By on July 1, 2012

About one third of all cars sold in Japan are an oddity: Cars for midgets. Kei cars. Limited in size (11.2 by 4.9 ft), displacement (40 cid), and power (63hp). “Americans won’t buy them,” says our contact at Honda who meets us in the basement garage of Honda’s headquarters in Tokyo. “Americans want big.” We are here to test whether a Kei car can be pressed into duty as the epitome of big, as a chauffeured limousine.

“We,” that is Martin Koelling, East Asia correspondent of  Germany’s Handelsblatt, and I. Martin already excelled as a very capable driver at our from-the-backseat test of the Lexus GS 350 F Sport. That was in the serene setting of Kagoshima. Today, we are in the 13 million metropolis of Tokyo.

I have been around many cars in my life. My favorite part is the backseat, and my favorite drive is to be driven. I quickly learned that “driver, why don’t you raise the partition” signals the most fun one can have in a car.  But how much fun can you have in a Kei, a car that is normally not associated with party space, except among anchovies?

Our car is Honda’s NBOX, Japan’s bestselling Kei car. 19,354 NBOXes were sold in May, Toyota’s Prius (20,789 units) and Aqua (20,091) are only a few hundreds ahead of the third-placed NBOX.

When Honda heard of our backseats plans, they switched the car for a top-of-the-line NBOX Custom G Turbo, to conform with the intended mission profile of a swank limousine. Would we buy instead of just borrow it, the car would set us back by 1.66 million yen with tax. It sounds like a lot. Converted to dollars, it is $20,000. Two years ago, it would have been $17,500, not because the NBOX was cheaper, the yen was. Also, this is the fully loaded, tricked-out with cherry on top version. For a little less luxury, the NBOX G would be 1.24 million yen ($15,500).

On paper, the G Turbo version increases the car’s 58 hp to an exhilarating 64 horses. The torque climbs from 65 Nm (48 lb ft) to 104 Nm (77 lb ft). Not quite pavement-ripping, but as we shall soon see, nonetheless noticeable.

Before we even get close to the car, it shows off an amazing feature: A remote-controlled door. Not just a keyless entry. A remote-controlled door. Push a button on the remote, the door unlocks, a motor slides the door back. Enter, have a seat. At another push of a button, the door will close as if it’s moved by a benign ghost.

I have experienced this degree of hands free luxury only in true chauffeured cars. In Japanese taxis, usually Crowns, the driver operates the doors without having to get up. In the olden days, this was done via a series of levers. Now, servos serve the purpose. There are thousands of perplexed and sometimes screaming cabbies in Manhattan and other world metropolises, where Japanese tourists exit the cab and leave the door wide open. Back home, the benign ghost will take care of it. It does it taxis, limos, and in our nifty NBOX.

While the ghost closes the doors, driver Martin pushes the start button (keyless, of course), the engine happily reports for duty. Martin adjusts the steering wheel, performs a credible Martin Winterkorn “da scheppert nix” persiflage,  and off we go into Tokyo’s city traffic.

We do this while submitting the NBOX to a brutal torture test: Will the car start with the door open? Will the ghosts close the door with the car in motion? Or will an underhanded under-hood nanny chew us out?

Nothing of that happens. The car emits small electronic yelps, but it obeys Martin’s orders to start. With the car in motion, the NBOX dutifully closes my rear door when Martin up front says so. That’s how we like our cars. Good car. Yoiko.

Time to assess my backseat environment. It is amazingly roomy. Legroom is better than in some business class seats. I could easily put another person on my lap, and if she is not too fat (unlikely in Japan), we would not even impact the front seat while communicating.

“Move your seat all the way back,” I order my driver.

“I have,” answers driver Martin from the front.

Amazing. Behind a completely retracted driver’s seat, a solid foot of empty space separates my knees from the front chaise. I did not have that kind of space since back when I was rich, had an expense account, and a stretch would take me from 1020 Park to JFK. Or the Meatpacking District.

