I’m very glad that once again, it seems possible to buy not very much car for not very much money. Lower scrap values and a seeming abundance of cheap motors mean that once again, you can spend very little money if you know where to look. Given how little money we have right now, I had to look hard!
Fortunately, a likely candidate was spotted on Gumtree. I’ve been keeping a beady eye on Gumtree for quite some time, spending hours trawling through some truly hopeless adverts and cars. Then I thought it’d be nice to own something that I actually wanted to own. Buoyed by the success of the Daihatsu Sirion – a car which was only sold due to horrific rot – I decided another Daihatsu might be nice. But I’m a sly old devil. I knew that another way into Daihatsu ownership was to consider the products of Malaysian company Perodua. Once Daihatsu moved on to a new model, the old one gets punted off to Malaysia. It’s a successful Oriental trick, as we’ve previously seen with the Kia Pride (Mazda 121) and Daewoo Nexia. Perhaps those Asian manufacturers were inspired by the Ford Popular of 1959 – an ancient Anglia rebadged to sell as a budget buy alongside the new Anglia 100E.
Sure enough, while I was not finding a Daihatsu to match budget and desire, I spied a Perodua Nippa that had serious potential. This is a reworked Daihatsu Mira L200 – a car that I found seriously desirable as a 16-year old. I was a bit strange like that. Featuring a mighty 847cc triple-cylinder engine, it was the cheapest car you could buy new in the UK in 1999. Ten years earlier, the cheapest cars were things like the Lada Riva, Skoda Estelle and Citroen 2CV6 Spécial. How times had changed.
For instance, despite its low, low price, the Nippa has fuel injection. It doesn’t have a lot else to be honest, and it is tiny. Even tinier in the very poor resolution pictures that accompanied the advert. The two-line sales pitch didn’t really fill in the blanks either.
However, a querying email was met with plenty of information and gave a chance to vet the seller. He sounded genuine, could use actual English (not a guarantee at this price level, even amongst Natives – or perhaps especially) and knocked £50 off the £350 asking price because there was less MOT left than he thought. He confirmed the mileage of 24,000 and it sounded ideal.
So, a £23 train ticket was purchased to get me from home to Bootle, near Liverpool. The journey was long and mainly uneventful. The seller turned out to be a lovely chap who I could have chatted with all day has I not needed to drive all the way back home. The car turned out to be as good as described and came with a stash of parts too.
Now I must admit, the Nippa is hardly the last word in refinement. This was entirely expected. After all, the Sirion’s ride was pretty dreadful – the Nippa has cheaper plastics and wheels two inches smaller! It was made all the worse for me by the dreadful state of the roads in Liverpool. Quite horrific! There was also much more road noise than I expected, and a lot of wind noise too.
On the plus side, it went very well considering its genteel 42bhp, with more torque than I was expecting. Thanks to other noise, the turbine-smooth engine was impossible to hear above about 40mph. It was a bit lumpy on tickover, but I feel its well in need of a service. It zipped along at motorway speeds very nicely though. 70mph felt like no bother at all.
This is a car very low on frills, which is entirely why it was purchased. There’s no power steering, electric windows, central locking, airbags or anti-lock brakes. It really is the 2CV of its time. Ride aside… But the engineering is sound, and it drove the 130 miles back to Wales with no problems at all. It even managed to do it on just £12 of fuel – 55mpg! Cheaper and quicker than the train.
Now it’s back, a few faults have made themselves known. The windscreen seal seems to leak, so I’m hoping a smidge of sealant will keep it dry inside. It also seems to burn a little oil on the overrun – the Sirion did this too. These engines do seem to crud up their piston rings very easily, so that much-needed service will hopefully help. While the official service schedule calls for changes every 6000 miles, I may well go to 3000 intervals for a while. The oil capacity is so low that you can get two services out of one 5-litre bottle of oil!
Really, the Nippa is a replacement for our Mini, which my wife still misses a great deal. It’ll be replacing the 2CV for a time too, as that comes off the road next month for a restoration of unspecified length. Hopefully, it will prove to be an excellent bargain buy.