Cars with low CO2 emissions and high fuel economy tend to lack performance and driving kicks, but Nissan thinks it's found a solution. The Japanese car maker's dreamed up a version of its iconic Micra supermini, known as the Micra DIG-S, which uses a direct-injection supercharger -- yes, a bleedin' supercharger.
What's a supercharger? It's a device that ludicrously fast cars such as the Jaguar XKR use to boost power. It's essentially an air compression unit that forces air into an engine, providing more oxygen to the combustion process. Petrol plus a supercharged oxygen supply equates to a bigger bang, and a bigger bang means more power.
Typically, superchargers aren't used on superminis, as they're not particularly efficient. They can actually increase fuel consumption due to the fact they're usually connected to a car's crankshaft, which is used to turn the wheels. The supercharger in the DIG-S, however, is paired with a 1.2-litre, three-cylinder direct-injection engine that uses low-friction, mirror-polished components to minimise drag.
It also uses a Miller-cycle combustion method, which delivers better compression than the Otto cycle used in most engines, by leaving the engine's intake valve open for longer.
These innovations mean the manual gearbox version of the DIS-G achieves CO2 emissions of 95g/km -- which is lower than the 115g/km achieved by the standard 1.2-litre Micra and is slightly better than the 99g/km norm in the eco-friendly supermini segment.
The Micra DIS-G's combined fuel economy, meanwhile, is said to be 68.9mpg. This falls short of the 75.6mpg average in our list of Congestion Charge-exempt cars (possibly due to the supercharger interrupting the flow of power to the wheels) but it's significantly better than the 56.5mpg achieved by the current 1.2-litre Micra Visia.
The Micra DIS-G is more powerful than the current car. Its engine produces 96bhp, which is enough to propel it to 112mph. The standard 1.2-litre Micra, for reference, produces 80bhp and maxes out at just 106mph. Nissan's yet to announce acceleration times for the DIS-G model, but it'll likely reach 100kmh from a standstill in less time than the 11.6 seconds it takes the current Micra and be generally more responsive around town.
The Nissan Micra DIS-G has gobs of tech in the cabin, too. One of its headline gadgets is a Parking Slot Measurement system, which automatically measures potential parking spaces and advises drivers whether the Micra will fit.
If the car is travelling below 25kmh, sensors scan adjacent spaces. It it finds one and the space is more than 1m longer than the car, a screen on the dashboard displays 'OK'. If the space measures between 60 and 99cm more than the DIS-G, it indicates your parking manoeuvre will be 'difficult', while if there's less than 60cm room, parking in that space is 'not advised'. Drivers can adjust the tolerance of space sizes by choosing between amateur, normal and expert modes.
We aim to go hands-on with the Nissan DIS-G when it's unveiled to the press at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show from 3 March onwards. Check back later for additional deets and some hands-on-metal video.