NISSAN SAYS the 2011 Nissan Micra will become one of the core models for the marque after it launches at the end of 2010, with sales expected to triple those of the current model.
The Micra that’s presently on sale (known by its internal code, K12) is only available with one engine, no manual transmission option and in one specification level.
Speaking with TMR this week, Nissan Australia CEO Dan Thompson said that won’t be the case for the K12 Micra’s replacement.
“We’ll have multiple engine options and multiple transmission options,” Mr Thompson said.
“We’re nearing the very final stages of determining what to launch with, but I will say at a minimum that we’ll launch with multiple engine and transmission options.”
Mr Thompson declined to comment on specific engine and drivetrain details, however European-market Micras will be offered with either a naturally-aspirated 1.2 litre three-cylinder petrol engine with 60kW and 108Nm, or a supercharged and direct-injected version of the same engine with 75kW and 142Nm.
In Europe a five-speed manual will be the standard transmission, with a CVT automatic available as an option.
For Australia, it has not yet been decided whether all engines in the range will be available with both manual and automatic transmissions.
With diesels making up a fraction of sales in the light car segment, an oiler is not on the cards for the next-gen Micra.
Based on Nissan’s newly-developed V-platform, the 2011 Micra (called B02A in Nissan-speak, but unofficially dubbed K13) will initially be available in five-door hatch form only, although a sedan version may eventuate.
“For us at this moment it’s the five-door hatch only, but there will be other derivatives off the platform that will be available to us,” Mr Thompson said.
“The one that we’re watching is the sedan version, so if that light sedan segment starts to evolve here in Australia and becomes of significant size – today it’s tiny, only 10 percent of the light car segment – that would be one derivative off the global portfolio that we would look at taking.
“But at this stage the only one we’re looking at is the five-door hatch.
“Globally there’s also an MPV version, but it’s not relevant for our market. So really it’s just the hatch for us, possibly a sedan.”
Aside from a full range of engines, transmissions and specification levels, the K13 Micra will also address a major criticism of the K12: safety.
The K12 has a lap-only seatbelt on the rear centre seat and no stability control option, while side and curtain airbags are only available with the purchase of the City Collection package.
In contrast, the K13 promises to be far better equipped. TMR believes that stability control; front, side and curtain airbags; three-point seatbelts on all seats and ABS will be standard across the 2011 Micra range.
“It (K13) will be fully-loaded with all the safety equipment that consumers demand,” Mr Thompson said.
“The base model will have all the safety equipment that is expected and almost demanded in this market today.”
Mr Thompson says that the new Micra has the potential to drive Nissan sales in a big way, and the arrival of the K13 is expected to more than triple sales.
“Our ambition with K13 is to triple sales for what we’ve been doing historically with the K12,” Mr Thompson said.
“In March, for instance, we had a record-breaking month for K12 with 760 units so we’re not looking to triple sales from that point. But from that 400-500 unit range - which is typically what we’ve done with K12 - from that baseline we’re looking to triple sales.”
“Basically, what we’re targeting with the product once we’re up and running is to be top three in the segment. I absolutely believe we can do it with the offering we will have, and the pricing that we’re discussing across the K13 range.
Mr Thompson remained coy on the subject of pricing, but hinted that the 2011 Micra will be priced even more keenly than the current model when it arrives in the fourth quarter of 2010.
With Hyundai set to wheel out its bargain-priced Getz replacement, the i20, and further price drops across the sub-$20,000 light car market predicted, the 2011 Micra could possibly retail for as much as $2000 less than the current model’s $15,990 sticker price.
“I think this market will become very aggressive because of the Aussie dollar’s strength and because of tariff reductions,” Mr Thompson said.
“We understand that when we launch the car at the end of this year that we have to be competitive and we have to compete with the three-door segment with the five-door K13.”
Click to read TMR's review of the 2009 Nissan Micra City Collection.