How do you make a cheap car sexy? Despite their attractive price tags, people just don’t seem that excited about affordable subcompacts. But Nissan had a brilliant idea: take the super affordable Nissan Micra and put it in a thrilling spec racing series to show people what the little car is capable of.
That’s right, the $10,000 Nissan Micra, one of the lowest cost cars available in Canada, is also used for racing duty across the country. We got a chance to try these little racers out, and this series is proof that subcompact cars can be awesome fun in addition to being budget friendly.
The Nissan Micra Cup Car is based on the Nissan Micra S. It’s a base model, which means it comes with no frills. Actually, in the name of weight savings and safety, the race car has no rear seats, and the front seats have been replaced by racing seats and a three-point harness. There’s also a roll cage in the car, a must-have when it comes to racing, along with a window net. Nissan then outfits the race Micra with a suspension from its NISMO division and Pirelli rubber is found at all four corners. Front brakes are of the race variety as well, but the rear drum brakes are stock.
You’ll notice a distinct lack of changes regarding the powertrain of the little Nissan. The 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine is untouched, though there is an intake and exhaust that helps the car sound the part of a race car. Everything else about the engine is stock, meaning there’s a total of 109 hp on tap, just like the road car. Gears are swapped via a five-speed manual transmission.
Even with no extra power, the Micra is still pretty quick because it only weighs around 2,200 lbs. The result is a responsive and agile car. Experienced first-hand on a race track, the Micra is a blast to drive and far more fun than you’d expect from a subcompact car. The lightweight, low-power nature of the car means you get to push it hard into every corner, and get to be selective about when and how to brake. Lightly braking while turning rotates the whole car, while hitting the curbing can launch the car on two wheels.
While getting up to a speed that’s considered fast takes some time, the Micra is still thrilling while turning around the course. There’s a good sense of speed, too, which helps amplify how much fun the whole experience is. The brakes and tires go a long way to making this car feel exhilarating. The car handles much better than any old subcompact, thanks to these modifications. Due to the low power, high grip and excellent brakes, you carry much more speed into every corner. With a brave grimace, you realize this is nothing like driving the normal Micra. This car also helps prove the point that a great car is not just the sum of high power numbers, a steep price tag and a fancy badge. The Micra gets the point across without any frills.
Naturally, since the Micra is so low cost, the race car is, too, at least relative to other motorsports. While the road car comes in at around $10,000, getting it all ready for racing brings the cost to around $23,000. Still, that’s affordable in the world of race cars. In fact, its about half the price of a Mazda MX-5 Cup Car. Running the car costs about $30,000 per season, which is enough to cover transportation, entry fees, fuel and other consumables.
Watching the racing in action is eye-opening. Due to the limited modifications made to the cars, the competition is really tight. Watching the recent race taking place at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in Bowmanville, Ont., it’s clear that 20-something race cars on track at once is quite the spectacle, with close racing for the whole event. Winning the race comes down to driver skill.
The Micra Cup Series is now in its second year, and this year sees racers coming to Ontario in addition to Quebec. There are more than just weekend racers involved in the sport, too. For example, gamers-turned-drivers from Nissan’s GT Academy are here, showing off their Gran Turismo-honed skills.
They don’t have a ton of features, they don’t have a lot of power, and they’re often seen as cute little toys to use around town. But that’s not the case for the Nissan Micra, a car that’s not only affordable and small, but used in its own racing series. It is quite a unique way to sell a $10,000 car.