Nissan to "Canadianize" the Micra

Currently sold in 160 countries, the Nissan Micra subcompact hatchback is a very successful global car.

But it’s always been a no-show in the U.S., and it’s been 21 years since it was last sold in Canada for an unremarkable seven-year run.

Nissan Canada just announced it will try the Micra experiment again, this time with feeling, and with a very “Canadianized” version, which will be exclusive to Canada. Nissan’s U.S. arm is still not Micra motivated, and won’t be selling any Micra versions any time soon.

Historically, the Canadian marketplace has always been populated with Canada-only models not sold in the U.S., but they’re getting scarcer on the ground, and with what Nissan Canada had to go through, to make this new Micra happen, you can see why…

“It was in development for three years solid,” says Andrew Wilton, Nissan Canada’s chief marketing manager, and one of the Nissan execs on hand for the model’s first unveiling, at a special event in Montreal last week. “You wouldn’t believe the amount of engineering that went into it.”

The Canadian 2015 Micra will be built at Nissan’s Mexican plant, which has been building Mexican-market Micras for years, but Wilton said the Canadian version is closer to the European version. “We looked at the Mexican car, but it just wasn’t right for us. We wanted more of the European touches.”

In fact, the launch of the Canadian car was timed to coincide with the European model’s mid-cycle revision, just completed in 2013.

Some of the “Canada-only” items on this Micra include ducts for rear-seat heating, 60/40 split folding rear seat, heated side mirrors, and front and rear sway bars for the suspension. Wilton and Nissan Canada are really proud of that suspension.

They took the best Micra suspension component set up they could find globally, in that European market Micra, and made it even better, by adding those sway bars: “No other market has a front or rear sway bar,” boasted Wilton.

The car also gets the European 15 and 16 inch wheels, because Nissan Canada liked the looks of them, and Canadians use winter tires, and those are harder to come by on the smaller 13 and 14 inch wheels featured on the Micra models in other markets.

“That’s the beauty of a global car. You can pick and choose from every single market. We selfishly like to think we did a really good job at the picking and choosing,” added Wilton.

The Micra is smaller than the Nissan Versa Note, but shares the same V-platform, which underpins a lot of small Nissans (V stands for versatile). Micra’s engine will also be the same 1.6-litre “four” toiling away in Versa Note, but Micra will go with a five-speed manual or conventional four-speed automatic; Versa’s automatic is a CVT.

Keeping the “higher-technology” pieces on the Versa Note is Nissan’s strategy to give the two small hatchbacks some separation on the sales floor and on the price ladder. So don’t expect stuff up-market options like heated seats, navigation, and 360-degree monitor on the Micra.

Versa Note’s base price is $13,348. Micra’s will be lower than that, but Nissan is not saying by how much exactly, at least not yet.

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