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Steane Klose | May 25, 2007

FANS OF BBC’s Top Gear will no doubt remember the episode when Richard Hammond road tested a pink Nissan Micra convertible. He refused to drive the car without a bag on his head and, eventually, to avoid further embarrassment, left the car on the side of the road and walked.

The convertible Micra was described as being rather ordinary but that had a lot to do with the weakened ‘floppy’ chassis (cutting the roof off does that) and a large lack of power.

Putting it all in perspective though, we are talking about Top Gear here and jumping from a Pagani Zonda to a Nissan Micra no doubt has you wondering where the horsepower ran off to.

Nissan has just announced the return of their Micra ‘light car’ to our shores so we had better take a quick look at what the Micra is all about. When it arrives in November it will be up against the likes of Toyota’s Yaris, Honda’s Jazz and Suzuki’s Swift so it is going to need to be a capable machine.

The Nissan Micra is now five years into its model cycle and has been available in Europe and Asia for the last half a decade where it has proven to be quite popular. We saw the previous model in Australia back in the late 90’s but it was a short 2-year stay killed off by unfavourable exchange rates.

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A new Micra is due in 2009. Nissan is hoping that the current model will clear the road for the success of the model in Australia before the arrival of the all new 2009 car.

The Nissan Micra will initially only be available as a five-door hatch with the possibility that the 3-door version will become available down the track if the model proves as popular as Nissan hope.

The 5-door Micra that will ship into Australia later this year is built by Nissan in Japan while the 3-door is built at Nissan UK’s Sunderland plant. Expect the 3-door to carry a premium price tag if it does make it to Australia.

You know how it is with cars… less doors equals more money although to be fair the 3-door Micra does come with a larger 1.6-litre engine and is more overtly sporty than the 5-door.

When the Micra does go on sale it will be available with a choice of one engine…so choose carefully. The standard 1.4-litre twin-cam engine produces 65Kw and 128Nm. The Micra requires a premium unleaded diet which is a major drawback in our book. One of the major reasons for purchasing a ‘light car’ is reduced running costs and being forced to use premium will go against the grain with many potential owners.

Despite having expensive taste in fuel, the Nissan Micra manages to achieve between 6 and 7 litres/100km. Performance and Micra appear to be mutually exclusive with the 0-100 km/h dash taking a leisurely 15 seconds…

Diesel options are available in Europe but rather short sightedly won’t be available to Australian buyers. With petrol now at $1.40 a litre could there be a better time to introduce a light car with a diesel option?

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The Australian delivered Micra’s will be equipped with a conventional four-speed automatic. There is no word on a manual option but it would be unlikely that one was not made available.

In overseas markets the 1.4-litre Micra is equipped with a 5-speed manual. Expect the next generation 2009 Micra to feature a CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) automatic. The Micra also features ABS, dual front airbags, electric power steering along with front disc brakes and rear drum brakes.

Weighing in at 985kg it truly deserves the title of ‘light car’. Full specifications and pricing have not yet been confirmed by Nissan Australia but expect pricing to begin in the $15-17,000 range. We will provide further details as they become known.

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