Monday July 15, 2019
‘The Arna/Cherry Europe has more myths surrounding it than most cars’ observes Eddie Rattley, Nissan expert extraordinaire.
The standard narrative is that in October 1980, the two famous manufacturers with the aim of creating a replacement for the Alfasud with Japanese build-quality but the result was apparently a Cherry with typical Italian standards of construction.
However, as is so often the case, the reality is somewhat more complex.
We have already covered the history of this controversial motor-car last year but suffice to say that the Alfa Romeo/Nissan deal was signed in 1980 and it was the Japanese firm that initially marketed the project in the UK.
If you were in the market for a small new car back in 1983, the Cherry Europe GTi did not lack showroom appeal with its spoilers fore and aft, front fog lamps and alloy wheels.
The dealer boasts that the top speed is 112 mph and of 0-60 in ten seconds - so your new Nissan should prove more than a match for that “townie” at number 25 with his Ford Escort XR3. And, as you can plainly see from Mr, Ratteley’s car, the ‘special rally-style seats’ could never be accused of being low-key.
The Cherry GTi was never going to appeal to the traditional “hot hatchback” market and the fact that it cost a fairly steep £6,370 further limited its chances in Britain. Yet, the Nissan might have carved a niche for itself as an innocuous suburban runabout but as Eddie points out:
‘Nissan UK held no official launch for the Cherry Europe, it just appeared in dealer's showrooms, so there was little public knowledge of the model initially. Even road tests in the media were few and far between (most road tests were of the Arna which arrived later). Nissan UK already had a perfectly competent range of Cherry models from the basic 1.0L right up to the Turbo, so the Europe was surplus to requirements. I suspect Nissan UK expected the car to be much less reliable than its existing range, which had built up an enviable reputation, so they didn't really push sales hard.’
As it was, sales were limited and when imports of the Alfa Romeo Arna commenced in 1985, it proved even less successful.
Mr. Rattley thinks that ‘The only reason the car was foisted upon Nissan UK was because Alfa Romeo in Italy thought the car might be a little too down-market for the marque’s British image’.
When Arna manufacture ceased in 1987, it already seemed as forgotten as a single by Dollar.
Today, according to Eddie, ‘as far as I know there are eight RHD cars left in total – five Europes and three Arnas with one other Arna Ti rumoured to exist but not confirmed’.
His own fleet includes two examples of the Alfa Romeo; a five-door that Eddie believes to be the only surviving example – ‘it's actually only done 36,000 miles!’ and a 1.5 Ti..
And there is also his Cherry Europe GTi, which Eddie acquired in February 2014.
He wisely observes ‘It's difficult to state the nicest aspect as it's all rather subjective. Personally, I think the GTi matches up to other 80's hot hatches rather well aesthetically, both inside and out’. To this rather appealing-looking three-door saloon today is to wonder that it might have been mis-judged…
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