There's no denying the facts - compared to out-going model, the new Nissan March looks like it has become a back-to-basics little hatchback, more like the popular 1st and 2nd generation March that was popular over 20-years ago.
The 1.4-litre engine is out, replaced by a 1.2-litre unit. Nissan has even cut the number for cylinders from four to three, a first for the Japanese company! All the luxury items, like keyless entry and ignition and the colour-coded beige or soft grey interiors have disappeared. Only the fully digital climate control remains, and only on the automatic model.
So what gives? Why the lowering of specs, especially when COEs are at an all time high? Why couldn't Nissan keep the March a highly-specced chi-chi hatchback that had a small but firm following?
After driving the new car, and having driven both the 2nd and 3rd generation models, even though it appears to be down graded, the new 4th generation March is probably the best and most thoroughly-engineered March since the car was first introduced in the mid-80s.
And it is the last model that was the anomaly - Nissan had no choice in the late 90s but to make the last March a high-specced and boutique model. No doubt, it was reminiscent of the quirky but stylish Pike cars like the Nissan Be-1, Pao and S-cargo, but most of the other Japanese car companies were busy investing in and setting up production plants in ASEAN (mainly Thailand). While they were introducing more affordable Thai-built models to fend off the Korean carmakers, Nissan was in no position to do so, and as the entry-level model, the made-in-Japan March just couldn't compete on price, and had to sell on looks and equipment, and move upmarket.
Nissan are now back in the black and financially secure, and yes, the new March is manufactured at a spanking new factory in Thailand. In fact, to underscore how technically advanced this March is, in the Thai market, the March, with the same basic engine, qualifies as an "Eco-car", with a fuel consumption of 20km/l and putting out less than 120g of CO2. The most significant difference between the Thai "Pure Drive" eco model and the model sold here is that it gets start-stop technology to further reduce its fuel consumption, everything else is the same.