Happy Friday, Autopians, and – I can’t resist saying it – top o’ the mornin’ to ya! Today is, of course, St. Patrick’s Day, when rivers run green and everyone claims to be at least a little bit Irish. (I actually am of about one-quarter Irish descent, on my mother’s side.) It only seemed fitting that we do another international installment of Shitbox Showdown today, so we’re off to Carzone.ie to see what cheap car lovers have to choose from in Ireland. But before we go, we have some unfinished business with yesterday’s projects:
Yowza. I expected the Ranchero to win, but not by that much. I do want to say something in that Pacer’s defense, if I may: My two primary criteria for choosing cars are 1) is it interesting to write about?, and 2) Will it get readers commenting? By that measure, this Southern California-fried AMC is a roaring success. I don’t mind if most of you hate something, as long as you talk about it.
So, with that said, let’s take a little trip. I don’t know about the rest of you, but whenever I get a chance to travel abroad, I always check out the cars. I can’t help it. Even if it’s just some little nothing car that none of the locals would look twice at, if it’s something we don’t have in the US, it’s fascinating to me. This goes even more so for the beat-up ones: How did that Skoda end up with a busted side mirror? Oh look; it’s held on with duct tape just like we would do! Oh wow, look at the dent in that Peugeot’s fender; I wonder how that happened?
Naturally, then, I’m going to take advantage of this holiday to check out some cheap little cars from one of my favorite vacation destinations so far: Ireland. Here we go!
2001 Nissan Micra – €1,599
Engine/drivetrain: 1.0 liter dual overhead cam inline 4, five-speed manual, FWD
Location: Dublin, Ireland
Odometer reading: 100,000 kilometers
Runs/drives? Sure does
Nissan’s little Micra/March never made it to the US, though it was sold in Canada. In fact, it was raced in Canada. Cars this size never were very popular in the US, with a few exceptions like the Geo Metro and Mini Cooper. They’re all over Europe and the UK, however, and they fit right in on the narrow roads and tight city centers there.
The Nissan Micra shares a basic platform with Jason’s beloved (but apparently cursed) Pao, as well as two other “Pike Factory” cars, the Be-1 and Figaro. This run-of-the-mill Micra hatchback may not be as cool-looking as those, but it’s a good honest little car. Its engine is a tiny 998 cc twin-cam four, along with a seemingly-mandatory-for-Europe manual gearbox.
This Micra has only 62,000 miles on it. The seller says it was purchased to take a road trip outside of the country (presumably to mainland Europe) that didn’t happen because of that pesky virus that’s been wreaking havoc the past couple years. It runs well, though its NCT inspection sticker (Ireland’s version of Britain’s MOT inspection) is nearly a year out of date now. But from the sounds of it, taxes for a car with such a tiny engine are pretty cheap.
Inspections in Europe (and most of the rest of the world, actually) keep the more egregiously flawed vehicles off the road, but it’s amazing how many similarities there are between cheap cars in Ireland and here. It has a wrinkled front fender, a little bit of rust forming on the tailgate, a pine-tree air freshener, and that classic cheap-car stereo modification: speakers cut into the privacy panel in the rear hatch, just like the old Scirocco I drove in high school. There’s something comforting about that.
2008 Citroën C4 – €2,000
Engine/drivetrain: 1.4 liter dual overhead cam inline 4, five-speed manual, FWD
Location: Shannon, County Clare, Ireland
Odometer reading: 181,000 kilometers
Citroën, of course, is famous for weird cars. These later models, after the Peugeot takeover, toned things down a bit, but the C4 still has a bit of Citroën weirdness: a fixed steering wheel hub. Yes, that’s right; the wheel rim turns, but the hub in the center stays put. It also has a cool LCD dash, an early version of a lane-departure warning system, and a fragrance dispenser built into the HVAC system vents (!).
This C4 is powered by a 1.4 liter four, again with a manual gearbox. It’s larger than the Micra above, but not by much; think Ford Focus size. Citroën toned down their styling strangeness as well as their technology, but the C4 is still a sharp-looking car, and unmistakably a Citroën. I particularly like the design of the rear hatch and taillights.
This Citroën has around 113,000 miles on it, which isn’t much for a fifteen year old car here in America, but from what I saw looking at ads for other cars, it’s on the high side for Ireland. It’s in good shape overall, though the interior is a little grubby. It’s clearly a car that gets used a lot. Its NCT inspection just expired last month, but unless there are some lurking issues, I can’t imagine it wouldn’t pass.
