Looking after the UK website for Nissan in my old job was always an interesting experience, from the chap on a remote Scottish Island desperately seeking a forklift truck engine part for his home-made boat motor (he was currently cut off from the mainland) to the charming young women, normally based in London, who asked about the curious little classic car they had seen. Apparently, they used to say, it’s a Nissan..
Well it is. The Nissan Figaro is a typically quirky Japanese idea from a nation that lovingly embraces aspects of Western life and adapts it to their needs minus the stuffiness that we often attach to such things.
A classic car that is in fact a car built in the 1990s? Well, yes, sort of. And surely only the nation that produced a fake rat look Camper Van in the shape of the Subaru Sambar could come up with such an idea that works so well.
The Figaro was produced in surprisingly small numbers for the amount you can actually see on British roads – I know of at least five I often see in my home town of Chelmsford. When you realise that only 20,000 were produced in Japan, this becomes all the more incredible.
The logic of the Figaro for modern, city driving is plainly apparent. It could be argued that this car’s stable mate, the Pixo, owes rather a lot to the Figaro with it’s city-friendly credentials. Find a good one and you will more or less be sitting on the ever reliable chassis of a 1990s Micra, as the Figaro was based on the K10 version of this particular car.
With just a 3-speed automatic transmission, and a 1.0 litre Micra engine offering around 40mpg, it’s not a vehicle suited to motorway driving, but if you’re weaving in and out of tight, stop-start traffic in London, where space on the roads is so precious, it’s a near perfect option for your consideration.
And what of winter driving? We all know a vintage auto’ should be garaged when our weather turns bad right? Well, not really necessary in this case. This classic has air conditioning and a glass fibre shell. In fact, I’m selling it to myself a little here, with a slowly rusting Beetle out front, this is sounding like a rather attractive proposition – with leather seats to boot.
The Figaro came in a choice of 4 original 1950s style colours, that kept with the classic theme, based on the four seasons – Topaz Mist, Lapis Grey, Pale Aqua and Emerald Green. These colours were offset by a pale cream roof, which could be retracted in summer. The Figaro was designed by Shoji Takahashi, who, quite rightly, won a design award for his troubles.
I like this car, I always have. And I also like that it looks so eye catching, yet is fairly weather proofed for the owner. In fact, with the top down, leather seats and a CD player, I can’t see much wrong with it apart from a lack of power.
So if you want a classic motor car without so much of the hassle that tends to go with ownership and maintenance, and maybe fancy confusing people a little too (the Figaro has no Nissan badge), then a quick search online will reward you with several sites that can offer you this nice little Japanese retro car. Just be aware that Nissan in the UK never sold this car, so all Figaro models in this country are imports – but it is based on the Micra.
Want to find one then? I reckon a good start is an internet connection, a few thousand pounds, your car insurance up to date and a bag full of CDs for the summer, and off you go…