With the auto industry abuzz over the boxy, Scion-slaying Nissan Cube's arrival in the US this fall, we can't help but plead to Nissan to begin importing the bug-eyed Micra 160 SR sub-compact as well. Although also sold in Japan as the Nissan March (which spawned the awesome 'one-make' spec racing series known as the March Cup), Europe alone is blessed with this Micra that sports a 1.6-liter engine and a stiffer suspension.
We'll be honest with you: the Micra 160 SR isn't fast in a straight line. It won't smoke any M3s, Corvettes or Evos. Due to federal crash standards and the fact that one solid hit from a Hummer or an Excursion will have you sitting in the engine bay, we're sure Nissan will have to do some alterations to the Micra before it can hit American roads. But with gas prices skyrocketing the way they have been recently, the Micra 160 SR could prove to be the most fun way to get around town on a tiny budget.
Nissan has made the 160 SR the sport model in the Micra line-up by dropping in a 1.6-liter engine (which makes 110bhp compared to the base model's dismal 65bhp), stiffening up the suspension and modifying the steering linkage. But the tiny car still somehow manages to weigh more than 3200 pounds. On paper, this thing sounds like a complete dog. But I recently had the chance to take one out at the last Nissan 360 event and, in reality, it's the ultimate metropolitan, daily driven rocket-and more fun than you'd think.
First, it's small, which makes it easy to thread through tight spots and you'll always know how much space there is beyond the bumpers. The Micra's size should also make it easier to drift into parallel parking spots and do j-turns through parking structures. I'd like to say I have firsthand experience, but it was Nissan's car and they only had one on-hand for everybody.
What I do know is that the Micra is perfectly balanced for city work. The Micra 160 SR has enough suspension travel to soak up every rough patch and pothole without a cringe, while handling feedback and steering precision are superb. The 1.6-liter HR16DE engine is also well matched to the tires and brakes. It isn't the slowest car in the world, but it makes so little power that you'll be able to tackle your entire drive home at full throttle almost all the time. And legally too.
The key is that the Micra 160 SR has more grip, brakes and tire than it has blatant power. This translates into a car with limits low enough that you won't have to be doing double the speed limit in order to feel fast, and can bomb through roundabouts, go along mountain roads screaming under the speed limit and can generally reward your road-rage side without getting in trouble with the police. Plus, it'll turn an average of 40mpg. So please, Nissan, bring over the Micra 160 SR along with the Cube. We guarantee it'll get people's attention and, who knows, we might even try to start the Micra 160 SR Cup series.
2008 Nissan Micra 160 SR
Price as Tested: $20,992
Engine Displacement/Type/Valvetrain: 1,598cc, inline-four, aluminum block and head, DOHC
Claimed Crank HP: 110 bhp @ 6,000 rpm
Claimed Crank Torque: 113 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm
Drivetrain/Layout/Transmission: Transverse front engine, front-wheel drive, five-speed manual
Curb Weight: 3,285 pounds
Suspension (Front): MacPherson strut
Suspension (Rear): Torsion beam with coil springs
Brakes (Front/Rear): Ventilated front discs, single-piston sliding calipers/rear drum
Wheels (Front/Rear): 16x6 aluminum
Tires (Front/Rear): 185/50/16