By on February 19, 2015


Walking up to the pearl white, Japanese-Brazilian, new Nissan March, I smile. Can’t help it. It looks so cute. Especially in this top-of-the-line version all prettied up, with the bigger (and good-looking) wheels and its funky design that though more grown up than before, is still playful. Plastichrome abounds and can be found in the front, sides and back. I instantly warm up to it, I want to like it.


Though this is the New March and has suffered a re-skin, it’s still a narrow car, that looks quite tall and short. Some don’t like that, comparing it to roller skates and what not, but coming from Brazil, the land of hatches, I’m used to the shape. The headlights are new and less cute than the previous model’s though not overly aggressive. The fog lights are sort of lost in a sea of chrome, but I have seen worse. The new grille helps the overall affect, with a new more sophisticated shape, while the Nissan badge now has a bright V surrounding it. Didn’t like it in the pictures, but in person it works.


Looking at it from the side, I can’t tell much of a difference from the previous model. While the new March’s new front is a step up from before, it is the side profile of this car that has always got me. Short, high snout, tall greenhouse and a low beltline. No wanton creases and bulges. No need for that on such a short car. The signature half arch shape of the windows is there and adds a bit of drama and a nostalgic hint. Thankfully the roof doesn’t follow the windows and is straighter. All good, as it helps in interior space.


Going out to the back, the quirky looks of the previous model are all there. The design here is not so clean, but the unusual shape of the backlights adds a real degree of interest. Sadly, they still jut out like there’s no tomorrow. The back window is a little small and I look for the parking sensors. I notice then that dimple or wart that I hadn’t seen on previous Marches. I remember this is the top of the line, so that must be the camera. Honestly, it looks like an aftermarket improvisation though.


I decide to start my exploration of the March’s innards backwards, so I pop the hatch. Nice, all covered in carpet. On so many Brazilian cars there is always visible metal in the trunk, not so here. Of course, I suspect lowlier Marches will not be so well-finished. The rest is normal for hatches in this type of car. A smallish volume of around 265 L. Good for supermarket runs. On a vacation, a family of four, presumably without a baby, must pack light.

I open one of the back doors and slide in. Here the benefit of the square roof is evident. At 6 feet tall, I have no need to angle my neck and can sit up perfectly straight. In the Versa, this car’s sedan version, I do have to cock my head to the side. The Versa though provides much more leg room, but a quick look up front reveals to me the front seat I’m sitting behind is pushed back and I still have some space. Another nice touch, even back here, power windows. Again, not so common on small Brazilian cars and part of the SL package.


Jumping into the driver’s seat I think this car looks very solid. The finishing is simple, but good with some variation in color and well-screwed together. There are buttons on the steering wheel and the wheel itself feels thick in my hand (as it should) and has some nice texture. The center stack contains the media center that compromises radio, GPS and the backup camera. I also like its shape. Gone is the old, gimmicky, childish one that looked like a famous dinosaur baby from the 90s. In is a new one, that looked quite conventional in pictures (making me straight off not like it), but in person, and maybe because of the version, it is well-finished and there are no black plastic slabs covering gaping holes.

I put in the key, put it in reverse, the back camera view lights up immediately with a medley of lines that help parking. I adjust the radio, quite easily, see that the buttons on the steering wheel serve to control it and also your paired phone. For free the first three years after purchase, Nissan offers its Connect. It works together with the radio and you can access such things as Facebook and points of interest. If you are invited to an event on the social media, the GPS will trace the route instantly. I’m sure there are other things it can do, but by now I’m anxious to drive the March as I am anticipating good things.

I close the door and, oh no!. The handle does not angle up anymore like in the past. The is some bright work there and controls for all windows, but when I closed the door it pushed my leg back in. Now, I’m a tallish guy with quite a bit of gut (110 kg), but I’m not an NBA player. I drive with my legs a bit open, but that handle is forcing my leg straight ahead. I’ve driven old Beetles, I’ve owned a Ford Ka. I have driven all kinds of Fiats. I recently drove the ostensibly smaller Volkswagen up! and none forced me to sit like I didn’t want or made me immediately uncomfortable. There is no reason for the handle to be so thick, it takes away too much from the limited space. As now I’m feeling grumpy, I notice the pockets on the doors are so thin, they barely hold anything. It’s been a while since I’ve sat in something so poorly thought out. To add a bit more salt to the wound, the seat belts are non-adjustable.


