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Nissan Figaro: Buying guide and review (1991)

Nissan Figaro: Buying guide and review (1991) Classic and Performance Car
Nissan Figaro Nissan Figaro Nissan Figaro Nissan Figaro front Nissan Figaro rear Nissan Figaro Interior Nissan Figaro seats
It’s hard to get excited by a Nissan Micra, but re-clothe this rather mundane supermini as a retro urban runabout and you can create a level of hysteria usually reserved for cars powered by something rather more exciting than a turbocharged 1.0-litre four-cylinder engine. 
 
Indeed, the Figaro was so popular when it was revealed that Nissan had to run a lottery to choose who would be able to buy the car. The initial plan was to produce 8000 examples, but by the time production was wound up, no fewer than 20,000 had been built – with more than five times this many people having entered the lottery to buy one. 
 
Created for the Japanese domestic market, it wasn’t long before examples of the Figaro were being imported to the UK, the car becoming as popular there as in Japan. More than 20 years after the last Figaro was made, this cute-looking retro machine has become a cult classic and as a result it’s well served by specialists as well as clubs. 
 
That engine, known as the MA10ET, was engineered to provide quiet, refined and economical progress in the Micra, so don’t expect the Figaro to be anything more than brisk progress. But it’s really not about driving quickly, the standard three-speed automatic transmission makes sure of that. Rather the Figaro makes the perfect characterful city car, working just as well in London as in the even more crowded streets of Tokyo. 
 

Which Nissan Figaro to buy? 

 
There isn’t much to separate one Figaro from another, apart from condition and bodywork colour. Just four paint hues were offered, each representing one of the four seasons. Buyers could choose between Topaz Mist, Emerald Green, Pale Aqua and Lapis Grey. The first was the least popular with just 2000 made; 6000 were produced of each of the others. 
 
With all Figaros getting leather trim, a fold-back cloth roof, air conditioning and a three-speed automatic gearbox, there wasn’t much scope for Nissan to offer extras. Incidentally, the Figaro didn’t wear Nissan badges and there was no powered option for the roof mechanism. 
 
A really cherished car will come with a full complement of supplied accessories, such as the original space saver spare wheel, the associated jack, tonneau cover and tool kit. You might even find one with the original red breakdown flare, which is clipped to the left-hand side of the passenger footwell. 
 
Nissan built the Figaro alongside three other similarly retro cars at its Pike factory – the company’s special projects division at the time. The other ‘Pike’ cars include the Be-1 and Pao hatchbacks, as well as the S-Cargo – a small retro-style van. If you like the retro style of the Figaro, then it is worth seeking out these models too, although they are actually less common in the UK.
 

Performance and specs 

 
Engine 987cc, four-cylinder
Power 75bhp @ 6000rpm
Torque 78lb ft @ 4400rpm
Top speed 90mph
0-60mph 16.3sec
Fuel consumption 45mpg
Gearbox Three-speed auto
 

Dimensions and weight

 
Wheelbase 2300mm
Length 3740mm
Width 1630mm
Height 1365mm
Kerb weight 810kg
 

Common problems 

 
• There shouldn’t be major corrosion but rust may well be in evidence in the sills and in the lower edge of the rear window surround. The chrome reflectors for the rear lights can also collect water, so check for rust here. 
 
• The most likely area for corrosion though, and also the area that’s the most time-consuming to fix, is the rear wheelarches. If these have rusted significantly, new panels have to be welded in, and that’ll cost you plenty. 
 
• All Figaros got a folding fabric roof, which shrinks over time. Also, the mechanism and latches can get damaged by ham-fisted owners, so make sure everything works smoothly. 
 
• Check that the upper roof boot has a plastic liner and two black straps to hold the roof in place when it’s retracted. Also make sure that the rubber buffers on the floor and spring clips on the inside of the boot are in place. 
 
• Look at the top of the car around the edge of the roof. The leather hood may have started to shrink revealing the black seal. You shouldn’t be able to see more than 1cm of black rubber and there shouldn’t be any gaps. If either of these things is evident, expect leaks into the cabin. 
 
• There’s a tonneau that has to be fitted manually when the roof is retracted, so make sure it’s there. New and used ones can be sourced easily enough, and they’re not costly. 
 
