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Super Turbo Stunner

One of the fastest hatchbacks ever built -the supercharged and turbocharged Nissan March Super Turbo!

By Michael Knowling

Click on pics to view larger images

At a glance...

  • Supercharged and turbocharged
  • Rocket-like acceleration
  • Fantastic part throttle performance
  • Practical cabin
  • Raw, unsophisticated chassis
  • Annihilate most current hatches for just AUD$4600!
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This article was first published in 2004.

It seems the ‘hot hatch’ label is applied to any ol’ shopping trolley with slightly more power than usual. But believe us when we tell you this hatch is hot.

The Japanese-market Nissan March Super Turbo – which boasts a supercharger and turbocharger – can easily blast its way to 100 km/h in the high 7 second range. In real world driving, that’s fast enough to keep pace with many high-profile turbocharged guns. No need to be intimidated when you pull up alongside a Galant VR4, Liberty RS or TX3 Turbo!

So how can this humble looking hatch run with the performance giants?

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Well, under the bonnet lives Nissan’s fabulous MA09ERT 930cc in-line four. It’s not a particularly sophisticated engine with just a 7.7:1 static compression ratio, SOHC and 8 valves, but its bolt-on forced induction hardware is nothing short of amazing. The March Super Turbo employs one of the few OE supercharger/turbocharger set-ups in the world.

And it works a treat.

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At low-to-mid revs, the 930cc four is boosted by a positive displacement blower (see Supercharger Steal - Part One for details). At higher revs, however, a relatively large turbo kicks in to give great top-end performance. Note that the transitional stage is very smooth thanks to a relatively simple supercharger/turbo control system. At low rpm the turbo blows through the supercharger which is effectively ‘free-wheeling’. Then, at high rpm, the supercharger is disengaged by an electro-magnetic clutch and the turbo feeds the engine via a supercharger bypass passage. Airflow through this passage is controlled by a differential pressure valve which begins to open as the turbocharger nears operating speed.

Give it just a whiff of throttle at low rpm and you’ll see the supercharger deliver up to 7 psi of boost. This means wonderful part-throttle performance but, curiously, flooring the throttle at this stage doesn’t necessarily equate to greater acceleration. At more than 4500 rpm, however, the turbocharger steps in and boost pressure swells to 13 psi. That’s when it’s go-go-go!

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With 81kW at 6200 rpm and 130Nm at 4800 rpm the March Super Turbo – which weighs just 770kg - is an absolute rocket. Performance varies depending on the temperature of the top-mount air-to-air intercooler, but high 7 second 0 – 100s are easy. Note that, as far as we can determine, the March Super Turbo is available only as a 5-speed manual.

With supercharged torque available at low revs, there’s little chance of bogging down off the line – the only concern is wheelspin caused by too many revs. We discovered the standard 175/65 13 tyres are easy to light up, despite fitment a front LSD.

But one of the biggest downsides of the March Super Turbo is its unrefined chassis.

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Underneath, it’s obvious this little flier is built on a budget platform – the primitive beam rear axle is a giveaway. Still, the ride is reasonably comfortable and the chassis doesn’t do anything unexpected when flung through an urban corner – there’s a bit of understeer but that’s it. There is, however, quite a lot of reaction through the steering wheel when accelerating hard on an undulating surface – typical high-power front-wheel-drive stuff. Note that our test car also had worn-out dampers.

The March’s non-assisted steering feels fine when you’re cruising along but it loads up massively at parking speeds and when you fling it around. The difference in weighting is dramatic.

With ventilated discs up front and drums at the rear, braking performance was fine during our test. There is no ABS.

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Chassis rigidity wasn’t exactly a forte for hatchbacks in the 1980s – and the Nissan March is no exception. Expect the usual body jiggles, tailgate rattles and creaks. This aside, the cabin is accommodating and comfortable. The March can seat four people with surprisingly good space – sure it’s a bit tight overall, but it’s not an imposition to sit in the back. The Super Turbo also gets flashy sports buckets which are comfortable and supportive.

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Standard interior features include power mirrors, a graphic equaliser and air conditioning. There’s a decent array of gauges as well. The main cluster houses an easy-to-read speedo, tacho, fuel level and coolant temp gauge while a central gauge pod contains a clock, voltmeter and boost gauge (marked in millimetres of mercury). The only immediately noticeable absentee is power windows.

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Visually, the March Super Turbo is pretty anonymous. Viewed from the rear you could be forgiven for thinking it’s an everyday Pulsar – albeit slightly downscaled and with a rear spoiler. At the front, however, the Super Turbo looks at you with its prominent fog lights and bonnet scoop. Subtle side skirts and wheel arch flares, 13 inch alloy wheels and Super Turbo stickers are the only other remaining eye catchers. Painted black, the March Super Turbo looks tough enough to raise interest – but not enough to deter a potential traffic light challenger!

We really cannot overstate the speed of this little car. To put things into perspective, it’s totally within its capabilities to wipe, say, a Hyundai Excel with an aftermarket turbo kit. Oh, and you can buy an entire Nissan March for the cost of just the Hyundai’s turbo kit!

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Available from Adelaide’s Yahoo Motorsport for AUD$4600 (plus ADR-ing), this March Super Turbo is one of the more expensive 15 year old import hatches we’ve tested – but it’s also by far the most serious. Our test vehicle had 113,000km on the clock and, at the time of photography, was in need of some body detailing. Note that the March Super Turbo was released in Japan in 1989 and was axed in 1992.

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Unfortunately, finding suitable parts will be a hassle. The EK10-series March was never officially delivered to Australia, which means all body and interior parts are very difficult to source. The same goes for that fantastic supercharged/turbocharged engine – it’s an orphan. We should say, however, the engine and some other design elements look very similar to local Pulsar/EXA models – we wouldn’t be surprised if some parts were interchangeable.

Now let’s veer off the rails for a moment...

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If you like the idea of wasting HSVs and WRXs, the March Super Turbo offers plenty of tuning potential. The stock air intake looks quite restrictive, as does the press-bent and heavily muffled exhaust system. Improving intake and exhaust flow could probably give 100-odd kilowatts in total. And what about the top-mount ‘interheater’ and boost pressure? Well, whack a larger ‘cooler in the nosecone and up the turbo boost maybe a couple of psi and you’d have one insanely quick little beast. Fit some grippy front tyres and you’d have a 6 second 0 – 100 km/h machine – guaranteed.

Serious performance is there for the taking!

Contact:

Yahoo Motorsport

http://home.iprimus.com.au/jverban//

+61 8 8345 0939/ 0416 080462

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