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Say adios to the wildly popular, horribly unsafe Tsuru

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Production of Mexico's most popular car, the Nissan Tsuru, ends in May 2017. Photo: Nissan
Production of Mexico’s most popular economy car, the Nissan Tsuru, ends in May 2017. Photo: Nissan

A wildly popular compact car will end production in Mexico next year.

The Nissan Tsuru, which north of the border is the Sentra, ends its run here after over two decades.

Safety has been an issue for years, and advocates have been vocal about the Tsuru’s lack of airbags and poor crash test results.

But Mexican consumers — including taxi drivers — have been drawn to the boxy Tsuru for its reputation for ruggedness, not to mention affordability. About $144,400 MXN ($7,600 USD) gets you a brand new base model five-passenger sedan with a 1.6-liter inline-four rated at 105 hp and 102 lb-ft of torque.

Essentially unchanged for two decades, the Tsuru is viewed as last in the line of small, boxy cars that began production in the 1960s under the Datsun badge. And the car was a successor to the now-retired VW “bug” as Mexico’s favorite low-cost car. 

Since 1992, 1.8 million Tsurus have been produced in Mexico. While many Mexico City, taxi drivers have switched to higher-end cars, the Tsuru remains the workhorse of taxi fleets in southern Mexico.

Nissan has no plans for a Tsuru successor, but will point customers to the Versa. The current-generation Sentra is also sold in Mexico.

Safety concerns

Safety concerns have dogged the Tsuru. Reuters attributes the compact to over 4,000 deaths in Mexico between 2007 and 2012.

Government-mandated safety standards will soon require cars to have airbags and anti-lock brakes, two things the simple Tsuru lacks. Base models don’t even have three-point retractable seat belts in the rear. Nissan has apparently decided retrofitting the sedan would be too costly.

Reuters also reports that the Tsuru received a zero-star safety rating from the Latin New Car Assessment Program. Later this week, the NCAP and IIHS will perform a crash test of a Tsuru and a 2016 Nissan Versa, part of an effort to eliminate “Zero Star” vehicles from Latin America and other regions.

(Update: The crash test results are in, and the results were as expected.)

With information from The Automotive News

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