Remembering the Mistsubishi Pajero (Montero) I recently drove I recall disliking it because when in second gear the knob would eat into my thigh. Now this one is forcing me to drive with my leg in an uncomfortable position. I fidget then with the gear stick and notice, this is weird, too. It’s a little further back than in other smalls cars I’ve driven. This is probably the result of center stack madness. It has become conventional that even in a small car the center stack must touch the floor. Cupholders are also a must. Owing to that, the gear box has been pushed further back. Before even taking it off for a drive, I start to move the gears. Its placement forces an unnatural, shorter movement of the arm. It’s simply too far back.

Adjusting the seat, I find the large seats are good enough, though the cushion is a bit short. I can place the seat far away enough from the dash to feel comfortable (but, damn that door handle). The steering wheel can be moved up and down (as can the seat), but not forward and aft. It becomes apparent the wheel is tilted off slightly to the left, but most won’t notice. On the good side the three pedals are placed far enough apart (sometimes a critical point in small cars) and there is a footrest.

So, off to driving. The first surprise is that the electric steering is extremely light, guess most people like that. However, it is impossible that most people will not be bothered by this car’s second huge fail. That gearbox. What are they thinking? Every gear change, thump! First, thump! Second, thump! Thump, thump, thump! Fast, slow, noise, noise. Ok, I know Nissan wants to push the CVT, but did they forget to add a piece to this car? I’ve read many reviews on the car. No one mentions it (though some hint on it). I call the dealer, complain, the counter guy says it’s normal, but that I should bring it in. Glad I’m not the only crazy one out there hearing things.

With a frown now on my face, I hit the usual spots I like to test cars. Such a sad thing, because in all other regards the car is exemplary.

It uses a 1.6 16v, 111 hp (either on gasoline or ethanol) engine. It pulls strongly and is very responsive. Accelerations are crisp, and the engine revs nicely when solicited. The 16 valves make it a round engine and a pleasure to drive, rarely out of breath (it tops out at 7,000 rpm). According to Nissan, the top speed is 191 km/h. I somehow doubt that, but I do believe the car will top 180 (or get close) and can be driven effortlessly at 160 km/h (100 mph) though noise will be high as there is little sound insulation. In the 0-100 km/h (0-60 mph), most publications peg it at around 11 seconds. So a fast little car it is.

The March takes curves very nicely too. This version uses 185/55/16 rubber. It grips nicely and doesn’t let go easily. As such it has relatively high limits, but more importantly, it is quite docile giving even an unaware driver ample chance to react when it starts to break loose. Body roll is limited and I had actual fun in the curves. So much so I even forgot the thumping for a couple of minutes because despite that huge error, engagements are soft and precise. It is quite fast, too.

Braking is all very acceptable, too. Disks only in front, it does not make lateral movements even under hard braking. ABS as according to Brazilian standards are mandatory (as are the double frontal airbags).

About town, the sight lines help it a lot. It it easy to see out of and the little lines the camera provides make parking even easier. The controls are light and don’t feel flimsy, being that most of them seem to have some padding. It is also quiet in town, though out on the highway you do hear the engine. Good thing in my book, because the noises the engine makes under acceleration is quite good. In town, like with cousin Renaults, this Nissan’s engine sounds a little wheezy at idle.

You can see part of the hood from the driver’s seat. Well, you can see the headlamps. They butt out too, so you always see those little humps. Kind of reminded me of and old Fiat Coupé. The fact is this a light car, only 982 kg, so it is nimble and quick in the city and fast on the road. The lightness makes it fun to drive and the electric steering doesn’t detract much from that and it does harden up some when faster.

