Compared to Europe and Asia, the U.S. market for subcompacts and minicars is tiny, with dozens of models available elsewhere that will never hit U.S. shores.

One of those is the Nissan Micra, slotting below the Versa Note in Nissan's range. Versions of the Micra have sold for decades in other markets, but low demand for small cars has kept it away from North America.

Until now, that is.

Launched at the Montreal Auto Show, Nissan has announced it's putting the Micra on Canada.

That's right--those north of the border will have access to Nissan's smallest subcompact, but there are still no plans to bring the car to the U.S.

As we noted when we drove the Micra towards the end of last year, Nissan hasn't designed the car to "federalize"--it won't meet the standards of safety and other regulations required of cars on sale in the U.S.

That's a pity, as we found it a lot more engaging than the larger Versa to drive. While a little noisy, it has that light-weight, nimble feel only truly small cars can offer.

And the Micra is pretty small--somewhere between a minicar and subcompact in size.

Its closest rival is probably Mitsubishi's recently-released Mirage, and it's designed for similar markets. In Europe and the Far East, the competition is even closer, since both feature a 1.2-liter, three-cylinder engine and a choice of manual or CVT automatic transmissions. In Canada though, the thrummy 1.2 makes way for a 1.6-liter four-cylinder, positioning the Micra closer to cars like Ford's Fiesta and Chevy's Sonic.

Equipment levels will be boosted too to suit Canadian buyers, with heated outside mirrors, rear heater ducts , 60/40 split rear seats and either 15 or 16 inch wheels--suitable for snow tires.

A five-speed manual will be standard with a four-speed auto optional, though no fuel efficiency figures have been revealed.

As we said after our drive of the Micra, its appeal might have been limited anyway, in the U.S. With the Versa and Versa note both available, and both capable of respectable economy figures, there's not a lot of room for an even smaller model in Nissan's range.

So unless Nissan changes its mind with the next generation of Micra, fans of small cars will just have to stare longingly at their counterparts across the border...


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