Before you ask the question that is now on your mind (I know, Japan is inhabited by pigmies…) driver Martin sends a comment to the rear:

“I could wear a top hat, and there would be room to spare. This is a coach in its true meaning. Will you buy me a top hat?”

I take note of the first and ignore the last. That Kei car made me stingy.

A Kei car is a TCO (total cost of ownership) wet dream. In Japan, a Kei saves you sales tax (3 percent instead of 5 percent for a normal car.) The annual federal tax of the NBOX is about one fifth of the tax for a Honda  Fit. The weight tax is a third of that for the Fit. The insurance is lower. You get a break at the dreaded Shaken inspection. Even the parking space certification costs only a fifth of the normal fee in Tokyo. In rural parts, you can buy a Kei without proof of a parking space. Don’t try buying a regular car without proof of a parking space in Japan, you won’t get it registered.

This is why the American Automotive Policy Council (AAPC), which represents Ford, Chrysler, and GM, hates, despises, loathes Kei cars as another trick by the insidious Japanese to keep the poor persecuted American cars out of Japan.

“Japan’s ‘Kei’ super-mini car segment has consistently represented over 30 percent of the auto market, but no longer has a clear policy rationale to be provided preferential treatment,” the AAPC wrote in an opinion paper sent to the U.S. Trade Representative with the intent to trigger compassion for Detroit’s plight. Imagine the uproar it would cause if the Japan Automotive Manufacturers Association JAMA would call American politicians “irrational” and would demand an end to the double CAFE standard that keeps the American pick-up alive.

While my mind wanders to DC, driver Martin steers the NBOX in the direction of the Togu Palace, which Naruhito, Crown Prince of Japan, Masako, Crown Princess of Japan and their daughter Princess Toshi call home. We are not heading there for tea, but for the famous oval in the park, where we intend to kick the Kei as much as Tokyo’s Finest allow.

“That little mill has oomph,” Martin mumbles as he clicks through the paddle shifters. “Plenty for the city and such a small car.”

Martin races a Honda Civic. The Civic demures, whether in awe of the sheer power of the NBOX, or that of Tokyo’s Metropolitan Police, I don’t know. Yes, the car has a CVT and paddle shifters. Back at Honda, I was told it is for the entertainment of the driver.

We run out of other cars to subjugate with the might of our 64 horses. Driver Martin embarks on his favorite topic:

“Look at those mirrors.”

Our NBOX is a veritable mirror castle. On both sides and in the rear are trick mirrors that allow Martin to keep a look at his tires while sitting behind the wheel. Undoubtedly employing technologies refined in the periscopes of submarines, these mirrors perform acts thought anatomically impossible.

Other carmakers would use an array of video cameras to perform similar visual contortions. Just in case, the pre-installed navigation system of the NBOX comes with a rear camera for people who like to watch.

Meanwhile upfront, Martin fondles the car with a loving touch that I would reserve for the fairer sex.

“Love those details,” Martin says and squeezes the armrest like I would squeeze other parts. “Soft and yet firm.” His hands wander over plastic that Martin likens to “Japanese nurimono,” a deep dark lustrous lacquerware that centuries ago looked a little bit like today’s, well, plastic. Martin is in love with the indentations in the inner door panels that give more elbow room, Martin even rhapsodizes about the toolkit in the back.

Say what you want about Honda, but the inside of this car is made with love, dedication, and ingenuity. The longer I am in Japan, the more I notice that people ignore the outside of their houses, they run ugly pipes and wires up and down the walls. The inside of the house surprises. It is usually well thought out, nicely proportioned, with a lot of built-ins and an amazing economy of space. The NBOX is like a Japanese house. From the outside, it has the charm of a shipping box. Sit inside, and you don’t want to leave.

“Look at those legs!” says Martin.