• The engine is generally reliable, but seized turbos aren’t unusual. Because there’s no kick from the turbo (the power delivery is surprisingly linear), it’s easy to assume there’s nothing wrong. Also look for blue exhaust smoke, suggesting a worn turbo or engine. 
 
• Ask when the cam belt and tensioner were last replaced; this should be done every five years or 100,000km (62,500 miles). Crankshaft oil seals also fail, so look for lots of lubricant on the car’s underside. 
 
• The most likely engine problem is overheating, so let the car tick over and listen for the fan cutting in and out. Also make sure the head gasket hasn’t failed because the engine has previously overheated. 
 
• As the Figaro is now more than 20 years old, it’s key to know that the braking system is in fine fettle. Along with the basic checks of brake discs, pads (drums and shoes on the back), and the condition of the pipes, it is not uncommon for the master cylinder seals to wear out, causing spongy feeling brakes, eventually leading to brake failure.
 
• The standard air conditioning uses the now-banned Freon 12 refrigerant, but it can still be topped up. What can’t be used is the modern R134A alternative, as it’ll damage the system, so beware of cars that have supposedly been converted. 
 
• The brightwork gets damaged and corrosion is common, so check everything, especially the bumpers, as they’re costly to replace. 
 
• Don’t assume that the displayed mileage is correct, as clocked cars are rife in Japan where it’s not illegal to change a car’s mileage. What matters is the car’s condition. 
 

Model history

 
1989: Figaro unveiled at the Tokyo motor show under the slogan ‘Back to the future’. It’s the work of a Nissan special projects group called Pike Factory. 
1991: The Figaro goes into production, with the cars being released in three batches between February and June. 
 

Owners clubs, forums and websites

 
• www.figaroownersclub.com
• www.figs4u.co.uk
• www.figarotrader.co.uk
• www.thefigaroshop.co.uk
 

Summary and Prices 

 
So, it’s generally reliable, fun and most of all fairly easy to look after. While it might not offer the driving thrills of a traditional soft-top sports car, there’s a lot of charm with a Nissan Figaro. 
 
While there are specialists that import Figaros directly from Japan, which could cost upwards of £8000, a good usable car should come in at somewhere between £4500-6000 in the UK, although prices can be stronger is the car is exceptional or offered by a dealer. There are some scruffier examples about, and neglected cars can be worth as little as £1200 if substantial work is needed. 
 
Words: Richard Dredge
Nissan Figaro Nissan Figaro Nissan Figaro Nissan Figaro front Nissan Figaro rear Nissan Figaro Interior Nissan Figaro seats
Last updated: 23rd Aug 2016
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Nissan Figaro cars for sale

8 Search results
Nissan Figaro
3295 24995 GBP
  • Nissan Figaro 1991

    £5,500 £5,500

    original paint work. In good condition. Used daily. Only house move forcing sale. 90k km. Price reduced and negotiable.

    • Engine size: 998
    For sale
    FridayAd
  • NISSAN FIGARO FK10 1991

    £3,295 £3,295

    Adjustable Seats, Air Conditioning, Electric Windows, Head Restraints, Leather Seats, Power Steering, Radio/CD, Sunroof, THIS VEHICLE HAS COVERED 107,000 KM WHICH CONVERTED TO MILES IS 66,486.;;AS WE ARE AN AA CAR DEALER, THIS CAR COMES WITH AN AA HISTORY CHECK AND 12 MONTHS BREAKDOWN COVER;;;

    • Mileage: 66486 mi
    • Engine size: 1000
    For sale
  • Emerald Green Nissan Figaro 1991 80k Miles

    £5,550 £5,550

    I am unfortunately having to sell my lovely little Figaro due to relocating to London and having nowhere to keep him. He currently resides with my brother in Brighton until he finds his new home!   I am the first registered owner since import last year.   MOT was completed Dec 2016. Is in brilliant working order and runs very well.   Things that were done before I bought him: Upgraded stereo fitting New roof New back window panel also covered with new leather Full service including cam belt change Chrome pack around the car covering all arches Front grill touched up with re-chromeing paint Carpet repainted Rare cupholder installed MPH speedometer panel installed   Things to note : The front seats have some wear and tear as you would expect with a car of this age, with 1 noticeable rip on the penger seat (back seats are in perfect condition) The driver side speaker is currently not working Clip needs replacing on driver side indicator   He’s been owned for 2 1/2 years and there have been no significant issues. Comes with car cover & will be fully valeted. All in all, he is a wonderful reliable little car with low mileage for a Figaro.   Any questions please ask. Thanks for looking

