Nissan Prairie is First Produced
The Nissan Prairie, introduced in Japan in 1981 and Europe in 1982, was a car from Japanese manufacturer Nissan.
It was also known as the Multi in Canada and the Stanza Wagon in the United States. The second generation was renamed the Nissan Axxess in North America , but due to disappointing sales, was no longer offered and replaced by the larger Nissan/Ford joint venture called the Nissan Quest, and in Europe it was replaced by the Nissan Serena. When the third generation of this vehicle was introduced in Japan, it was renamed initially Prairie Liberty, with the "Prairie" name eventually dropped in November 1998. This vehicle was discontinued and replaced with the Nissan Lafesta December 2004 in Japan.
The Nissan Prairie, or as it was known in Canada as the Multi and the United States as the Stanza Wagon, was equipped with a choice of 5 in-line 4 cylinder engines, with either a manual or automatic transmission. Available with front wheel drive or optional four wheel drive, the vehicle had rear passenger sliding doors on both sides of the vehicle, and a folding rear seat, designed to increase the carrying capacity of the passenger compartment. The rear tailgate opened upwards as one complete unit, in a similar fashion to a hatchback or station wagon. The Prairie competed with the Toyota Sprinter Carib with a similar wagon approach, and the Honda Shuttle.
The Prairie was one of the first "crossover" cars, resembling a tall station wagon / estate with the addition of sliding side doors. It was commonly ordered with five seats, though seven were available. The size of one of today's compact SUVs, it was amongst the forefront of the trend for multi-purpose vehicles which had rarely been seen since the Fiat 600 Multipla of the 1950s. The closest contemporary competitor was the Mitsubishi Chariot — other options for cars (as opposed to minibuses / minivans) with more than five seats were limited to large estates such as the Citroën CX family model, off-road vehicles such as the Land Rover Defender, and oddities such as the Talbot Matra Rancho which had extra rear-facing child seats.
The concept was inspired by the Lancia Megagamma show car from Giorgetto Giugiaro and ItalDesign, shown in 1979. Nissan, at the time, was very keen to have "European" styling for its cars.
It was originally launched with a 1.5 L I4 engine and a 1.8 L engine followed later in the car's life, as did a four wheel drive version.
The first generation Prairies, while innovative, had undesirable body characteristics when driven hard, due to the missing B-pillar. The front doors and the rear sliding doors interlocked together and at the top and bottom of the respective door openings.