That gets my interest immediately, but I see nothing except a motorcycle messenger who is about to pass us on the left. It’s his legs that attracted Martin’s attention. Actually, it’s those trick mirrors again. The side rearview mirror is curved, not in the usual horizontal, but in the vertical axis, eliminating blind spots from dog level all the way to heaven.

“It also makes legs of motor cycle riders look short and funny,” Martin opines as he deftly directs the NBOX away from the imperial palace and into Tokyo’s rush-hour.  Should the NBOX ever be federalized, then only with a decal saying “The legs in your mirror may be longer than they appear.”

Speaking of legs, anatomical differences of the Japanese race give the otherwise gushing Martin cause for criticism:

“You know, they do have shorter legs. This car is made to measure, but I am beginning to have problems.”  In a Porsche or BMW, one reclines. In an NBOX, one sits upright. With his longer legs, Martin wishes for a height-adjustable seat, which he is not provided with, or does not find. The top hat worthy headroom would accommodate much larger examples of the Aryan race, if only that darned seat could be raised.  I’m sure Honda engineers could solve that in seconds. I still suspect they may already have. My back seats are a treasure-trove of versatility; they fold more ways than an origami.

“This is the perfect car for the city chauffeur,” pronounces Martin, waves an impressive looking pass in front of a bowing guard and drives into the basement garage of the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan while rendering his final verdict:

“It handles well, it is pleasant for the passenger. As a driver, I can’t complain. Here, I don’t have to get up to open the door for the boss, I just push a button.”

We glide up the elevator. On the 20th floor, we are greeted with applause and champagne. Driver Martin has been re-elected as the storied club’s vice president, and we are having a victory party.

It is also a victory for the little big NBOX. It just received TTAC’s “Foremost Backseat Driver’s Choice” challenge trophy.  Who will challenge it next?

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48 Comments on “Review From The Backseat: King Of The Kei Cars, The Honda NBOX (Japanese Spec)...”


  • avatar
    chris724

    We had power sliding doors on our 2000 Odyssey. And they were horribly designed compared to our 2006 Town & Country. I hope Honda has improved their design since then. They were shown in the movie “Get Shorty”, which came out 17 years ago! I’m baffled why Bertel is so impressed by such a feature.

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    chauffeur is HOT, car is nice too.

  • avatar
    Ex Radio Operator

    Because of the pile of Japanese car parts they are attached to.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    Why can’t Honda engineer cars to sell in the US with the same amount of utility?

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      For the same reason that horribly packaged cars like the Ford Focus hatchback and Mercedes CLS are greeted well here. We even want our large sedans to have insufficient headroom and lousy visibility in order to advertise that we’re too rich to need a functional car. Look at French compacts if you want to see even less utility than sells here.

      • 0 avatar
        Coligny

        >> Look at French compacts if you want to see even less utility than sells here.

        Are you for real ? Even the Twingo was born with utility in mind… There is only one sedan in the current Renault lineup and it’s a rebadged Samsung, everything else have a hatchback for maximising cargo loading capacity…

  • avatar
    jco

    I’m starting to think bertel-San might have better stories than Jack.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    He writes that Americans likes them big, just last week we read that Jeep and GM SUV’s are adding third shifts to their plants and Mazda has got 0% 60 month financing on the Mazda 2, he’s right there. Thank you Americans, I’m taking advantage of the Mazda offer indeed.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      One of my sons told me today that he bought a brand new CX-9 Touring AWD for his wife last month and they absolutely love it.

      Although he did not need to finance it, he was able to get almost $4K off MSRP instead. That took care of the tax, licensing and registration, and then some.

      It was a toss up between a 2012 Grand Cherokee and the CX-9. The CX-9 won because it could fit in his garage, the Grand Cherokee could not.

      His wife is 5’2″ and likes the CX-9 better because it has better rearward visibility than the Grand Cherokee, and the CX-9 is much sportier to drive. Zoom Zoom!

