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2017 Nissan Micra looks cuter, but it's still small and not for the US

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The new Nissan Micra debuted at the Paris Motor Show. And nope, Americans still cannot have one of the cheapest passenger cars on earth, even though Nissan sells the Micra/March in practically every other market on the planet. The reason is that it's just too bare bones and perhaps wouldn't pass US crash laws, even though the prior generation passes both European and Canadian crash standards.

So Americans can't have the Micra, but you should still care because the Gen 5 car heralds high-level safety tech trickling down to even sub-$10,000 (Canadian) cars. Yes, we mean lane-keeping assist and automatic emergency braking, as well as pedestrian detection, items that once were for the premium-only world. That matters because as cheap cars become appliances worldwide the goal will be toward greater and greater autonomy – strangely, if you can have an autonomous "appliance" car with a hose-down interior that drives itself, you'll save your fancy dough for a car that's sporty that you want to drive yourself.

The next French-made Micra that goes on sale this March won't be autonomous, mind you. In fact it won't even come as EV option, at least not in Europe. Instead it's starting sale with two engines, both a 0.9-liter turbocharged three-cylinder gas, and a 1.5-liter turbocharged diesel, both with 90 hp. Nissan will then offer a second, non-turbocharged, 75 hp 1.0-liter gas model. This push away from diesel is in keeping with a new trend in Europe to cut down on the number of oil-burners in cities in the wake of VW's emissions scandal that also showed European emissions enforcement has been much more lax than previously perceived.

As for what engines Canada (and Mexico) might get, Nissan is quick to say TBD. But they are emphasizing, strongly, bringing driver aids down to the very cheapest cars the brand makes worldwide as the push for autonomy becomes the next Big Thing.

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