The previous March came from Mexico to Brazil. It undercut the competition by a fair margin and was a good buy as content levels were also high. Now, the new March is the first Nissan to roll off the line at Nissan’s new factory in Rezende, Rio de Janeiro state. The design is more grown up and the interior has been much improved because it now looks like a car and not a toy. However, some things have gotten undeniably worse. The constricting door handles and unbelievable gearbox are huge setbacks. Plus, small things like the non-adjustable seat belts or the badly integrated backup camera speak of cost-cutting.

The first Brazilian Nissan is then a bit of a dud. The price has risen, being that this SL that I drove stickers for around R$44,000. For that kind of money there is a plethora of cars that offer even more equipment, more space (cousin Sandero is there, Ford Ka), just a good a drive or even undercut the price without too much sacrifice in space (VW up! Or Fiat Uno).

The new Nissan March is a good car to drive, a fun car that you can toss and will respond without too much drama. Well-finished on the surface, there are too many compromises in the interior and no cost advantage to recommend it over more evolved competitors. Unless you are short. Or hard of hearing.

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50 Comments on “Capsule Review: 2015 Nissan March SL 1.6 – Brazil Edition...”

  • avatar

    Brazil Edition?

    How much is the bulletproof glass option?

  • avatar

    This is the same as the Micra that we get in Canada, I believe.

    It’s not a bad car, but it’s not particularly remarkable, either. Better than the Mirage, but not as good as the Spark and, unless you really can’t make the payments, a worse choice than the Versa Note (if you’re looking for space) or the Yaris (if you’re looking for a car made from Unbreakableium)

  • avatar

    The gear shift is visually too far back. Even if this car was designed to be primarily and automatic, the auto shifter would be too far beck to (assuming it’s in the same place) and get in the way of the arm rest.
    This is a rare fail for a new car.

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed. And sadly, like I pointed out in the text, it has so much going for it. Guess this kind of thing evidences why most Japanese cars have such a hard time of it in markets used to small European (including Euro-American brands here of course) cars. In the end they always have some interior packaging/design fail.

  • avatar

    I cannot believe it’s allowed to leave the factory with a rear view camera glued on like that. Carlos Ghosn would have a frigging stroke if he was aware.

    • 0 avatar

      Hey motormouth! You made me curious so I just checked out Nissan’s Mexican and Canadian websites. They all have the camera done in the same “improvised-look” way and is not exclusively a Brazilian Nissan thing. So someone high up approved. Ghosn has the reputation of being a very hands-on exec. Could it be that he saw it and didn’t mind?

      • 0 avatar
        This Is Dawg

        I know I’ve seen other brands do this too. While not as immediately obvious, I think Ford’s bulging logos that house the camera look just as bad:×782.jpg

        And to me, the worst use of chrome on this little car are the door handles. So out of place!

        • 0 avatar

          I checked your link, but it seems to be broken. But I agree. The best camera set up is surely one you can’t see.

          As to using chrome on door handles, I agree, irrespective of car, I simply don’t like. The only worse place to use chrome is on the side mirrors and I don’t care how much German cars push that as upmarket. To me it’s just in bad taste to do that.

          Thanks for reading and commenting!

          • 0 avatar
            juicy sushi

            I would have thought that right underneath that third brake light at the top of the hatch would be a much better location, myself.

          • 0 avatar

            Well now, I just the other day was backing a blinged out F350 at the shop and since the mirrors had to be folded to clear the lift it was really handy to use the mirrors own housing as an auxiliary mirror.

        • 0 avatar

          Hi Dawg, I agree, I’ve seen other brands almost as bad as this, but it only takes a little thought to work out a better place for it. A little surprise and delight goes a long way, especially with a Micra. After all, if you’re buying one of these, this is a major purchase for the customer and it would be nice if Nissan had a little more respect for their customers than shoving this out on the market. It’s smacks of, ‘so you can’t pay for a better model, then we can’t afford the time’.

      • 0 avatar

        Hi Marcelo, I’ve heard he’s pretty anal about most things so having that tacked on the back would probably rub him up the wrong way. Ahem.

        I shook hands with him last year at the Paris motor show after him and Dieter Zetsche did their semi-annual Renault-Nissan-MB update. They’re quite the comedy team, had some pretty good one liners about each other. I guess it’s all a good laugh when you’re making money.