  • avatar
    tonykaz

    I’d sell my KIA Soul and buy one Today , my lawn mower takes up the same size spot in my Garage , what fuel ? , a great City Car and made by Honda , nice work Mr. Serene Highness , tell Honda to put em in our Showrooms , the little women will love this thing and it will give Ford something good to Design against . Hey JB , can we race these things in Parking Lots ?

  • avatar
    Autobraz

    The closest I’ve got to having one of these were a Fiat Uno and a Honda Fit. I loved the interior space on both and both were impressive and surprising in the exterior dimensions to interior comfort ratio. It seem like Key-cars like this are even better. Another excuse to go visit Japan when budget allows then…

  • avatar
    niky

    The Fit is huge. The Fit is like an old Accord with a smaller engine bay.

    I’ve been driving a Suzuki van around all weekend. I parked it behind my cousin’s Fit yesterday, and noticed the tires on the Fit were bigger than the tires on the van.

    This wasn’t no Kei… this was a minivan that was taller than the fit and had legroom for three six-footers to sit one-behind-the-other… and the Fit’s damn wheels had an extra stud and the tires were an inch taller.

    Americanization… anything sold in America is built to an entirely different scale.

    • 0 avatar
      dejal1

      The first Gen Fit
      2,450 mm (96.5 in)
      Length 3,845 mm (151.4 in)
      157.4 in (4,000 mm) (U.S. & Canada)
      Width 1,675 mm (65.9 in)
      Height 1,525 mm (60.0 in)
      Curb weight 1,084 kg (2,390 lb) for 1.4 L LS with manual transmission

      The 2nd Gen Fit
      Wheelbase 2,500 mm (98.4 in)
      Length 2009–2011: 3,985 mm (156.9 in)
      2012– & Hybrid: 161.6 L (9,860 cu in)
      Width 1,695 mm (66.7 in)
      Height 1,525 mm (60.0 in)
      Curb weight 1,070 kg (2,359 lb) (JDM)

      The First Gen was built from 2001 to 2008 with the USA + Canada getting one from 2006 – 2008. Looks to me that the N.A. market was an after thought.

      The 2nd Gen is a whole 5.5 inches longer and a whole less than an inch wider using JDM #s. The N.A. market has a longer car for the bumpers.

      The car is sold all over the world and the N.A. market only makes up a small % of the # sold.

      But, it is the Americans “Fault” that a car not designed for the American market was sized for Americans even though the 1st 5 years of its life (2001 – 2005) it wasn’t sold in America??????

      Does America get any credit for the 2nd Gen being lighter?

      • 0 avatar
        niky

        Wikipedia helps, but it’s really a terrible source for comparison when multiple authors contribute and neglect to put weight ranges instead of spot weights.

        You need to compare apples to apples.
        US-market Fit:
        1st gen: base weight: 2432 lbs. Sport AT: 2551
        2nd gen: base weight: 2492 lbs. Sport AT: 2617 / 2628

        But this is the US Market first gen that comes with the heavier 4AT… the 2007 JDM “Road Sailing” variant with the 1.5 is only 2,312 lbs, and 2,378 lbs. with the lighter, more fuel efficient CVT. The base 1.3 manual from 2007 was 2,227 lbs. That’s over a hundred pounds LESS than the 2nd gen base model curb weight.

        http://www.carinf.com/en/f1e031458.html
        http://www.honda.com/newsandviews/article.aspx?id=2006010735878
        http://automobiles.honda.com/fit/specifications.aspx

        But I’m not here to rant about the weight. The weight gain is inconsequential considering the extra space, and considering all global Fits now meet NA specs in terms of crash safety. When I say “scale”, I mean “scale”. I don’t mean: “Dear Lord, the Fit is a ginormous car”, because it isn’t… not for the amount of space it has inside.

