By on March 30, 2021

Today’s Rare Ride is the last entrant in a set of four cars introduced to the series back in November 2018. Tiny, retro, and a convertible, Nissan’s Figaro is by far the most popular of the four Pike cars. It’s also the one you can always find for sale in the United States.

Let’s take a look.

All four Pike cars were produced at the Aichi Machine Industry factory, which Nissan later called its Pike Factory. All four were based on Nissan’s Micra and intended to appeal to a youthful, fun-oriented customer. The first Pike car introduced was the Be-1, a funky sort-of hatchback with design references from the Sixties and Seventies. Notably, the Be-1 was the only Pike built on the first generation Micra platform, which dated to 1983. All three of its successors were on the second-generation Micra platform.

Following the Be-1 was the Pao (the second most popular Pike car in the US), which looked older and more utilitarian, but had a more traditional clamshell hatchback in contrast to the small trunk of the Be-1. After the Pao came the S-Cargo, a tiny utility van designed to look as much as possible like a snail. Nissan succeeded there. And finally, the Figaro brought up the rear of the Pike car run, with a singular model year in 1991.

Figaro was the most luxurious Pike car and the least utilitarian by design. With its smooth and funky retro styling, it was decidedly cutesy. With seating for four (barely), Figaro was a fixed-profile convertible, where a canvas roof folded into the rear behind the second row of seats and took with it the rear window. All pillars remained in place. Well-equipped for a Kei car in 1991, all examples featured leather seating with contrasting piping, retro interior knobs, a CD player, and air conditioning. Paint colors were four and corresponded with the seasons.

All examples were front-drive, automatic, and used a 987-cc turbocharged inline-four shared with the Micra. The engine was good for 76 horses and 78 lb-ft of torque.

Figaro proved very popular upon its debut. The initial planned run was 8,000 cars, but an additional 12,000 were produced to meet unending consumer demand. All were sold via a lottery: Excited customers won their chance to buy a Figaro. Once they were all sold, the Pike program was finished.

The Figaro’s standout design, small size, simplicity, price, and age make it a popular JDM import option in the United States. There are over 100 for sale on AutoTrader right now at various price points, starting at under $9,000. The Figaro is one of the cheapest ways to get a classic JDM car in the US. Today’s gray example is for sale at a well-known JDM car outlet in Virginia. With 64,000 miles, it asks $12,900.

[Images: Nissan]

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20 Comments on “Rare Rides: The 1991 Nissan Figaro, Completing a Cutesy Collection...”

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    I thought the Pike program was brilliant, and you know Nissan didn’t lose any money on it. I wonder why more manufacturers haven’t followed up with similar limited-run special models.

    I believe a tribute Volvo 144 with modern safety, handling and mpgs will take home all the money…

  • avatar

    Last year I saw Figaro parked in a nearby street in Moscow :)

  • avatar

    What a lovely Austin Cambridge clone. ;-)

  • avatar

    What no silver or asphalt grey! Colors, oh my, what’s next jazz music?

  • avatar
    Marky S.

    I think these cars are great fun!!! I wish we had some truly “FUN” PASSENGER Cars available today, in Canada!

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    This is probably the only car my wife would be considered an enthusiast for. The first time either of us saw one in person was street parked in Dublin in 2010. We were walking by and I point it out and her knees just about gave out. She instantly fell in love with it and once we returned to the States she started researching them and had the date they’d be 25 years eligible marked on her calendar.
    Hers would be specked just like this one, only a little nicer.

    Well, the date came and went and be it for dubious financial concerns or the relative lack of space in order to park it inside she would never actually commit. Now the prices for nice ones are a lot higher than they were in 2016 when they started to trickle in and that’s the main reason.

    And I just showed it to her and now she’s excited – but as I thought, she needs to pay off other stuff first. Just like 5 years ago and every year since and despite having paid of those things years ago.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      Duncan still has a few under $10k. Nearly everything vintage JDM has run up in price the last few years; a combination of the supply of 25-30 year-old cars in good condition finally drying up in the home islands, and enough American buyers with money finding avenues to secure a car or five from the other side of the planet.

    • 0 avatar

      @ Land Ark – I’m not sure of the count, but a number of Figaros seemed to make it to the UK and Ireland fairly early on – different import laws than the US, of course, with the additional convenience factor of their also being RHD markets. I used to see one street parked near the office when working in London in ’04 and ’05. They’re really neat cars, IMO.

      The congestion charge had an interesting side effect in that it became easier to notice certain cars “living” in certain areas. About a 10-minute walk from where the Figaro usually parked, I’d often see an early Saab 96. It was pretty ratty, but at least it was still alive at ~40 years old.

  • avatar


    This is just not fair.

  • avatar

    I saw one of these at a car show a few years back, and the detailing on these cars is pretty amazing – look at the chrome trim, the interior switches, and those hinges on the trunk.

  • avatar

    These are so very refreshing in the current era where all cars are required to look like angry robot battle tanks. It would be so nice to dial down the aggression a bit.

  • avatar

    Who can say no to such a cute tiny little car?
    Nothing makes sense, yet I want it. Such a refreshing sight among the sea of CUVs I see every single day

  • avatar

    Sci-Fi fans of a certain bent will recognize the Nissan Figaro as one of the cars owned by the character of former Doctor Who companion, Sarah Jane Smith, in the “Dr. Who” spin-off TV show, “The Sarah Jane Chronicles” which was conceived of as a Dr. Who-like show for younger pre-teen viewers. Sarah Jane Smith was brilliantly portrayed by actress Elisabeth Sladen starting in a 1973 episode of Dr. Who and Sladen reprised the role many times before being given her own spin-off show.

    Sadly the show was cancelled following the unexpected cancer death of Sladen in 2011, but whenever I see a Nissan Figaro I always imagine Elisabeth Sladen behind the wheel on her way to save the world from the Bane or the Slitheen or to help the doctor.

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