Hatchbacks in India were mostly petrol and primitive diesel units until the Maruti Suzuki Swift spawned a whole new segment a few years ago. The car matched and at times even bettered the performance of petrol hatchbacks. This combined with cheaper running costs led people to line up at dealerships resulting in a long waits for delivery. Car manufacturers in India now cannot sell a hatchback without offering a diesel variant. The ones who haven't are planning to launch diesel variants quick time. Diesel hatchbacks are gaining ground in India and so it is no surprise that Nissan has introduced a diesel variant of the Micra within six months after the launch of the petrol model. We have written extensively about the Micra's style and handling so let's dive straight into the test of the new diesel engine.
The Nissan Micra uses a common-rail diesel engine (codenamed 'K9K') which is from a family of inline-4 engines co-developed by Nissan and Renault. This engine is also found under the hood of the Mahindra Logan. The 1.5-litre is currently the biggest diesel engine in a hatchback in India. The 8-valve, 4-cylinder engine produces 64PS at 4000rpm and 160Nm at a low 2000rpm, similar to the Logan. Crank the engine and its quiet operation makes an impression. There is very little vibration and the cabin is insulated well enough to keep the passengers guessing if it's a diesel. Nissan has tuned the ECU in sync with Indian driving conditions so there is very little turbo lag and it feels more like a petrol motor. The power delivery is smooth and linear and ideal for driving in the city. Most diesel hatchbacks have a sudden surge of power when the turbo spools up. The torquey nature of the engine gives the Micra the ability to cruise effortlessly at three-digit speeds.
Nissan's V-platform is known to be lightweight as seen in the petrol Micra. The diesel variant is no exception. In fact the Micra is the lightest diesel hatchback in the country weighing just 992kg. Nissan says the use of newer manufacturing and material processing techniques and reducing the number of components has helped keep the weight low. This has resulted in a good power-to-weight ratio of 64.51PS/ton. The slick and precise gearshifts are a boon in the city but we would have preferred a shorter throw for a more sporty demeanour. The clutch feels heavier compared to the petrol variant and takes little more effort to engage. The gear ratios however are tall and well spread out, matching the engine's power delivery rather well.
The Micra diesel isn't exactly a rocket but is a capable car in terms of performance. Our performance test saw the Micra do the dash to 100kmph in 16.49 seconds. The Micra is more than 3 seconds slower to the ton mark compared to the smaller capacity Swift diesel but is in the same ballpark as the Volkswagen Polo. The top speed claimed by Nissan is 158kmph which is similar to its rivals. The quarter mile comes up in a class competitive 19.9 seconds.
In terms of fuel economy, The Nissan Micra diesel returned an impressive 15.8kmpl in the city and 22.7kmpl on the highway. The overall fuel economy is 17.52kmpl which makes it the most fuel efficient car in its class, beating the Swift diesel's 17.42kmpl. The ARAI claimed figure is 23.08kmpl and is class leading as well. The fuel tank holds 37 litres which means you get an incredible 648km range. The car's weight clearly plays a huge role here. The Micra then is a car with impressive fuel economy and respectable performance.
The Nissan Micra petrol had the right ingredients to make it a success. The car has space, a frugal engine, class first features and good performance. Nissan now offers a competent diesel engine which is not only good to drive but also the most economical in its class. The pricing is slightly on the high side compared to the class leader, Maruti Suzuki Swift but the Micra offers more equipment and better quality. Nissan's expanding distribution network should help with the sales while the long waiting periods for the Swift diesel and the Volkswagen Polo diesel may lead buyers to the Micra diesel.