        What I mean is… “Dear God, they’re building it with ginormous parts bin parts to satisfy the customers’ irrational need for DUBS”. The first generation Fit made do with lighter, smaller, 4-lug wheels and 13″ to 15″ wheels. The current has 16″ wheels on 5-lug hubs shared with the Civic… kind of overkill on such a small and light car… especially as decreasing the wheel size to first generation dimensions could allow them to cut maybe thirty pounds out of the car, with corresponding gains in fuel economy due to the lesser rotating mass… but… whatever.

      • 0 avatar
        nikita

        The Fit still has four lug hubs and wheels. The 16′s on the Sport are not really larger in total diameter than the original 14′s, just that the tire is lower profile. So, the wheelhousings are still relatively small. Granted, not 1959 Mini small, but smaller than an old VW beetle.

        I drive a Fit Base. About the only cars significantly smaller offered in the US market are the Fiat 500 or 2-door Yaris. Those still dont come close to Kei cars in Japan.

      • 0 avatar
        niky

        Whoops. My bad. Yes… four lugs… but still large. Current Sports ride on 185/55R16s. Previous generation Sport rode on 195/55R15s, similar to what the current Mazda2 uses. The old cars couldn’t fit much bigger than 16″, and you had to be careful of the offset, or they’d rub. The new car can swallow 17 with no problem and even 18s fit. It’s mind boggling.

  • avatar

    As a European this car would make total sense in somewhere like London or Stockholm. Down here in the south of the USA where cities are seperated by long freeways or in the Pacific Northwest where gradients are involved, this would have to be a second car for urban travel only.

    Akiko Itoga is totally correct about thinking Americans would not want to buy them, its a sad shame, we are missing out on a lot with this car. Look at the Nissan Cube, Honda Element and other boxy people carriers. Too weird for Yankee man.

    I spend a lot of the time looking at the overweight rear of SUV’s and wonder whats the attraction of these hippos? It’s a lifestyle thing, not that the Japanese do not haul kids around, or travel long distances. It’s that we have so much more stuff, and need it with us at all times. Walk into a Stockholm apartment or a Japanese flat and you will see efficiency. Walk into many homes here in the South and the garage is full of stuff, there is an associated storage shed or two full of stuff and then there is third bedroom probably full of stuff. And if going on vacation, the car has to have room for some of that stuff, and maybe the associated storage pod on the roof. Or just take the whole house and RV it.

    Try selling an RV in Japan. I believe they will sell about 5,000 of their compact campers (they are mini RV’s) this year, only so their owners can take their pets with them.

    So great car, we do miss out, but then who wants to drive down main street in a kimono.

    • 0 avatar
      ccode81

      In reality, anyone rich enough to afford parking in central Tokyo has much larger budget for buying cars.
      Owning a car in Tokyo is not necessity, but luxury. this car is not luxury. We don’t see much of these cars with Tokyo registration plates.
      These are in fact suburb to country side mom’s multi purpose veicle.
      That kind of serious demand for everything let the kei to evolve to the high level of refinement, otherwise kei were sitting at the solid level of smart for two.

  • avatar
    Oelmotor

    The NBOX would be an ideal city car in Europe, but the Japanese tried to sell Kei-cars here with dismal results. Who knows, perhaps European consumers will eventually accept them as fuel prices and auto related taxes continue to rise.

    I would choose the versatile NBOX over the VW (insert an adjective starting with a “F” here) Up. Did VW copy the Daihatsu Sirion during the Up´s development phase?

  • avatar
    skor

    That was a very good read, thanks. Like someone else pointed out, this type of car won’t work in most of the USA…..where most trips are long, and at highway speeds. This kind of car could work in certain urban areas….New York, Boston, Chicago, but Americans won’t buy such a car, since Americans need a large car to accommodate their large bodies….and by “large” I mean fat, as in slob. I’ve got a neighbor who constantly runs his fat face about how he “needs” a big car because he is a big buy. I keep pointing out to him that in reality, he’s a slob. He counters by calling me “little man”. I can, and do, go on 40 mile bike rides. My neighbor couldn’t walk a mile without dying of heart failure, but he’ll never stop making fun of those “scrawny little Japs”. American are going to deserve whatever it is they get….and are probably going to get it good and hard.