    • 0 avatar

      It at least sort of makes sense in certain markets where the March/Micra is one of the cheapest new cars available – just having the camera is a surprise and delight sort of feature all on its own. They pulled the same trick on the cube though, which was punching in a slightly higher price bracket. That said, I can’t think of any other Nissans in the Canadian/US market that didn’t integrate it better.

    • 0 avatar

      You are all missing the point. The brazilian consumer likes it that way. It is always good to show off a rear view camera. For the very same reason, the AT Renault Sandero boasts a rather big “Automatic” badge on the tailgate. And that is why people here pay more for a Fiat Uno Sporting that is just as powerful as every other 1.4 Uno.

      And that is also why people down here feel great about paying over USD 1,500 for an iPhone 6.

      Yes, the brazilian consumer is that stupid.

      • 0 avatar

        I’d put it down to the car not being designed to have a camera originally, and this was the most (cost) effective way to install it. It would be neater mounted centrally but I assume there is a reason it wasn’t done.

        Do the lower trim levels offer more competitive value?

        • 0 avatar

          Hey outback_ute. Not really. As far as I can tell, they are all a bit more than the equivalent Sandero for instance and lack size and even content to compete. The Sandero is aggressively priced, while the March is priced along the pricing of others. I’m thinking Nissan is banking on the perception of Japanese-ness of this car (as their propaganda hammers over and over again). For now, they don’t have a bare bones special, but I think that’ll come soon as now the whole family is complete (in lower trims, 1.0s, they launched it -IIRC- still using the Renault engine. Now they have relaunched the 1.0 using their own 3 cylinder and bumped up the price). After the novelty factor wears off, and the “qualities” and small size compared to most of the competition become more well-known, I expect a drop-off in sales, and the corresponding cheapening of the line in order to sell better. For now they do seem to be doing ok and I see quite a few driving about.

          • 0 avatar

            Interesting although I can understand Dacias being cheaper.

            The ‘V’ in the grille ties in nicely with the Nissan SUV’s and pickups too, which is most of what Nissan sell here (Australia) these days although now they have changed the Tiida name back to Pulsar those are doing better. They sell the Micra here too, as well as the Altima but I have seen as many of those as Leafs on the road (1 or 2 only).

      • 0 avatar

        Ei Victor! Tudo bem?

        Don’t know about that. Like I said, it is the same in other Marches/Micras around the world. I’ll put it down to what our friend outback_ute said right before me: It’s just the cheapest possible solution. Should it have been near the third brake light, an extra meter of wiring would’ve been needed.

        BTW, did your wife get the Ka or the up!? I’m curious…How do you like it so far?

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Great review. Agreed; that’s a car I would want to like, but the details you describe (shifter and door handle) would be too much for me to bear.

    The gearshift position reminds me of stick in the Dodge Dart, which is oddly rearward, although it doesn’t appear so in photos. I hated shifting it.

    The door handle issue reminds me of the parking brake handle in the Subaru Crosstrek, which pressed right against me when I sat inside one. It’s one of the few cars I couldn’t wait to jump out of.

    • 0 avatar

      Hey SCE to AUX! Thanks for the kind words.

      I like the design of this car. Like I said, it has been improved in subtle ways. I always played around mentally with the idea of getting one. As is, it’s hard to escape an up! or an Uno for value or a Sandero for the best cost-benefit. A Ka or Onix for more space, a Fiesta for a better drive. Sadly it is outclassed.

      However, after driving it, simply no way. This can only be enjoyed by short people, but even then, there is no way the bad placement of the shifter wouldn’t be felt. Unless the person is too busy using Facebook all the time, or something.

      That parking brake on the Subaru looks terrible! I often wonder if this kind of thing happens because they use a different body type model.

  • avatar

    Don’t you find that the abysmal ergonomics add to the penalty box experience? Similar to the way self-deprecating humor makes us more likely to accept someone, regardless of their flaws?

    I can understand the complaints about lack of utility, like no cupholders and useless door bins. A penalty box is a tool. It should at least be multi-functional. However, I’ve always found honesty to be somewhat admirable and hilarious in small vehicles.

