Lemon Series: Nissan S-Cargo

Have you ever heard of the Nissan S-Cargo? If not, you’re not missing out at all. This little car would have been better left on the drawing board and never created. The short, round front end, low ground clearance, and short wheelbase did not give this Nissan anything to be proud of. This little van came about in 1989 and didn’t last long at all. It seems the entire world was ready to leave the S-Cargo behind in favor of vehicles that could actually move products from one place to another. The question we should ask is why Nissan ever made this vehicle in the first place?

The Hunchback of the Nissan Lineup

While not completely misshapen, the S-Cargo was certainly a hunched-looking vehicle that doesn’t appear to have much value in the automotive world. The short, rounded front end was interrupted by a pair of googly-eye headlights that stuck up out of the fascia right behind the bumper. If you look at the profile view of this Nissan, you will swear the designer simply put two coffee cup stains together to make one vehicle. The larger circular shape makes up the body and cargo area of this incredibly odd vehicle.

Where Was This Vehicle Useful

As a small, narrow, low cargo van, the Nissan S-Cargo was useful on narrow streets in the cities of Asia and Europe. The payload limit of 660 pounds isn’t enough to carry a pallet of materials to the Jobsite, but it is enough to allow this vehicle to be used for a variety of courier and delivery services. The fact that it could be useful in these areas is probably why it was sold in any numbers at all, although those totals were pretty small considering the number of vehicles Nissan sells every year.

This Nissan Earned a French Name

Officially called the S-Cargo, the name and shape bring an obvious nickname to the mix. This nickname was right on the nose and the French word for snail, which is Escargot. You can easily see how this vehicle is shaped like a snail, but unlike the Escargot served in restaurants, you won’t want to try and eat this Nissan vehicle. Strangely enough, this ugly van-like hunched vehicle is now used often as a promotional vehicle. There’s no doubt that if you see this vehicle with a banner on the side, you won’t forget what you saw.

Some Interesting Tidbits

The first time we saw the Nissan S-Cargo was at the 1987 Tokyo Motor Show. It was put into production as a 1989 model and lasted only until 1992. During that time, nearly 8,000 models were produced and sold. The S-Cargo is based on the Nissan Sunny/Sentra and derived from the French Citroen 2CV “Truckette” as the concept vehicle for both brands. This is the only Nissan vehicle from the Pike Factory that was not badged externally as a Nissan. This interesting little vehicle didn’t sell well, which caused it to only be made for a short time.

Small Power Numbers for a Tiny Vehicle

The powertrain that made its way under the hood of the S-Cargo was a 1.5-liter carbureted four-cylinder engine that mated to a three-speed automatic transmission. Even for the time, this vehicle was made,
that setup was outdated. Only 75 horsepower could be produced by this powertrain, which means it was never made for highway traffic. While not a good vehicle on an open road, this small power level was ideal for heavy city traffic where stopping, and starting took place often during a delivery run.

Some Models Made it to the United States

When a vehicle is ideal for tight city quarters in Europe and Asia, it can also be great for driving products from origin to destinations in other areas. One S-Cargo owner has told his story of owning this Nissan delivery vehicle that started its life as a DVD delivery service vehicle before being imported to the United States. Maybe this little van isn’t a good idea on the Interstate Highway System, but it can be perfect for driving around some of the large cities where many traffic lights can be found.

Snail Slow, As Expected

How fast do you think a Nissan S-Cargo can drive? When will it cross the sixty mph mark? These questions have been posed, and now they have been answered. When this van was being sold new, it wasn’t important to determine these speeds since it was designed to be a city delivery van. That being said, the top speed listed on the speedometer is only 160 Kmh, which is the same as 99.4 mph. That’s not extremely fast at all. The surprising part of what this Nissan was capable of is that it did reach 87 mph when tested. That top speed can’t be maintained for long, but it does mean this vehicle is capable of handling speed limits in the United States. Of course, if you’re trying to accelerate to that highway speed, it will take you 17 seconds to reach sixty mph. That’s long enough that other drivers might start honking at you and giving you a one-fingered salute because this vehicle is just that slow. Thankfully, there aren’t many of these vans still around and even fewer in the United States.

An Interesting Lemon of a Vehicle

The rounded shape of the Nissan S-Cargo played right into the nickname of Escargot. The snail/hunchback shape and small dimensions of this little delivery van made it impossible for this vehicle to continue to be offered in the market. The slow driving and lack of versatility left many services wanting something more. While a unique van that you might not have heard of until today, the S-Cargo is certainly worthy of being called a lemon. If you take a trip to Europe or Japan, it’s possible you could see a few of these Nissan vans being used as promotional vehicles. The unique shape and story make for a great way to capture the attention of the public.

Lemon Series: So Many Complaints


Can you avoid a vehicle that turns into a lemon? You can with our Lemon Series. This week we take a look at vehicles from the 2020 model year that have the largest number of reported complaints. These complaints can certainly span the spectrum from a simple comfort issue to an engine that fails to start when it should. Regardless of the type of complaint, you’re going to want to avoid vehicles at or near the top of this list. Read More