Inexplicably adored by celebrities (Eric Clapton, Joss Stone and Vanessa Feltz, but a few of the famous namesakes known to drive the quirky Nissan) the Nissan Figaro is a slightly odd-ball offering from the Japanese manufacturer and certainly a car that makes it impossible to sit on the fence; you either hate this car, or adore it with such passion that you must have one.
Classic Nissan Figaro Review
The idea behind the Figaro is to have a car that looks like a genuine 1940’s vehicle, with none of the associated hassle of driving a car of such an age. As such the figaro is extremely well equipped, with leather seats, air conditioning and even a cd player, however all these mod-cons are made to look like mock-ups of their 1940’s equivalent. Based on the Nissan Micra chassis, the K10, the Figaro is a spin-off of the Micra built by Nissan’s internal special project team known as ‘Pike Factory’. Pike Factory are also responsible for quirky cars such as the Be-1, the Pao and the S-Cargo, again all based on the same K10 chassis as the Nissan Figaro. Unveiled at the 1989 Tokyo Motor Show the Figaro was produced in very limited numbers, only 20,000 were ever made, over a two year period. Of these 20,000 most stayed in Japan and although the exact figure is unknown only a very few made it to Britain.
When built Nissan only offered the Figaro in 4 colours, Emerald Green, Pale Aqua, Lapis Grey and Topaz Mist. Since the Tapiz Mist option was unpopular at the time, fewer were built, which has caused this colour to become the most sought after now production has finished. As well as the 4 original colours, Barbie Pink is also a a popular choice these days, although not originally available it has been made popular by importers as an aftermarket choice. The Nissan Figaro is powered by a 1L turbocharged engine, Nissan’s own MA10ET.
Power [email protected]
Torque 78lb [email protected]
Top speed 100mph
Gearbox 3-speed automatic
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Figaros were only ever sold in four colours – Topaz Mist, Emerald Green, Pale Aqua, and Lapis Grey. The Topaz Mist cars – which only accounted for 10% of the cars off the production line – are now the most sought after examples with Figaro followers. It’s also not uncommon for Figaros to be resprayed in colours other than the four factory hues, but bear in mind these examples are less desirable come resale and budget accordingly if you’re tempted by a car with a non-original paint job.
The rear wheelarches can be prone to rot and it’s a £500 replacement of the entire rear wing to remedy so check carefully for any signs of bubbling or rust when you’re inspecting the bodywork. The areas behind the headlight rings, front grille and front and rear bumpers are vulnerable to corrosion too, so check for any telltale signs of embellishment.
Make sure you open the boot and inspect the drain holes for any signs of corrosion – the Figaro was designed with a ‘wet boot’ so signs of water around the drain holes is not a cause for concern, but a build up of rust or structural damage is.
ENGINE & GEARBOX
Start the car up and check for any signs of blue smoke coming from the exhaust, which is generally a sign that the turbo is worn. The Micra-derived engine is generally fairly dependable as long as it’s been looked after – look for evidence that the cambelt has been changed if the car has covered more than 60,000 miles, while any excessive engine noise is more likely to be due to piston slap rather than noisy tappets.
Double-check all the rubber hoses for any signs of cracking, going hard or leaking at the unions and budget accordingly for replacements.
An occasional problem experienced by Figaro owners is only being able to start their cars in Neutral, rather than Park. A poorly adjusted selector cable is normally the culprit, which is relatively easy for a specialist to remedy.
Happily, the number of components common to both the Figaro and its Micra sibling helps to keep repair costs down.
Check for knocking noises over uneven road surfaces, which usually point to worn balljoints or tired track road ends. The MacPherson strut/four-link coil spring suspension can be prone to wear, and while springs can break with age replacement parts are easily sourced.
The power steering should be smooth, quiet and consistently light throughout operation – any stickiness when turning usually indicates a fluid leak from a split steering gaiter, any excessive noise, particularly when turning from lock to lock, points towards a worn pump.
INTERIOR & ELECTRICS
The simple, cream interior is one of the Figaro’s strongest selling points and is well held together, but watch out for tatty, discoloured trim on the cheapest example, as the cost of retrimming the leather seats can quickly mount up.
It pays to give the manually-operated roof a clean bill of health before parting with any cash. Telltale damp or moisture in the interior are likely to be caused by leaks in the fabric so double check for any rips or scuffs or signs of shrinkage.
The Figaro’s electrics aren’t known for playing up, but make sure all the warning lights, window motors, CD player and air conditioning unit are all working in fine fettle, and haggle accordingly on the price if they aren’t. In the case of the latter, bear in mind it was cooled by the now-banned Freon 12 refrigerant, and that re-gassing with modern replacements will damage the unit.
If you’re looking for a distinctive classic that’s affordable to run and utterly dependable, it’s hard to argue with the value for money factor offered by a well-maintained Figaro.
The combination of Micra parts commonality and the number of specialists who cater for the cars mean it’s one of the easiest imported classics to look after.
It’s got a very active following in the UK and taking up Figaro ownership means you’ll be joining the likes of Jonathan Ross, Eric Clapton and Joss Stone as devotees of this distinctive 1990s classic.