Nissan’s new lightweight philosophy revealed

Published: 28 October 2009

The leaked official drawings of the new Nissan Micra might have revealed the conventional styling of the company’s new supermini, but they gave little clue to the dramatically lightweight new platform that underpins it.

The new Micra will be significantly lighter and more fuel efficient than the outgoing car due to a ruthless pursuit of weight reduction on the new V-platform (V = versatile), which on average has slashed 50kg from the new car's weight, and up to 70kg on some models.

70kg cut from a supermini is a lot. How did Nissan shed so much weight out of the new Micra?

Project leader Noritaka Tsuru described the new package as a 'breakthrough car' that required a complete 'change in mentality' in how Nissan makes cars. A series of engineering changes from a redesigned exhaust system to a vastly reduced parts count in the seating systems were just two such measures. Fuel economy has been boosted through the utilisation of a new three-cylinder petrol powerplant with engine friction improvements, a better CVT transmission and a more aerodynamic exterior – note the slightly odd-looking but wind-cheating curved rear roof lip.

The platform will accommodate two wheelbases and initially three different bodystyles – hatch, saloon and MPV – that will launch over the next three years worldwide, but only the hatchback and mini-MPV will make it to the UK. CAR was granted a 'no-photos' preview of the final car in the metal – although without an interior – at a private unveil at Nissan’s new Yokohama HQ in Japan last week.

So were those leaked drawings accurate?

Yes. In the metal the distinctive bonnet creases and slightly bulging surfacing details are the nearest this new Micra gets to sporty but the unusual double 'U' shapes scored into the roof – that you may have noticed from the drawings – are highly pertinent. No mere design flourish, Nissan says these scoops help alleviate vibration and thus allow the car to shed some of its previous weight-gaining sound insulation material.

The exterior design will vary little in the 160 countries where it’s sold (UK sales start in October 2010), but suspension settings and other driving characteristics will be better attuned to local market conditions. Nissan also stated that the platform is completely open for use by its French Alliance partner Renault and could spawn further body styles in the future.

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By Guy Bird

Contributor, cultural curator, design commentator

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