Nissan produced the Figaro along with three other retro-styled cars over 25 years ago, but hasn’t followed up on the designs since.
In the late 1980s Nissan launched a series of funky, retro-styled cars under the auspices of the Pike Factory. Introduced at the 1989 Tokyo motor show as a series of concepts dubbed “Back to the future,” the cars all shared some components with the K10-generation Micra hatchbacks. There was the boxy Nissan Be-1, which looked like an evolution of the Mini, the Nissan Pao, another boxy car styled to look like something out of the ’60s, and the Nissan S-Cargo, which was a tall microvan styled to look like a snail. (Yes, really). The fourth car was the Nissan Figaro, which, as its name suggests, staked a claim to vaguely Italian styling, even though it was officially a nod to the Nissan Fairlady of the 1960s. The exact inspirations for the cars were not easy to pin down, but that was not the point. The point was that all four were cute, and that they were all going into production.
Nissan initially planned to produce just 8,000 Figaros, but due to an explosion in demand ended up producing 12,000 more. The car shared a number of components with the Nissan Micra hatch at the time, as did the other Pike Factory cars but quite a lot of parts were unique to this model. Even though Japan was the intended market, thousands have made it to the U.K. in subsequent years, where it became something of a cult car. In the last few years Figaros have been making it into Canada and the U.S., in our case thanks to the 25-year rule.
The Figaro was already a retro car over a quarter century ago, and now it itself is a classic. All the Pike Factory cars were ahead of their time when it came to the playful designs and innovative interiors, all served up affordably thanks to underpinnings shared, for the most part with Micras. But you won’t find anything like them in Nissan’s lineup today. In fact, the Pike Factory cars had no descendants of any sort — after their production runs ended Nissan went back to making very boxy sedans, hatchbacks and wagons, and concentrated on further developing the Infiniti brand.
The Figaro combined a funky exterior with an equally playful interior, masking the Nissan Micra underpinnings well.
But could Nissan use a retro-styled car like the Figaro today, reincarnated as an EV? Nissan has just launched an new Leaf, which is quite a bit larger than the original Figaro, but more importantly the automaker has the ability to make another small EV using the underpinnings of the Leaf if it wanted to, because the company has been a big player in the segment of small EVs for a decade now. Just like when the original Figaro used the Micra engine and platform.
Other automakers are already moving in this direction with their small cars. Mini has just unveiled the Cooper SE, a battery-electric version of the current Mini Cooper, and Fiat will debut an electric version of the Cinquecento next year as part of its plan for the small city car to become an EV. There have also been rumors that Volkswagen, after ending production of the Beetle weeks ago, may create a Beetle-shaped EV using its electric ID platform, the first cars to use which will also debut in a matter of weeks in Frankfurt. VW has already green-lit a large EV styled after the beloved Microbus of the 1960s.
Should Nissan create a small, retro-styled EV patterned after the Figaro?
Let us know in the comments below.
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