Me And My Car: The only two Nissan Figaros in S'pore are owned by sisters

Ms Lina Yew (left) and her sister, Ms Yew Lei May, paid about $120,000 each for their Nissan Figaros.
Ms Lina Yew (left) and her sister, Ms Yew Lei May, paid about $120,000 each for their Nissan Figaros. PHOTOS: SHREEJIT CHANGAROTH

Why Nissan Motor picked the name of a fictitious 18th-century Spanish barber for its little retro 2+2 seater is a mystery.

The Figaro has nothing to do with the Italian opera bearing its name.

But to two sisters, who each own one, the Nissan semi-convertible is no less larger than life.

Ms Lina Yew, 66 a shipping executive dealing with sporting goods, has a light green car, while Ms Yew Lei May, 63, a general manager of a company which distributes chemicals for the electronics industry, owns a pastel blue one. Both rides cost around $120,000 each.

Theirs are the only two units of Figaro here, purchased from a grey importer. Nissan agent Tan Chong Motor did not import the model.

Ms Lina Yew bought the car first, in 1994. She and her husband saw it at a used car dealership and "thought it was simply the cutest thing on four wheels", she recalls. She bought it immediately.

"When I showed my new wheels to my younger sister, she wanted one too."

So she sold the car to her sister and the same used-car dealer soon found her another one.

Nissan made only around 20,000 Figaros, so the sisters' rides may well become classics.

The Figaro already has a cult following. The Figaro Owners Club and the Figaro Spares Company, both in the United Kingdom, provide owners around the world with technical support and replacement parts.

Based on the first-generation Nissan March, the Figaro was the product of a special projects team that was tasked with designing niche vehicles with charming retro elements.

The front-wheel-drive Figaro has a one-litre four-cylinder Nissan March engine that is turbocharged to produce 75hp. That is sufficient power for something that weighs less than 850kg.

Even today, the Figaro does not need to work hard to keep up with traffic.

Its styling is mildly reminiscent of old-school American Ford coupes, but it is much smaller.

The Yew sisters are especially charmed by the car's 1950s-style interior, with its predominantly white dashboard, and just the right amount of chrome. The radio, steering wheel and shift lever for the car's automatic gearbox are also white.

Ms Lina Yew's grown-up children - two daughters and a son - were in their teens when she brought the Figaro home, and "fell in love with the car".

They took turns to ride in the tiny car with a tight second row. "We have taken rides down Orchard Road with the hood down to take in the Christmas lights," Ms Yew says.

"It was a tight squeeze but everyone enjoyed it. We always got looks while driving the Figaro. Some drivers will honk and some will wave or give us the thumbs-up.

"Today, I have six grandchildren and the joyrides continue."

Her sister and her husband do not have any children, but she takes her friends' children for rides in her Figaro.

"The kids absolutely love it," she says. "They see it as a life-size toy car. With the sliding canvas top folded away, they can stand over the roof while on the move."

"And when men stop to talk to me when I'm in the Figaro, it's only to ask about this cute machine, never to check me out," she laughs.


Ms Lina Yew’s car boot (left) and Ms Yew Lei May’s car boot (right). PHOTOS: SHREEJIT CHANGAROTH

  • What's in the boots?

    • A spare wheel

    • A tool box

    • A jack

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 14, 2020, with the headline 'Joyrides with the Figaro sisters'. Print Edition | Subscribe