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Can cheap Japanese Kei cars find their place in the European market?

Last year Nissan and Mitsubishi launched a pair of electric Kei cars in Japan. Two identical models that in the case of the Nissan even managed to win the car of the year award in that market. The key, an extremely compact design, with ample interior space and a reasonable price. A proposal that could have its space in Europe.

And it is that in our market, the options in the low price zone are very irregular. The cheapest alternatives are the quadricycle Citroen AMIfrom 8,990 euros for a proposal with a maximum speed of 45 km/h, a range of 75 kilometers and only two seats.

Then the jump is to the Dacia Spring, which raises the maximum speed to 125 km/h, autonomy reaches 230 km, and its price is placed at 20,555 euros in its most economical version. An important gap that could be covered by a Kei car like the one from Nissan or Mitsubishi.

The Japanese proposal for its part offers us a model 3.4 meters long, 1.48 meters wide and 1.66 meters high, with a 2.5-meter wheelbase. It is approved for four seater and has a trunk of just 107 liters. Its electric motor offers 47 kW (64 CV) of power, which propels it up to a top speed of 130 km/h.

Its 20 kWh battery pack provides an autonomy of 180km WLTC. It has a fast charging system, thanks to which it goes from 10 to 80% in just 40 minutes, all with a price in Japan of 2,333,100 yen, 15,940 euros to changebefore public aid.

Do electric Kei cars have their space in Europe?

But we are talking about a European market where regulations have made cars safer vehicles, but also more expensive, and where models that arrive from outside our borders must adapt their proposal in different sections if they want to be able to sell.

But perhaps the first barrier is cultural, related to design. The Kei cars stand out for their square shape, which is the result of Japanese government regulations to develop vehicles that occupy the minimum space, but offer good interior habitability rates.

The precedents are not very optimistic, since in our market we have seen proposals such as the Suzuki Wagon R + or the Opel Agila pass with more pain than glory. Two very Kei car designs that have not been able to be implemented due to factors such as a design that clashes with European tastes for the most curved lines, and above all, the appetite for SUVs.

The Opel Agila was a minivan of segment A manufactured from the year 2000 to 2014.

Added to this is the need to adapt vehicles to strict GSR2 safety standards. These determine that the models launched in Europe from July 6, 2022 must comply, and from 2024 the existing models for sale in the market must do so, to remain on sale with requirements such as have advanced emergency braking, driver drowsiness detection and emergency lane keeping, among other systems.

Something that is not a problem for new launches, but a challenge for vehicles already developed and launched on the market without these features.

The good news is that the models mentioned above have technologies such as the system Nissan Pro-Pilotwhich would possibly make it easier to comply with European regulations without having to face major changes.

An aspect of design that could go into the background if we take into account the benefits that a simple, functional type of vehicle will offer its customers, and above all, with a price that can be placed halfway between the Citroën AMI and the Dacia Spring, about 15-17 thousand eurosthey could certainly have their chance.

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