In 2005, Nissan revived the SR moniker for the Micra
Lowered, stiffened, lukewarm hatch wears the iconic ‘SR’ moniker to make for a sensible but interesting used buy
For motorists of a certain age, ‘SR’ is as potent a badge as ‘GTI’. You want some examples? Manta SR, Astra SR, Nova SR…
Ah yes, the Vauxhall Nova 1.3 SR. Its blistered wheel arches, rear spoiler, grey chequered sports seats and pinstriped bumpers won it plenty of admirers when it was on sale during the 1980s. The engine made 69bhp, but in a car weighing just 675kg, that was enough for 0-60mph in a shade over 10sec.
We’re talking about it now because around 15 years later, in 2005, Nissan revived the SR moniker for the Micra 160SR, on sale from 2005 to 2008. In fact, midway through the car’s life, the company renamed it the Sport SR, which kind of over-egged things a bit, before, in 2007, reverting to 160SR.
The use of ‘160’ was a stroke of genius. To the uninformed observer, this number could have referred to the engine’s power output. In fact, it referred to its 1600cc capacity.
For the record, it made just 108bhp, but the car was only a tad over 1000kg, so that was sufficient for 0-60mph in 9.8sec.
More impressive than how quick it could go was how the 160SR went around corners. It was developed by the boffins at Nissan’s Technical Centre in Cranfield – the same people who tweaked the 350Z to European tastes – before being fine-tuned at the Nürburgring.
The engineers first lowered the standard K12 Micra (K12 was Nissan’s codename for the third generation of 2002 to 2010), then increased roll stiffness by 27% and spring rates by 20% at the front and 10% at the rear.
They also boosted rear twist-beam stiffness by a significant 55% and increased the front anti-roll bar diameter. Then they added traction control and some extra heft to the steering and plonked the whole lot on a set of 16in alloy wheels.
Those were the technical mods, but they also added a rear spoiler, rear parking sensors, front foglights and front sports seats.
Especially in light of the 160SR’s modest sub-£10,000 list price, we were impressed with the result, concluding: “If you’re after an affordable, good fun, well-equipped and practical lukewarm hatch, this is probably it.”
Who, before the arrival of the 160SR, would have imagined those words being written about a version of the K12 Micra? Only its mother would have called it pretty.
The 160SR is rare, so if you can’t find one, you can always content yourself with a regular Micra. Those worth a look are the special-edition XS of 2004, with alloy wheels, a roof spoiler and an aluminium gearknob, and the SX, a ‘luxurious’ model featuring dark-tinted headlights, front foglights and climate control.
The SVE went further with parking sensors and – get this – remote unlocking that works as you approach the car, plus a twist knob in place of the ignition barrel.
In designing the K12 Micra, Nissan admitted that it prioritised looks over interior space. Those looks were a bit of joke at the time. Today, an unmarked example in a bright colour and with some sharp-looking alloys doesn’t look so bad – especially if it says SR on the rump.
What we said then
16 July 2005: “The Micra 160SR is really convincing. Its engine is enthusiastic. It’s five-speed ’box is light, not particularly short in throw but positive and accurate. The steering, more weighty than standard, has decent feel, while the chassis is stiff, composed and agile but not harsh. It is genuinely good fun.”
An expert’s view
Simon Gadsden, LS Car Sales: “I’ve just sold an SR160 for £5000. It was a 2008-reg with fewer than 30,000 miles and was in lovely condition. It had belonged to an elderly gentleman. He was the second owner and bought it when it was only a few months old.
“He sold it to me because the ABS pump had broken, meaning it wouldn’t pass the MOT test, and he couldn’t find a replacement. Parts for older cars are getting very difficult to source, but I did a bit of research and discovered that the SR uses the same pump as the Micra C+C convertible. The part cost me £400. I bought it, but two weeks later I saw the same thing on eBay for £50…
“I took a lot of calls on the car. The chap who bought it didn’t know what he was buying. He just wanted a reliable, low-mileage hatchback with a bit of performance for his wife to drive on the motorway.”
Engine: The 1.6-litre engine uses a timing chain. There have been reports of 1.2-litre Micras suffering chain stretch, so to be on the safe side, listen for the SR’s engine making ratchety noises or, especially from cold, sounding like an old diesel. Uneven running or even stalling may be the mass airflow sensor playing up.
Gearbox: If the car thumps into first gear, have the engine mountings checked. The gearlever has a long throw, but the changes themselves should be light, positive and accurate.
Brakes: Check the ABS warning light isn’t on. At least you know how to get a new part and what it costs (see ‘An expert’s view’, above).
Interior: Check that the front seat side bolsters haven’t collapsed and that the boot floor isn’t damp (water can get in via the seals).
Body: There have been instances of electronic boot locks failing due to water ingress.
Also worth knowing
We said the SR160, or Sport SR as it was briefly called, is a rare thing, and that if you can’t track one down, you can always settle for a top-spec regular Micra.
Actually, there’s something even better than those: the SR’s sibling car, the Micra C+C 1.6 Sport. Powered by the same 108bhp 1.6-litre engine, it’s an impressively stiff thing that rides and handles well. The folding metal roof is by Karmann and does its thing at the press of a button.
Equipment levels are the same as the SR160’s. There are more C+Cs than SRs, a fact reflected in their prices. How about a nice, one-owner 2007 C+C with 60,000 miles and full Nissan service history for £2995?
Meanwhile, should anyone question your SR’s sporting pedigree, remind them of the Micra 350 SR. This one-off special surfaced in 2005, powered by a mid-mounted, 305bhp V6 from the 350Z, tuned by Nismo.
The six-speed gearbox was from an Ultima SE-R. It was quick, with 0-62mph taking less than 5.0sec. Remarkably, it was road-legal, too. We were impressed, saying: “No fuss, no drama, just fast-gathering pace and one of the finest engine notes on the planet.”
How much to spend
£1500-£1999: Early SR160s with high mileages and in need of some TLC. Also some 1.6 C+Cs in better condition and with lower mileages.
£2000-£3999: Reasonably tidy but high-mileage SR160s and Sport SRs, plus the best C+Cs at all mileages.
£4000-£5500: Rare, low-mileage SR160s and Sport SRs in good condition.
One we found
Micra 160SR, 2008, 27,000 miles, £5000: This is what the top of the tree looks like. The low mileage is backed up by main-dealer service history and invoices, the seller says, and it has had just two owners from new, the last one since 2010. Inside and out, it appears to be in excellent condition.