    • 0 avatar

      I was going to go there, but now you have said it. Are cars have increased size in direct proportion to our portion sizes

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        Cars are bigger because we managed to figure out how to make big cars that get decent mileage. Take a look at the land yachts from before the malaise era and the OPEC crisis; waistlines haven’t anything to do with car size—in fact, cars shrank about the same time as obesity started to become an epidemic.

        And obesity is an epidemic (mostly) because our diet contains a far more simple carbohydrates (sugars) than it really should, and that’s due to anti-fat hysteria and the pushing of corn sugar into everything.

    • 0 avatar
      modelt1918

      hey skor, the proper word is OBESE.

    • 0 avatar
      dartman

      Hey Skor…FYI, the most revered and respected individuals in Japanese culture are guys so big that they can’t wipe their own ass, and their sole focus in life is to push an equally big guy out of a circle. Keep up your 40 mile bike ride regimen and you may qualify for an ass-wipe job. You certainly have the right attitude and respect for the Japanese culture.

      • 0 avatar
        Rican5.0

        You sound fat.

      • 0 avatar
        juicy sushi

        Actually Sumo is increasingly unpopular in Japan. Baseball and soccer are the big spectator sports.

        We North Americans ARE fat. Portion sizes are out of control and we have the delusion we need far more space than in reality. 30 years ago, the average home was 1500 sq ft. Now its 2500 sq ft.

        Current North American culture is based on waste as a preferred lifestyle choice. Your comment reflects that.

      • 0 avatar
        pesmooth

        Yeah but they’re not “fat” in the American sense of lazy, bloated squishy people that tend to be lazy. They’re fat in the “I can break your neck with a flick of my wrist” sense. Seriously, they’re extremely muscle dense. Oh and they can wipe their own ass. Most sumo wrestlers are extraordinarily flexible, otherwise their opponent could easily injure them.

    • 0 avatar
      Mr Nosy

      Your neighbor,like many fat people,has found out how to get your goat,as it’s a defense mechanism often developed from childhood.Perhaps he’s referring to you as “little man” in reference to your emotional,or empathic stature.Or not.I only care enough to type,neatly.Most cars today are larger as a result of increased safety equipment,vis-a-vis cars of the same size from the past.I personally love small cars,but not ones with pointlessly large amounts of headroom,me being 6’2″,I’d be hard pressed to find use for all that crosswind catching headroom.Perhaps the Japanese use the extra headroom to transport their culturally vital bludgeoned cetacean carcasses.Speaking as a fat,tidy,American,who loves Flipper,well,this car just isn’t me…P.S. Have ya tried shoe lifts,Blanche?

  • avatar
    boxelder

    This is one of the most “me” cars I’ve ever seen. Admittedly, I have a bit of a “thing” for quirky Japanese thingamabobs. My current ride is a 2002 WRX Sport Wagon, for reference. If anyone here knows how to import one of these nifty little boxes from Japan to be made street legal here, let me know. It’d be worth it just for the shock value.

  • avatar
    MeaCulpa

    So, upright seating, lots of headroom and ample space for legs in the rear seat. BUT the car needs adjustable seats, can somebody say “air-ride seats”? That would make it the most awesome mini-limo, the delux version should feature deleted front passenger seat, an air-ride recliner and a fridge instead of the driver side rear seat.

  • avatar

    Thank you for posting this!

  • avatar
    MrWhopee

    Man, I wish Honda would sell these in Indonesia. It would be perfect for Jakarta’s perpetual traffic jam and sometimes impossibly tight parking space. With these, if you park in a space too tight for the conventional doors to open properly, just climb out back and use the sliding door. And the tiny engine would sip fuel too. The trick mirrors would help immensely in those tight parking situation. And it looks pretty good too. I’ve found my new dream car. I want one!

