Nissan micra performance characteristics

Typically the micra has a very low weight compared to most road vehicles at around 810kg. Obviously, this is a major advantage all round. You can't beat lightweight, it aids acceleration, braking and handling.

With some modifications the micras weight will enable you to create a pretty quick street car or circuit racer. They can fly around corners faster than most cars, and their low weight allows them to launch off the line efficiently for a front wheel drive car.

Straight out of the box, a factory micra is a what you might call a "zippy" performer. They have just enough poke from the little twin cam cg13de engine to provide an entertaining ride. They'll beat a lot of factory cars off the line, but they are definately not "fast" if you want to get serious. But luckily, they offer wonderful hot up potential for people like you to tweak them up and surprise many larger engined cars!

So what are the downsides?

Yes unfortunately the micra has a downside! It is shaped like a bubble and its roof almost reaches the stars. Great for head room, not so good for highway speed and above performance. But its all part of Nissan's compact design to fit a lot of room and features into such a small car. I'm about six feet one and a half and my head has oodles of clearance which makes me think taller drivers would have no problem for head room in a micra.

Once you're doing highway speeds (anywhere from 80kmh+), aerodynamics plays a major role in how fast your car will continue to accelerate and what top speed it will achieve. As a quick summary ignoring factors such as gear ratios and assuming an average torque curve: -

  • Acceleration comes from weight and torque
  • Outright top speed comes from aerodynamics and power.

However, its not so bad after all. Remember the micra is a very narrow and small car. This gives it a relatively small overall surface area that impacts with air creating resistance. Aerodynamics isn't all about shape and sleekness, but also about total surface area. This is where the micras tall shape redeems itself making it not so unaerodynamic after all. I read a very good article once about an early model Porsche 356 and a very modern 911. Both were compared aerodynamically and although the new 911 is much sleeker and smoother, both cars had an identical level of aerodynamic efficiency because the 356 was much smaller in overall surface area which made up for its loss in shape! Great news for micra drivers.

My old micra would always max out not long after 170kmh. I think I got it too 172kmh once, and might've reached 175kmh if I continued for another 500m or so - it certainly didn't have much left. This was after it was modified and boasted around 80kw (subject to dyno calibration). One factor limiting my top speed was that my dyno readout showed that my car made peak torque very low in the rev range but additionally the micras shape probably didn't make things easy for the little engine at high speeds. I am very interested to see what kind of top speeds I can pull after my new micra has been turbocharged making at least double the factory power output.

I managed to reach 237kmh in my old S14 200sx however - (the factory max is claimed 240kmh) in a very short amount of time on a straight no longer than 2km. This was while I was still running the standard 8psi boost too. It got to 210kmh in no time at all - I was very impressed, but 210 to 237 was noticeably slower, but still accelerating faster than a micra would be at 150! The 200sx almost ran out of 5th gear - it looks funny seeing both gauges in your turbo sportscar reading almost at their max values!

My whole thing with the micra is that its an awesome street / circuit type car. With some engine mods, it can accelerate out of nowhere exceptionally well and frequently turn corners without slowing down as much as other cars need to. Providing you're not racing down conrod straight against something half as high as the micra - you'll still have a very quick little vehicle. Stop and go, go and stop, turn and go is what the micra is all about. Its super nimble and the power steering models can especially navigate the tightest corners with the handbrake locked at surprising speeds - this is where your main driving advantage can be aquired from.

Remember - if a micra and a 200sx both were modified to have 200kw each - the 200sx will never ever weigh 810kg. You simply cannot beat lightweight. You can go berzerk and modify your engine as much as you want, but ultimately someone with a light car like a micra can spend their $$$ and get the same power output and always beat you because of their weight!

Braking is another area to score easy points. You car weighs half as much as MeatHead Smith's Commodore SS V8 and you're tyres are considerably larger than half the width of his. Well, providing your brakes don't fade from heat you will probably make him feel like a bulk carrier coal ship with its propeller in full-reverse desperately in need of a team of tug boats to slow it down. (Install the N14 pulsar discs like I did or go even further with the bolt on pulsar GTi-R brakes - they offer exceptional zero-fade braking performance). Braking style is obviously important, he might have ABS and your micra may not, so if you brake like an idiot and keep them locked up don't expect to brake quicker than anything.

Obviously though - have realistic expectations and don't try to perform miracles based on simple things like dyno readouts and power to weight ratios. You will never beat a non-turbo 4wd sedan, let alone a wrx or evo in the wet to 100kmh because they have 4wd no matter how much power you might have. Its always going to be a front wheel drive, but if you keep well aware of that and keep its advantages and more favoured scenarios in the back of your mind, you will be far more content with what you can achieve and who you can beat in a modified micra. Maybe once you are doing 80kmh and you have a nice turbo setup you might blow away a WRX in the wet, but its going to take you plenty of time to get to that speed in the wet and it might be all over by then. A WRX however still weighs atleast 1300kgs and 4WD doesn't give you any braking advantages - so when you have to brake next, its an ideal time to catch back up!

In terms of dry handling a tweaked micra say with the Whiteline kit and good set of lightweight wheels with low profile tyres should have no problem obliterating a factory WRX around corners. The car weighs half a ton lighter and has tyres almost as fast as the WRX. The big 4wd advantage of the WRX really comes into play a lot more in the wet, as a clever micra driver can set the car up into a nice four wheel drift with the throttle in the dry at stupid speeds.

In terms of launch ability, well my micra used to launch slightly better than a poorly launched 200sx. Pretty good for a front wheel drive - all attributable to the cars lightweight. Its so much lighter and with decent tyres you can get off the line pretty well - but someone who gets the revs correct in their rear while drive should almost always outlaunch you (providing its not an ex-taxi XE falcon!)

I would love to hear about anyone's interesting micra driving experiences, clever maneuvours, or what cars you have claimed to out-do. I'm aiming to get a few cool mpeg videos of maneuvours in my micra up on the site as soon as I can organise it.