Driven to Write’s Top Fifty Countdown: Number 7a

What is about the 1982 Cherry that continues to captivate? The virtually unique N12 Datsun Cherry conforms fully to Nissan´s forward-thinking approach to car design. This ties for seventh place with tomorrow’s 7b.

Captivation: 1982 Datsun Cherry
Captivation: 1982 Datsun Cherry

The 1982 Datsun Cherry (N12) carried on the success of the 1970-1977 version which helped establish Datsun’s presence in Western Europe. In particular it was able to capitalise on the appallingly designed and badly made products being offered in the United Kingdom, a situation that persisted until BLMC’s last fragments were closed. Datsun discovered that features mattered more than previously had been believed and customers flocked to explore the possibilities offered by a long options list partnered with the Cherry’s smooth, easy driving.

The N12,as its fans know it, could be purchased with a blizzard of engines: a peppy 988 cc and a torquey 1270 cc unit (they battled Minis, Fiesta and Polos) and a 1488 cc L-4 which took on the likes of the dated Escort, drab Golf and the Kadett. In part due to the intermediate size of the elegant, sharply cut body and a huge range of trim levels the Cherry could be placed in two important market sectors at the same time. Thus it was possible for one nameplate to gain sales at a time when so doing could have been considered a tough-task. Further, as a Sunny, the same mechanicals could be had as a fetching saloon or practical estate.

1985 Datsun (or Nissan) Cherry in 1600 flavour: www.motorbase.com
1985 Datsun (or Nissan) Cherry in 1600 flavour: www.motorbase.com

By the time 1986 came around the Cherry name gave way to the Sunny and the world had changed. Austin and Triumph were on the way out and names like Mitsubishi, Toyota and Mazda were taking their place in the affections of European motorists. In no small part this has to be due to the sterling combination of the effortless driving, appealing styling and durable build of this quintessentially Japanese motor car.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

9 thoughts on “Driven to Write’s Top Fifty Countdown: Number 7a”

    1. Are you kidding? The Arna had terrible styling and was assembled really badly. To cap it all, it even looked like the Datsun Cherry. I might have room for an Alfa later on though. You are correct in spotting the lack of Alfa Romeo´s in this list. Given their historic significance they ought to have one contended for the best top 50 cars.

  1. The N12 was also a Holden Astra, by the questionable virtue of the Hawke Labour government’s ‘Button Plan’. Not well liked, and a vastly inferior car to the short-lived front wheel drive Gemini it succeded.

    1. That´s news to me. And it was staring at me on Wikipedia when I was researching this. Is this car unique in being a GM, Alfa and Datsun corporate clone? I had a look at the general background to the Gemini and while it looks a bit like the Ascona from the same period, it seems not to be related directly. The Gemini looks a bit of a collection of cars, whatever Holden felt would fit at that price point.

  2. The first generation Gemini was a Chevette era T-car, and one of the best of that sprawling, cosmopolitan family. The coupe has a strong following in Australia even now. The second generation had Giugiaro styling and front wheel drive, but was doomed to exist mainly as a GM captive import, The strangest thing about the third generation (1990-93) was that it happened at all, as Isuzu’s financial backers were pushing for an end to chronically unprofitable passenger car production.

    Isusu stopped making non-SUV cars but didn’t stop selling Two further generations of Gemini were rebadged Honda Domanis, the first being the car which became the Swindon-built Civic MB3, and at one further degree of separation, the Rover 400 HH-R.

    The Isuzu Ascona? – that would be the Aska. But that’s another story, and an even madder one.

    1. Hi Robert: you know your stuff-
      Underlying this badge engineering is that Holdenw wanted a full range of cars but had not the market size to provide it so they borrowed bits and bobs from around the GMpire. With some horror I read that Holden co-opeted Honda. This could end up like an automotive equivalent of Mornington Crescent. Or is it degrees of Kevin Bacon I mean?
      I grew up with a very fixed idea of cars and brands. Brands made models and they were theirs and their alone. That a body in white would be shared or that badge engineering occurred always seemed to me to be wrong. I think these days it´s the norm.

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