Rare Rides: The 1991 Nissan Figaro, Completing a Cutesy Collection

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

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]

Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Started writing articles for TTAC in late 2016, when my first posts were QOTDs. From there I started a few new series like Rare Rides, Buy/Drive/Burn, Abandoned History, and most recently Rare Rides Icons. Operating from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio, a relative auto journalist dead zone. Many of my articles are prompted by something I'll see on social media that sparks my interest and causes me to research. Finding articles and information from the early days of the internet and beyond that covers the little details lost to time: trim packages, color and wheel choices, interior fabrics. Beyond those, I'm fascinated by automotive industry experiments, both failures and successes. Lately I've taken an interest in AI, and generating "what if" type images for car models long dead. Reincarnating a modern Toyota Paseo, Lincoln Mark IX, or Isuzu Trooper through a text prompt is fun. Fun to post them on Twitter too, and watch people overreact. To that end, the social media I use most is Twitter, @CoreyLewis86. I also contribute pieces for Forbes Wheels and Forbes Home.

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4 of 20 comments
  • Eng_alvarado90 Eng_alvarado90 on Mar 30, 2021

    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

    • See 1 previous
    • Eng_alvarado90 Eng_alvarado90 on Mar 31, 2021

      @FreedMike as an owner of a small car (5 spd Fiesta) I agree.

  • Johnster Johnster on Mar 31, 2021

    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.

  • Daniel J Until we get a significant charging infrastructure and change times get under 10 minutes, yes
  • Mike I own 2 gm 6.2 vehicles. They are great. I do buy alot of gas. However, I would not want the same vehicles if they were v6's. Jusy my opinion. I believe that manufacturers need to offer engine options for the customer. The market will speak on what the consumer wants.For example, I dont see the issue with offering a silverado with 4cyl , 6 cyl, 5.3 v8, 6.2 v8, diesel options. The manufacturer will charge accordingly.
  • Mike What percentage of people who buy plug in hybrids stop charging them daily after a few months? Also, what portion of the phev sales are due to the fact that the incentives made them a cheaper lease than the gas only model? (Im thinking of the wrangler 4xe). I wish there was a way to dig into the numbers deeper.
  • CEastwood If it wasn't for the senior property tax freeze in NJ I might complain about this raising my property taxes since most of that tax goes to the schools . I'm not totally against EVs , but since I don't drive huge miles and like to maintain my own vehicles they are not practical especially since I keep a new vehicle long term and nobody has of yet run into the cost of replacing the battery on an EV .
  • Aquaticko Problem with PHEV is that, like EVs, they still require a behavioral change over ICE/HEV cars to be worth their expense and abate emissions (whichever is your goal). Studies in the past have shown that a lot of PHEV drivers don't regularly plug-in, meaning they're just less-efficient HEVs.I'm left to wonder how big a battery a regular HEV could have without needing to be a PHEV.