    • Mileage: 80000 mi
    • Engine size: 998
    For sale
  • Nissan Figaro

    £24,995 £24,995

    Air Conditioning, Electric Windows, Power Steering, CD Player, Radio, Full Leather, Service history ABSOLUTELY STUNNING NISSAN FIGARO IN LAPIS GREY, SHE HAS COVERED ONLY 7300 MILES SINCE MANUFACTURE IN AUGUST 1991, VEHICLE IS IN TIMEWARP CONDITION, VEHICLE HAS BEEN IN A HEATED GARAGE ALL OF ITS LIFE AND HAS NEVER SEEN OR TOUCHED WATER, AIRCONDITIONING, ELECTRIC WINDOWS, FULL LEATHER INTERIOR, ORIGINAL FIGARO SEAT COVERS LIKE NEW, ORIGINAL FIGARO MATS LIKE NEW, ORIGINAL LEATHER SEATS LIKE NEW, ORIGINAL KEY X 2, ORIGINAL NISSAN BOOT TRAY, ORIGINAL NISSAN CAR CLEANING KIT USED, ORIGINAL BREAK DOWN TRIANGLE NEW AND BOXED, ALL ORIGINAL CHROME WORK IMMACULATE, BODY WORK IMMACULATE THROUGHOUT, ALSO IS FITED WITH ORIGINAL NISSAN ROOF VINYL AND REAR WINDOW SURROUND. VEHICLE DRIVES LIKE BRAND NEW,FEEL FREE TO PHONE US ON 01279420525 OR VISIT OUR WEBSITE WWW.WESTWOODCOMMERCIALS.CO.UKWE ARE BASED IN ROYSTON HERTS SG8 7 PUFOR VIEWING AND TESTDRIVE

    • Mileage: 7300 mi
    • Engine size: 980
    For sale
  • Nissan Figaro

    £7,095 £7,095

    Air Conditioning, Full Leather, iPod Connectivity, Locking Wheel Nuts, Head Restraints, Power Steering, Colour Coded Body, Premium Cloth soft top, Electric Front Windows, CD Player, Multi-Disc CD Player, Radio, Stereo, UK Specification, UK Supplied, HPI Clear (Complete with certificate), Part Exchange welcome, Service history

    • Mileage: 52494 mi
    • Engine size: 1000
    For sale
  • Nissan Figaro

    POA POA

    POA Ex Uk and imported into jersey in 2010. Owned by an enthusiast who has maintained the car regardless of cost. During his ownership much maintenance has been carried as the car has been his daily driver. Very well maintained and serviced whilst in Jersey with new tyres, new exhaust, cam belt being changed, new water pump, etc. An extensive file accompanies the car.

    • Year: 1991
    For sale
  • 1991 Nissan Figaro

    £8,950 £8,950

    Imported from Japan in 2004 and with one UK keeper since then this car was used for only a year before being laid up for 10 years in its Doctor owners garage. Original paintwork in Pale Aqua Fully Recommissioned by ourselves with a full service ,cambelt change and brake overhaul and fresh MOT. Speedo converted to MPH ,the car has covered 89KMs in total Original Japanese import Documents and UK History Original Figaro CD/Radio in full working order and converted to work on UK frequencies. The best correct unmolested Figaro we have seen in the last few years

    • Year: 1991
    For sale
  • NISSAN FIGARO - 1991

    £5,495 £5,495

    1000:cc Finished in ‘Pale Aqua with cream hood. Matching leather interior and dash with original ‘polo wheels’, mudflaps and headlight eyes.;;Covered 71,000 miles with only one previous owner. This quirky classic is full of character and a dream to drive. ;;Will be sold with a new MOT.;

    • Mileage: 71 mi
    • Engine size: 1000
    For sale
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