    • 0 avatar
      kuman

      me too!

      However few years back subaru tries to sell R1 & R2 but it didn’t succeed. spare part prblem… my friend has one, the suspension is too weak to handle our road. one pot hole on dark rainy night and he ended up with bent MacPherson strut. which took a while to repair. I also saw 2nd hand honda lief turbo for around 120 mio in one of the used car dealer in north jakrta area however the seller is as quiet as stone when i asked them about servicing.

      i guess the only problem with these cars are spare parts.

  • avatar
    wstarvingteacher

    I drive a Nissan cube and I’m pretty happy with it. I think if you dumped the CVT I could be happy with this too. large cars are very overrated. Four adults ride very comfortably in the cube and five can if they are friendly. With 65 horses it should do ok. I did ok for years with 40 horse beetles.

    I know I might seem easy to please but I’m really not. I just like the steak better than the sizzle. I think most things people buy are for the most part – just sizzle.

  • avatar
    Felis Concolor

    And here I thought Cat Eye only produced bicycle accessories.

  • avatar
    Tomifobia

    Just out of curiosity, when did “back seat” become one word?

  • avatar
    felix

    I’ve sat in a Kei. Unfortunately the way they make the interior so spacious is to leave out the crumple zones.
    Inside there’s precious little metal and even less air
    space between the metal separating you from the
    outside world. In an accident the occupants become
    the crush space. It might not be a big deal in
    Japan where drivers are generally courteous and won’t
    race you.
    But it’s not like that elsewhere.

  • avatar
    Chicago Dude

    “‘Americans won’t buy them,’ says our contact at Honda who meets us in the basement garage of Honda’s headquarters in Tokyo.”

    I’ll finish the quote.

    “Americans won’t buy them in sufficient quantity to build them in the USA and we aren’t going to lose money on every single one we export.”

    It has all the makings of a cult hit. If only one of the Honda factories in Ohio was flexible enough to build 5000-10000 of these a year at a profit.

  • avatar
    Toad

    It seems like these would be great taxis. Maybe not much room for luggage but lots of room for people, great fuel economy, and very easy to maneuver.

    Some individuals might like them too, particularly in urban areas. As a grocery getter and kid hauler they might be terrific.

  • avatar
    tmkreutzer

    I’d like to see TTAC’s man in Tokyo do a thorough report on how Kei cars fare in crahses.

    I lived in Japan for 9 years and have driven my fair share of Kei cars and trucks. I can never think about these little cars without my mind quickly turning to the WWII era Zero fighter. Sure, the Zero had formidable performance, but it was a tin can with no armor or self sealing tanks – basically the things that will keep you alive when the worst thing happens and Pappy Boyington or some other American hero slides in behind you and lets you have it with all six 50 calibers.

    Articles like this make us all wish we could buy the littlest Japanese cars, but they fail teo tell us that Kei cars are built to a price and a purpose. They frequently peel open in low speed accidents and spread their contents – you, your wife and kids – onto the street (at least that’s what they do when they aren’t crumpling into a wad of tin foil around you and yours.)

    It’s fun to read stuff like this and to give us all a chance to gripe about how big cars in the USA are, but could you also tell the other side of the story as well?

  • avatar
    juicy sushi

    If one could do highway speeds, I’d buy it in a heartbeat.

  • avatar
    B.C.

    I want those mirror things badly.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    The nearest thing to a kei car that I’ve driven is the Geo Metro 3 banger. Or a ’58 bug. Suzuki made a very small pick up that I would love to own.

  • avatar

    It is August 2013 and I made a point to count NBOXes out on the street. Result: ZERO. Not even one, but three Mitsubishi i. Eventually I found one NBOX in the lot of Hondarent. Bertel-sensei, what happen! Someone set Honda the bomb?


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