The long-lived Nissan Tsuru’s said to have ceased production as of May 31st. We’re now in June, so let’s pay our respects.
Every once in a while, I have to go to Yahoo!’s front page. For reasons that I can’t figure out, it’s the Spanish (read: mostly Mexican) version that appears, regardless how many times I click for the English version (personal preference). Amongst all the sensationalism, face-palm fodder, I-Don’t-Want-To-Live-On-This-Planet-Anymore moments and infuriating click-bait, there is the occasional nugget of news. The demise of the Nissan Tsuru is one of those occasions.
To those in the automotive world, it’s no surprise but still pleasant to read about ancient-by-First World-standards platforms still in production. For years. Decades. They’ve become part of their landscape; sometimes we’re unable to imagine their country’s roads without them. The Mexican Volkswagen Beetle, colloquially nicknamed the Vocho, was such a vehicle, its retirement still resonating in the ears of its fans locally and globally since 2003. Now it’s the turn of the Nissan Tsuru.
As well as the car, you can still get official Tsuru accessories through your Nissan Mexico dealer.
With its name meaning ‘crane’ (as in the bird) in Japanese, the Nissan Tsuru is the B13 Sentra subcompact that was sold on Western countries from 1990 to 1994. Long after being replaced in those markets, the Mexican-built B13 soldiered on in other markets. Of the 30+ countries, we have:
- Sentra Clásico (Dominican Republic)
- Sentra B13 (Central America)
- V16 (Chile)
- Sunny (Middle East)
The use of these cars for taxi duty (their main fanbase) is well-documented, but they also did police duty in various parts of Central and South America.
In Mexico, the Tsuru followed the footsteps tire tracks left behind by the departed Vocho; a tall order. The Tsuru found buyers needing a cheap car to buy and maintain. We’re talking about a car that barely broke the $10K USD mark, if at all. Three flavors were initially available: the austere GS, the mid-level GST and the slightly more luxurious GSX. Apparently there was briefly one trim level called GS Plus to help whittle down overproduction. Post-’95, some serious hardware removal happened, ranging from door beams to variable valve timing. Two flavors were available: the very basic GSI and the slightly better equipped GSII. Throughout the years, these two recovered some of accoutrements that were removed for the sake of cost-cutting.
There’s a simple reason why the Tsuru stuck around longer than anticipated and why it underwent such major component removal: the Mexican Peso Crisis of 1994, an economic recession where the peso was devalued. Thanks to that, if the B14 chassis was to be introduced as the Tsuru, its price tag would’ve been comparatively heavy, bad for sales. The B14 and later platforms would be sold in the country, but were more expensive and didn’t carry the Tsuru name.
Models of interest include the Tsuru Sentra (briefly imported from the U.S., renowned for its overall better build quality and U.S.-spec safety features) and the Tsuru 2000 GSR (pictured above), a two-door coupe packing 2.0L and 140HP (yes, Mexico’s SE-R) rather than 1.6L like every other 3rd-gen Tsuru ever; those range from 88HP (carb’d) to 115 HP (fuel-injected, variable-valve-timing). There’s a commemorative edition of the Tsuru celebrating its final run, limited to 1000 units, called ‘Buen Camino’, which translates to “Good Road” or “Good Way”. It’s an indirect way to saying goodbye.
For over 25 years, two facelifts, shuffling of equipment, a number of improvements and Mexico-only components courtesy of Nissan-Renault kept the 3rd-gen Tsuru relatively relevant and roadworthy, selling well over 2 million units (counting the previous two generations of Tsuru here as well), becoming a very important cash cow for Nissan in the Mexican market, even if that meant competing with its successors.
I’m willing to bet that its production has helped more than one aging Western market B13 Sentra continue looking sharp and functioning. Probably even saved a couple of SE-Rs as well.
Alas, the Mexican government has declared that the Tsuru’s time has come. Something to do with new safety rules and regulations and stuff like that. You don’t need to look up the IIHS video of a 2015 Tsuru and a 2016 Nissan Versa crashing to know who the safety winner is (hint: the one built to withstand a 50% overlap crash test, implemented in 2012); a simple image search will reveal a couple of Tsurus involved in collisions, with them looking worse for wear, hopefully their owners fared better.
While the Tsuru might not have received the farewell of the Vocho, or be as fondly remembered –though I wouldn’t mind being wrong- its place in Mexico’s motoring history is undeniable.
Car bra: www.nissan.com.mx
Tsuru police cruisers: http://www.lacronica.com
Tsuru SE-R 2000 GSR racing: http://turbosmx.com
Tsuru production #s: http://expansion.mx
Tsuru ad: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ifhp97/
Tsuru keychain: https://www.flickr.com/photos/21858455@N04/