    To me, nothing is worse than owning a “refined” $20,000 penalty box. It just removes the illusion of vehicular inadequacy at extraordinary cost, often for people who can’t afford it.

    • 0 avatar

      Not really TW5. Not when you have such capable competitors available. Cars that make no bones about being small, yet offer great ergonomics and drive. Things like Fiat Uno, VW up or the not-so-small Renault Sandero. You really can’t get more honest than those cars. Yet they offer no ergonomics nightmares. I suspect the Spark sold in the US is similar to the cars I mentioned as it sits on the same platform as the Brazilian Onix.

      As to refined penalty boxes, things like a Fiat Cinquecento or Mini, even Fiesta (drive) or even Peugeot 208 offer that in spades.

      We live in an era of wonderful small cars. As I like them very much, I feel glad for that.

      All of this underscores the inadequacy of this car. Many others are very adequate, and for those who like the experience, provide driving pleasure.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    Marcelo, how important is reliability when Brazilians choose to buy a new vehicle, is it more like USA or more like Europe where the driving dynamics are really important?

    • 0 avatar

      Hey Volt! I think it is a bit of a mix. Though we value “zero” defect cars, I think most realize a car can break and don’t mind taking it to a dealer once a year. However, there is a smaller sub-set of buyers who value ride over everything, and these tend heavily to European (also Ford) offerings. But yes reliability is important. French makes suffer from that as Renault has a reputation for weaker suspension system and PSA for hit and miss quality (or lack thereof).

      I think aftermarket support and ease (and cheapness) of repair is ultimately more important. As such, I feel VW and Fiat are the go to brands with Chevrolet a bit behind. Try selling a 10 year old Toyota, Honda or Hyundai and do the same with a Fiat or VW. The Asian makes will be a much tougher sale (just like the French).

      • 0 avatar

        Ha! A ten year old Camry Corolla civic or accord will sell its self where I’m at, and where im at trucks roam like the great buffalo used to. It’s all about reputation, Europeans and Americans are ‘known’ to be unreliable so trying to sell the best possible Pontiac G6 or 5 series from a decade ago is far more difficult than selling an accord with a blown engine. I once had a woman bring her old civic in a dozen times in about a six month period for various repairs, I once asked her why she didn’t trade up to something new. Her enthusiastic response was “I can’t get rid of my baby! It’s just so reliable!”

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    So it’s kind of the opposite of the US, where people much prefer used Japanese brands and avoid VW and other European brands. Jury is still out on Fiat.

    • 0 avatar

      Hey Volt, make no mistakes, the Japanese are growing here, too. Besides, they are earning good marks for their dealerships as they are considered some of the best. Of course, this just might be because their sales are still small so the dealers are not overflowing with demand like the Big 4 (Fiat, GM, VW and Ford) are. The challenge for them is to keep the same quality as, especially Toyota with the Etios aiming at the compact market, their sales grow. FWIW, Renault dealers had the same reputation when there market share was under 5%. Now that it’s closer to 8, the same type of complaints the Big 4 get can be heard.

      Hyundai is another case altogether. Their dealers are pretty much universally despised and they have lots and lots of trouble with parts availability. It is part of the reason keeping Hyundai back.

      BTW, I have just driven a couple old Fiats (a 97 and a 2008) with a lot of mileage. Surprising actually. Their stories will be here in due time.

      • 0 avatar
        Volt 230

        Cannot understand how a big company like Hyundai cannot take care of the parts issue and thus make their product more desirable, perhaps Brazilians feel that Korean made cars are just not good, how will the Chinese fare in Brazil?

        • 0 avatar

          If you haven’t before, read this and it might partly explain it:

          As to perception on Korean cars, just not so. Some here in fact overvalue them, giving them a premium status they don’t deserve. Others, more discerning perhaps, see them for what they are. But I guess only older people associate Korean products with bad things.

          As to the Chinese, they are just not ready. The more they sell, the greater the backlash. It’ll take them a while.

  • avatar

    I test-drove one of these as a Micra when I was shopping for a new car about six months ago – Nissan Canada was heavily promoting the $9999 starting price. Strangely though, I believe on the absolute base model, air conditioning was only an option if you picked the automatic, otherwise you had to step up to the mid-range model.