I kinda like this car. It’s stylish (for a hatchback), well-equipped, and just weird enough to be special. Stellantis has made noises about bringing Citroëns back to the USA (and we think that some of their models could be great here) and looking at this car makes me hope they do.
Car love knows no borders, and it’s looking like shitboxes are shitboxes the world around. I plan to take a look at cheap vehicles in other countries here and there as we continue, as long as you all are on board with that. For today, we’ve got two wild Irish rovers (okay, a Nissan and a Citroën, no Rovers) to choose from. Which one will it be?
(Image credits: Carzone.ie sellers)
Voted Micra because, if I’m going to have a Citroën, it has to be truly, deeply, weird.
I love my Figaro and it has run almost 5 years here with no faults, so I should rationally choose the japanese quality Micra..
But I do love the funky steering wheel with fixed center on the Citroën C4! Pretty nice shape on the rest as well. Almost like a Ford Focus (EU) mk1: So clean looking.
(None of my many Citroën ever ran 5 years without any breakdowns..)
As much as i want the far more interesting Citroen,i know someone who owned a true lemon in the brand.Watching his financial torture was so bad that i’m frightened off them for life.
Totally the C4. They look fantastic and because it has less “Citroen stuff” in it, it’s less likely to be totally troublesome, but still has a good dose of weird!
I rented a C4 Picasso in Malaga (South of Spain) in 2008 and it was the worst car I’ve ever driven (and I grew up in a Lime Green Chevette with rusted out floor boards).
Yes, I know the Picasso is different than this C4, but this is the internet and I’ve been sitting on this rant for 15 years. This is the first time I’ve found a place where this rant seemed somewhat relevant and I’m going to rant.
When you hear about HP for a car, you think horsepower. My mighty C4 Picasso’s power output was measured in hamster power. I swear, there must have been little hamster running on a hamster wheel under the hood — and given the summer heat, you could feel them dying off the more I drove. The car had no power and no acceleration. I had the pedal to floor going up a mountain road to Seville and tractor-trailers were honking me for going to slow. What could I say, my hamsters just couldn’t keep up.
Normal cars have the stick shifts on the floor . The Citroen designers, in what was clearly a stroke of genius, put the stick on bottom of the center control stack (seriously, google pictures). Granted I’m no expert with manual transmissions — my only experience with a stick was driving my parents’ manual Saturn SL1 a few times — but I know enough to know that the stick belongs on the floor. You don’t accidently bump the stick when it’s on the floor. When you mount the stick on the center console under the radio, you hit the stick, every single time you try to adjust the radio (there were a surprising number of English language stations).
There are some things you would expect to have in a manual car, such as a tachometer (or even a light suggesting that now is a good time to upshift). It’s nice to know where the redline is and when you should shift. But Citroen, in their infinite wisdom, must have thought that a tach was unnecessary since no driver could possibly get those hamsters running fast enough to need to shift gears. When those hamsters did start going (like going downhill), you’d have to listen to them cry out in pain to know it was time to shift.
You would think that a small, European economy car would have a decent turning radius, right? Not with Citroen — this car had a wider turning radius than my old Escalade EXT. 3 point turns on tight Spanish streets turned into 18 point turns (those poor hamsters!).
Headlights. I know headlights and taillights are a popular topic here on The Autopian. So, I won’t go into aesthetics. But, I can discuss output (or lack thereof). This shining example of French engineering had a total headlight output of 2 candlepower (or 25.14 lumens according to google for you lumens fans). I guess that’s all those poor hamsters could muster. I wish I had an iPhone back then, I would have strapped it to the roof, turned on the flashlight and maybe would have been able to see where I was driving.
Where there any good things about the car? I dunno — the hamsters were able to move the car forward and backwards on flat roads. The doors and trunk opened and closed. The a/c mostly worked. I guess it had that going for it.
Ok, that’s enough ranting into the ether. I feel better now.
I would go for the Nissan since it’s not a Citroen.
The C4 is by no metric a small car by European standards. Citroën had three cars in their lineup that were smaller than the C4. The Picasso is positively ginormous compared to most things on the road over here.
Fuck both of these – I’ll have a horse.
Fun fact: my brother’s nephew is in that video.
Not sure what I was expecting —but that certainly wasn’t it. I think it will take a few days before I can Grok in fullness.
Definitely worth a few minutes: thanks!
The closest I ever came to “having a horse outside” was in HS with my parent’s Country Squire Pinto 🙁
Somehow that did NOT go over well with bridesmaids. Or anyone.
