Mitsubishi Super Height K-Wagon Pushes Japan’s Kei Car Boundaries
My old boss at Nissan spent years trying to avoid his friends finding out that Nissan once produced a car called the Cedric. He was then equally mortified by the S-Cargo, designed to look – and sound (check out that name pun) – like a snail. Yet the quirky designs that periodically materialise from Japan sometimes produce something that resonates and may be seen as ahead of its time – like the Nissan Figaro for example; a precursor to today’s city car.
When you realise that the Japanese have a category of their own for very small vehicles, the ‘kei car’ category, you begin to understand why Japan seems to produce such vehicles so much more than other nations. The kei car has been a Japanese vehicle category since 1949, regulating the design and safety of the smallest road-legal vehicles for Japanese roads.
Japan’s best selling kei car is the Suzuki Wagon R, which has sold more than 3 million since 2003. So it may be no surprise that the new Mitsubishi Super Height K-Wagon concept bares a bit of a resemblance to this proven winner.
Such vehicles are the antithesis of the powerful Japanese sports car, favouring practicality over speed and generally having engines as small as their proportions. The Mitsubishi K-Wagon is no different, with a tiny 660cc petrol power plant connected to a CVT gearbox.
The Mitsubishi Super Height K-Wagon was revealed recently at the Tokyo Motor Show, with the initial surprise being that while tiny, the K-Wagon is quite a tall, spacious vehicle. This Suzuki-like upright boxy SUV design would initially appear to go against the wind tunnel generated modern designs that we have become accustomed to seeing – designs meant to cut through the air and thus improve fuel economy. When you have a 660cc engine such design tends to go out of the window. Far more important is to eke out as much usable space as you can from the tiny footprint; it’s almost as if the designer of the classic London red bus has got his hands on a smaller project for Japan’s inner-city congested roads. Because of this upright design, there appears to be plenty of room in the rear. The rear seats are certainly not the ‘+2’ that might in the past have tried to convince you, as you parted with your cash, that your sleek sports car was also a family car. In fact, Mitsubishi claims that the K-Wagon has not only the largest rear door in its class but also the largest rear legroom.
The inside feel is of premium on a budget, with very pleasant looking faux leather and diamond-quilted seating. Mitsubishi e-Assist keeps things safe along with automatic emergency braking, and MI-PILOT technology makes sure you stay in your lane.
Of course, if you prefer your tiny kei car to offer a bit more grunt, you could always opt for tracking down a Daihatsu Copen. Originally with a 660cc engine (turbo-charged) but later upgraded to a 1.3 litre for the European market where the kei car is not a recognised category as such.
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