Classic Cars Wiki
Classic Cars Wiki

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.

First generation (series M10 1982–1988)[]

The Nissan Prairie, 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 resembled a tall station wagon / estate with the addition of sliding side doors. It was available with five seats, though seven were available. The size of one of today's compact SUVs. A contemporary competitor was the Mitsubishi Chariot — other options for cars (as opposed to minibuses / minivans) with more than five seats were large estates such as the Citroën CX family model, off-road vehicles such as the Land Rover Defender, and others 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.

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.

Second generation (series M11 1989–1998)[]

The second generation of the Prairie was introduced September 1988 and marketed as the Axxess in North America. To meet concerns that the original bodyshell was too weak, the platform used was upgraded from the smaller Nissan Sunny to the larger Nissan Bluebird. The engines were correspondingly bigger as well. The second generation Prairie lost some of the innovative features that made the first generation standout - the B-pillar was reinstated, the torsion beam rear suspension was replaced with a more conventional coil setup which prevented the rear seats from reclining. The vehicle sold for six years (1990–95) in Canada, but only in 1990 in the United States. The US version had motorized automatic seatbelts while the Canadian versions had manual belts.

North American models only offered the larger 2.4-litre engine. The Prairie came with optional AWD and a 2.0 litre engine. In Europe, the Prairie was later replaced with the taller, more van-like Nissan Serena, while the Nissan Quest replaced both the Axxess and the Nissan Van in North America.

Nissan Prairie Joy[]

In Japan, Nissan stretched the rear of the vehicle to better accommodate third seat passengers and load carrying, calling the vehicle the Prairie Joy and offering the vehicle in August 1995. Conversions offered a raised roof over the passenger space up to the rear hatch. As of May 1997, anti-lock brakes and driver and front passenger airbags were offered, along with ultraviolet restricting tinted glass.