Back To The 80s: Nissan Micra

Fri 13th Dec 2019

When we think of the classic eras of motoring we might cast our mind back to stylish cars of the 1950s, the muscle cars of the 1960s or the super cars of the 1970s. What might not spring to mind however is the motors which were produced in the 1980s - an era which certainly favoured practicality over power, style and sophistication.

But the cars of today owe much to 80s, it was a decade which brought us turbochargers, multi-valve engines and hot hatchbacks, an era of the people-carrier and the rise of the SUV. Digital displays and electronic gadgetry, were the norm as designers pushed the boundaries of of what was capable in a production vehicle.

So let's celebrate the 80s, a period of huge change across Britain as a whole, and one which had incredible landmarks in the motor industry.

Nissan Micra
Launched during a halcyon period for superminis, the Micra had some stiff competition from the Fiat Uno, Peugeot 205, Vauxhall Nova and second generation Ford Fiesta when it arrived on these shores in 1983.

Legend has it that the simple unsophisticated stylings of the Micra were initially intended for Fiat’s 127 replacement, but in a real sliding-doors moment of motoring history, the Italian company rejected the design and opted for the Giugiaro-styled Uno instead. There are unsubstantiated rumours that Giugiaro had actually design both the Uno and the Micra, whatever the truth of the matter it is clear to see that 1983 was a historic year for superminis across Europe.

Nissan certainly had plenty of competition, on Japanese shores the car was produced to replace the Nissan Cherry and was badged as the Nissan March when it was introduced in October 1982. In the UK, the Micra was initially known as the Datsun-Nissan Micra, mainly due to the company’s ongoing rebranding efforts at the start of the decade. This quirk ensured that early editions had a small ‘Datsun’ logo on the tailgate.

With simplicity the key to the Micra’s success, the supermini had an impressively low fuel consumption, made possible by an extremely refined all-aluminium engine and a very low weight which due to a minimum of insulation ensured that the Micra had a noisy engine.

Though the Micra had a reputation for being the favourite car of the older generation, the car’s longevity may have simply seen the owners grow old alongside the motor. Reliability and economy were keys to the car’s success for Nissan, with a survey of four-to-six year old cars in 1995 rating the first generation Micra as the best in class with a recorded 7.5 recorded breakdowns per 1,000 vehicles. Compare that to 15.3 breakdowns per 1000 for the Polo and 37.3 breakdowns per 1000 for the Uno - it was clear that this was a car prepared to grow old gracefully.

And grow old it did, in a 2007 Independent article it was claimed that more than a quarter of all first generation Micras were still on the road. A total of 96,421 from all 343,411 of Micras sold between 1983 and 1992. ‘A survivor of cockroach toughness’ according to the Independent. It’s rivals barely registered on the roads more than 20 years later with the Uno showing only 2.7 per cent according to the DVLA registration statistics.

Manufacturer: Nissan
Class: Supermini
Designer: Naganori Ito
Assembly: Yokosuka, Kanagawa
Did You Know?: Due to the Micra’s durability and forgiving nature the car became the No.1 choice for driving school instructors during the 1980s.