A supermini that was produced by the Japanese automaker Nissan, the Micra was first introduced in 1982. The Micra is known as the Nissan March in Asia, and since 1992 has been built in Europe at the NMUK plant in Washington, Tyne and Wear, England.
Originally introduced in October of 1982, the original March was built to replace the highly successful Honda City and the Nissan Cherry. In 1983 the Nissan Micra was introduced in the European market 1983 and the Canadian market in 1984. In various European markets the Nissan Micra was known as the Datsun-Nissan Micra. By the end of 1984 the Datsun badges had completely phased out. Originally, the March was available an extremely refined all-aluminum MA102 SOHC engine.
In June of 1984 the Micra model was updated with slightly larger rear lamp clusters. The first March Turbo/MA10ET was introduced to the Japanese market along with a turbocharger attached to the small 1.0 L engine. In March of 1989 the Micra was again upgraded to include deeper bumpers, a new front grille, updated interior details and headlight revisions. A new electronically controlled carburetor was also introduced along with a larger MA12 1.2 L engine with 60 PS and a 5-door hatchback version.
In early 1992 the second generation of Nissan Micra, the K11 was built and launched in Japan. This newest version was released in Europe in the fourth quarter of the year. The Micra was the second model following the Primera that was built in Nissan's NMUK plant in Washington. Powered by brand new all-aluminum 1.0 L and 1.3 L DOHC 16 valve engine with 55 PS DIN and 75 PS, both versions came with ECCS fuel injection.
Some Micra II models featured power steering as an option, while the equipment list included security features that were not usually available in this market segment. These features included standard pre-tensioning seat-belts with load limiters and a side door beam on each door. Available as options on some of the March range were airbags, antilock brakes, electric windows, central locking and AC.
In 1993 the K11 won the European Car of the Year award and became the first Japanese vehicle to achieve this feature. The K11 also received the Good Design Award along with the Car of the Year Japan award in 1993.
In 1996 the Nissan Micra II underwent various minor changes. In 1998 the March received a facelift which saw the whole range receiving power steering as standard. This was the introduction of the Peugeot-sourced 1.5 L TUD5 Diesel engine into the Western European range.
The Washington plant produced its millionth Micra model in 1998 and became the first Japanese manufacturer in Europe to achieve this.
In 2000 the final revision occurred on the K11 when the original 1.3 was replaced by a newly revised 1.3 L unit that was known as 1.4 but with an actual displacement of 1348 cc. This would be discontinued at the end of 2002 for the K12 model
The K12, the next version of the March/Micra was introduced in late 2002. Featuring a new, 70 mm longer wheelbase that was developed with Renault, the K12 was radically redesigned with a curvy exterior that was both taller and slightly wider. A pair of prominent headlamps were extended to the wing-tops on this newest Micra. A sliding rear seat and the option of keyless ignition on higher specification models were also offered. The engines were also improved, featuring a 1.2 and 1.4 petrol models and a Renault-sourced 1.5 diesel unit.
The K12 is responsible for setting a new standard for the superminis and was very well received by the motor industry.
Nissan Europe introduced a performance model of the K12 called the 160 SR in 2005 and was released as a direct competitor to the Mini Cooper, Ford Fiesta Zetec-S and the Citroen C2 GT. The 160 SR featured a 1.6 L HR16DE engine that gave 113 PS and an uprated sports suspension.
At the same time as the launch of the 160 SR, the K12 received a major revision. Clear indicators replaced the original amber ones and the radiator grilles were given a chrome strip through the center. The interior was updated and received more supportive seats, better soundproofing and thicker glass. The rear bumper of the K12 was also restyled.
Originally there were six trim levels of the K12, but by 2006 they were downsized to only three; Initia, Spirita and Sport.
In 2005 the Micra C+C a coupe convertible model was introduced. The C+C was built at the new London-based Nissan Design Europe studio and developed at the Nissan Technical Center Europe at Cranfield, Bedfordshire. The newest Micra featured an electric folding glass roof that was made by Karmann coachwork and featured 2+2 seating layout. This was the first European-specification Micra to be sold in Japan.
At the end of 2007 the Nissan Micra was redesigned for the final time before being replaced by its predecessor that will be released in 2009. The newest K12C featured a standard racing grille that was taken from the K12 160 SR. The front headlights incorporated light blue-tinted sidelights and the grilles held indicators that are edged in chrome. The K12 features new seat fabric designs, updated dashboard features, audible speed warning, Bluetooth connectivity and reversing sensors.By Jessica Donaldson