because his model was coloured pink and as a result, he spent most of the segment driving it with a paper bag over his head.

The pink C+C was one of only five, made specifically for Nissan's sponsorship of the C+C TLC Tour in 2005–06, in support of the Breakthrough Breast Cancer charity. Such was the public's response that Nissan subsequently announced the launch of the Micra C+C Pink, limited to 100 models. These quickly sold out and another production run was announced in August 2006, this time limited to 175 cars.

Scale models

Fujimi makes 1/24 scale plastic model kits of a 3-door K11 and 5-door K12, in several different versions. Kyosho also makes a 5-door K12, as a 1/43 scale diecast in both left- and right-hand drive versions. Bandai makes 1/24 or 1/43 etc plastic model kits and diecast model kits Nissan Be-1, while Norev makes a 1:43-scale Micra C+C 1.6, complete with folding roof.

March / Micra replacement

The next generation Nissan March (W02A) will be unveiled in Feburary 2009. It will be based on a revamped B-platform with a new engine 1.2-1.3 litre (xh5) and also retaining the HR15DE. It will be built in Japan & UK, and Chennai, India in partnership with Nissan shareholder Renault. The NMUK plant in Washington will instead manufacture an entirely new model that will compete in the same market segment as the Micra.

See also

References

External links

Japanese language

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