Went with the Citroen, in spite of the fact that some indescribably awful things have apparently happened on that driver’s seat.
My vote goes to the Nissan. If I’m driving either of these, it means I’m in the EU… which means fuel will be EXPENSIVE and the roads/parking will be tight.
Plus, I’m guessing that Nissan will be more reliable given the simpler Japanese design.
You’ve found probably the cheapest shitboxes in the country (cars always expensive here, but it’s got fucking crazy the last couple of years). What you’re neglecting, though, is how much it costs to tax old cars, and that many insurance companies won’t even entertain quoting a car over fifteen years of age (ask me how I know, unfortunately).
Went Nissan because it’s cleaner inside.
Does the Citron fragrance dispenser dispense citrus scented fragrance or moldy cheese?
In early 2020 I rented a late model C4 Cactus. It was nice, so C4 all the way
All y’all are making a mistake. That little Micra will go on forever and be cheap as shit to fix. The C4? I don’t like them and I don’t trust them not to break.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Death to the monarchy, have a Guinness and enjoy the day!
My family is from Shannon, in fact my Grandmother’s family was named Shannon when they got off the boat back in the day. We have books and family still in County Clare, it’s a beautiful place. So for a beautiful land, we need a beautiful car. C4 all day, and twice on Sunday.
The current crop of royals are a bunch of jerks, but that’s what being undeservedly wealthy, coddled and adored will do to you. They are tradition for tradition’s sake, nothing more.
The Pope and his cronies can go to blazes too, and make the world a better place by doing so.
The Micra is probably the smarter choice, the C4 is much neater, though the 3-door C4 would be the real cool one.
The impression I got when I started reading more UK car mags and such at the time was the C4 marked more of a return to weirdness after a decade-plus of being sort of dull against their competitors and more just like variants of Peugeots. Other then-recent Citroens like the C5 were upping the technological side, the C3 started to be a bit more stylish, but the C4 needed a bit more to stand out; that segment was where everyone was taking risks, after the success of the original Focus and the Mk4 Golf (both launching new generations about the same time). Renault also going weird with the Megane just before this, it was time to get weird again and do something to stand out.
I’ll take the See-troh-N
Citroen all the way. Newer, better looking, bigger and more powerful.
Either of those would be a decent choice for a basic, economical small car. I’ll pick the Citroen because of the steering wheel and other bonkers French stuff.
Also both work because they’re not K-Cars.
I’ll step off the Isle of Man ferry, join the tour of the Guinness factory, pick up that Micra, and head for the musical pubs in Donegal (if pressured I will sing).
Then off to see Rory Gallagher’s statue in Ballyshannon.
Go during the first weekend of June and you’ll get a whole festival dedicated to him. Great musicians, but it can get a bit messy from past experience.
I went for the Nissan because it’s cheaper to start with and probably cheaper to get fixed and legal.
The Nissan has half the mileage, which is a huge advantage in this little contest. Both would be collector’s items, or at least, car nerd items, in America. So, which one will be running well in a few years? The Nissan. The Citroen has more unique Frenchness, while the Nissan has dependability, economy, maneuverability and a tiny engine to work with the manual transmission. It also has passed inspection. The Citroen looks uncared for – the interior is cluttered and the floor mat is crooked in the for-sale pictures. I would choose the Nissan, with the Citroen a close second.
In practical terms that era Micra will just run and run. They are very tough.
“This Citroën has around 113,000 miles on it, which isn’t much for a fifteen year old car here in America, but from what I saw looking at ads for other cars, it’s on the high side for Ireland.”
Well, yeah, it’s an island, and it only takes 7 hours to drive across it the long way. 115K here in America is a 3 year-old car.
Begorrah! It’d have to be the Citroen, simply because the Micra just isn’t weird enough.
Of course we can’t really have either — that pesky 25-year rule, you know — but if we could, that little silver lozenge would do all right in a small town, and maybe even attract a little attention. The Nissan is, well, a bit lumpy. If it were a Pao, that might change my mind.
Please. Don’t say begorrah.
I will take the Citroen and promptly crash while staring at the stationary steering wheel hub, which is ironically the reason I took it in the first place.
Going for the Citroen because the name looks like citron, which is a citrus cultivar related to lemons which are related to limes, which are green and it’s St. Patrick’s Day, so … yeah.
makes sense since French cars are lemons 😛
What, no option from Northern Ireland to vote for today?
I’m just glad neither option was black and tan. Or orange, for that matter.