    At that point, it starts getting outclassed – with the rebates or financing incentives available (having just come out, the Nissan had none), it was virtually the same money to get a Mazda2, which I found drove far better (albeit with a slightly jittery ride), and is supposed to get better fuel economy (on paper, the Micra is rather underwhelming in that regard).

  • avatar

    You know why the door handle and switches assembly is so wide? Cause it’s the one from the previous-gen Pathfinder (with extra extension for integrated handle)! Can’t believe they didn’t use a smaller one.

    • 0 avatar

      Thanks Corey for the link. Mistery solved!

      Save a buck and lose a customer. In the March it doesn’t even angle up. If it did, like in other small cars, my thigh would probably sneak under the handle and my knee touch the door letting me drive in my slightly open leg preferred position. Sigh!

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    Hey Marcelo,
    The car might have been designed for power windows and the winders were an afterthought.

    What was your fuel usage like, considering the 7 000rpm and spirited driving you had?

    The gearbox might be similar to mine before it blew up:) Did it make crackling sounds as well?

    • 0 avatar

      Hey Big Al!

      I don’t really think so, it’s been more than a while since all small cars are designed with power windows. So much so that the aftermarket job of putting in said windows should your car come without them is a very easy and quite cheap job. All the holes and space needed are designed in.

      As to the gearbox I didn’t notice that kind of sound. The thumping makes me think they tried to get away without using a part called “tremulador” like VW did a couple of years ago and got loud complaints from the market (and me too on my Gol G5 review of a few years back).

      Nice hearing from you!

  • avatar

    I drive the Micra SR here in Canada. I traded in my MK4 Golf and I haven’t regretted it for a minute. Great little runabout that has a nice nimble drive and great visibility. I have an automatic version with 16″ wheels however they are only 185s. The auto is a 4-speed, probably to keep the price down. Gas mileage is good but the cold weather with winter tires does bring down the numbers. The car reminds me of the cheap and cheerful Japanese small cars of the 80s and 90s. Lightweight, easy to drive and takes a beating.

    My only complaints are the short legroom and non telescopic steering wheel. The rest works the way I like it. Puts a smile on my face every time I drive it.

    That being said, I just got back from the Toronto Auto Show and the last car I sat in was the new Corvette. Wholly crap I want one.

  • avatar

    I think the Canadian model Micra actually uses an antiquated (and arguably preferable) 4-speed automatic, rather than the more “sophisticated” CVT.

    If the main gripe in the review relates to the auto transmission, the Canadian variant (marketed as the cheapest new car in Canada, starting at Cdn$9,999 – about US$8,000 as of today) may be one of the best values around, right up there with the CVP Caravan (Cdn$20,000 or US$16,000).

  • avatar

    Next gen March/Micra being conjured by Renault in France for late 2016?

    No eta this side of the pond. Last century 4-speed auto and rear drums put me off. I see previous gen Accent in the current styling.

    Lease a Fit, Fiesta or a Golf particularly if you want auto & a/c.

  • avatar

    I like the March. its only sin was to be released by the same time Hyundai, the Brazilian d-bags’ weapon of choice, launched its HB20. give me the Nissan anytime – or, rather, its Renault cousin.

  • avatar

    As usual, great review Marcelo.

    Thank you it looks like I dodged some bullets by purchasing a new 2013 March and not the “newer” “improved” version. No door handle intrusion and that 4-speed automatic is a sweet unit.

    All you lucky Canadians jump on the 4-speed before it is replaced by the dreaded cvt.

    Up to now it has been perfect. Only niggle is the buckboard rear axle hops when going over a “Tope” (Mexican Speed Bump).

    That’s it. Maintenance is ridiculously simple and cheap… even at the stealer-ship. Not even worth going to an indy garage for that price ($80 a year)

    I did read that they are grossly overcharging for replacement OEM tires and wheels at the stealer-ships in Mexico, but that is easily remedied by purchasing them elsewhere.

  • avatar
    Ignacio Pena

    I own a March and I can assure that the maximum speed is more than 191 March km / h . Great Little Monster

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