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
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
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.
At low-to-mid revs, the 930cc four is boosted by a positive displacement
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!
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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!
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.
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...
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!