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Nissan Figaro turns 25

By raccars Published

Nissan Figaro

Did you win the lottery to buy a Nissan Figaro a quarter of a century ago?

The Nissan Figaro has always been something of an oddity with its faux retro styling and modern comfort and convenience features. Only 20,000 were ever made - 8,000 originally and another 12,000 to keep up with the demand. To be able to buy one, you had to enter a lottery, for which 100,000 tickets were produced. This year the Figaro reaches its quarter of a century.

What is the Nissan Figaro?

At first glance, the Figaro is a Sixties mash up of the Citroen 2CV, the Fiat 500 and the Renault 4. It has a fold-back fabric roof and passengers benefit from air con, leather upholstery and a CD player. It's not fast, with a top speed of 106mph from its four cylinder 1.0 litre petrol engine and three speed automatic gearbox. But it has become something of a cult classic with a host of famous fans plus appearances in pop videos and TV shows. Eric Clapton owns one, as does Princess Eugenie, pop star Mollie King and footballer Thomas Vermaelen.

Only meant as a design exercise by Nissan, the company conceded to huge customer demand and built the model after showing it as a concept at the Tokyo Motor Show in 1989. 6,000 each were made of Emerald Green, Pale Aqua and Lapis Grey, representing spring, summer and winter. A fourth colourway, Topaz Mist, represents autumn and is the rarest colourway with only 2,000 produced. Every Figaro was built in right hand drive format and the car was officially sold only in its native Japan, however there are now between 4,000-5,000 imports in the UK.

Figaro loyalty

The Figaro is popular for its quirky charm rather than engineering excellence but it inspires great loyalty among its enthusiastic ownership community. Its main appeal is its comfort and practicality within such a retro looking package. It was based upon the Nissan Micra and is far more reliable than the average novelty vehicle. Its modern mechanicals make it far more practical as a daily driver than genuine classics such as an original VW Beetle or Mini.

The Figaro doesn't proclaim its manufacturer loudly, bearing its own fleur de lys badge below a discreet 'Nissan' notation. To this day many who see one pass them in the street don't recognise it as a modern Nissan and assume it's a Fifties or Sixties classic.

Nissan Figaro Owners Club

The Nissan Figaro Owners Club held a 25th birthday event at Wroxall Abbey in Warwickshire, which saw nearly 300 Figaro owners travel up to the estate and organise their Figaros in colour co-ordinated lines. A number of owners decided to embrace the Figaro's retro spirit and turned up in period dress such as vintage dresses and spotted bow ties. Judges circulated prior to awarding the best models

As with other classics, originality is prized, such as the original 'nose wand' - a parking aid sticking up out of the front bumper. The car's cute details are on full display, such as an instrument panel in kilometres instead of miles and the right-handed indicator stalk. The club takes part in international showing of their funky cars, which inspire much enthusiasm from onlookers.

While the Figaro's engine is pretty much bulletproof, the British weather doesn't do the bodywork any favours so prospective buyers need to look carefully for rust. Its rarity makes panelwork repairs tricky and expensive so buy with care. The Figaro is surprisingly smooth and pleasant to drive, albeit somewhat under powered. If you can find one to buy, prices range from £2,000 to more than £20,000, depending upon condition.

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