14 November 2020

More than an old car #158: Nissan Figaro


Japanese cars have always been an ubiquitous sight, but let's narrow it down: looking at the cars from the 90s, Nissan takes a decent percentage. Then, we come to the unique models just like this 1991 Nissan Figaro

Introduced at the 1989 Tokyo Motor Show and made available to the public in 1991, its name is derived from the titular hero in Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro. Based off the 1st-generation Nissan Micra/March, it was the 3rd car in a special projects group known later as the 'Pike cars'. 'Pike cars' generally refer to Japanese cars that have classic designs, from its shape to the grilles and headlights. Production numbers are usually limited in order to suppress the development budget used in modifying these cars. 

Nissan used the marketing tagline 'Back to the Future' and the concept was to be 'unusual in everyday life'. The Figaro was a fixed-profile convertible, that is, the sides remained fixed while the fabric soft-top could be retracted, along with a solid panel and a rear window equipped with a defroster. Examples of such cars with this particular design include the Citroen 2CV and the Fiat 500. Available only in 4 colours, it represented the 4 seasons: namely Emerald Green (spring), Pale Aqua (summer), Topaz Mist (autumn) and Lapis Gray (winter). Nissan planned to make only 8,000 initially, but strong demand led to them rolling out additional units. Demand was so competitive that prospective buyers had to enter in a lottery to even stand a chance. 

Standard equipment included ivory leather seats with contrasting piping, air conditioning, CD player, chrome and Bakelite-style knobs, soft-feel paint on the dashboard top, chrome-trimmed speedometer with smaller inset gauges for fuel and engine temperature; and chrome-trimmed tachometer with inset clock. The Figaro was powered by a 987 cc MA10ET turbo i4 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 160 km/h with an acceleration of 12.9 seconds [0-100 km/h]. It was 3740 mm long and weighed 810 kg, with a fuel consumption of 8.4 litres/100 km.

Production also ended in 1991, although excess stock was sold up till December 1992. Out of the 20,073 units made, 5,632 of them were in Emerald Green including this particular car. All of them were initially only available in RHD, although recently there are around 18 cars that have been converted to LHD. More colours were included via aftermarket customisation, such as pink, red and orange. 

Based on its identification number, this unit was 1 of 551 in this colour produced in July 1991. I am aware of the one other unit in Pale Aqua as it seems to be more commonly spotted than the one in the post. Interestingly, it has a relatively low mileage of 79,760 km. which is a further clue that it hardly goes on the road! Figaros were never sold officially in Singapore, although it remains very popular in the UK with around 3,000 on the roads. To be honest, I did not know of this unit's existence until recently, and it was by sheer chance that I saw it parking far off during a morning run. Coincidentally, our local newspaper published a feature on the 2 Figaros here, both owned by sisters. This unit was acquired in 1994 and cost about S$120,000, which is still a sizeable sum of money.

Both Figaros in Singapore are apparently single-owner cars, and it remains to be seen whether they will be put up for sale. It was amazing to see such a unicorn up close, and would you not smile at such at this cute little guy? I have not seen it again at that spot even though live near the area, perhaps you may be the lucky one to see this unicorn!

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