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  #1  
Old 05-24-2011, 07:08 AM
Bugace Bugace is offline
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Kei cars.

Hi friends!

Beeing a total car nut, I've decided to learn more about the japanese Kei cars. I have of course the history behind the Kei cars, from the internet, and other sources, but..................
Anyone having any experience with any of them?
Is it just the enginesize that puts them in the Kei car category? Why this question? Because I am unsure about some exported cars. You got the Honda N360, wich was a Kei car. Was the Honda 600 a Kei car?
Also there have been a lot of "mini" vans, trucks, etc. In the '80's there was a boom in europe, seeing Suzukis Carrys, Subaru Sambars, Daihatsu, and others. Was these Kei cars?

Also prominent with the Kei cars is something else. Horsepower output. The Subaru R-2ss of '69 having a 360ccm engine, and 36 horsepowers. Now, is this Din, or Sae, horsepowers? If Din, it is a 100 hp litre NA car!!

As a norwegian, it's not many Kei cars I've seen on the road. Later years some of the 0.7 litre cars have appared, like the Copen, and of course there have been lots of the minivans. My self having thousands of K's behind the steeringwheel of a Suzuki Carry. This Carry was not stock though, the engine was swapt for a 1.0 litre from a SJ410. That was a amazing engine, which we drove with no watercoolant for years. The radiator leaked, the airfilter had melted, and was halfway down the manifold.

Any others having something to tell about these small japanese cars?
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  #2  
Old 05-24-2011, 10:04 AM
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It's not just the engine size. Kei-cars must also fit within some size restriction defined by the government. They also run different plates and are limited to somewhere under well under 100hp. (Wiki says 64 PS)
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Old 05-24-2011, 11:31 AM
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Wasn't in Japan these are the car equivalent of scooter? I think you don't even need license for them...
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Old 05-24-2011, 12:51 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RacingManiac View Post
Wasn't in Japan these are the car equivalent of scooter? I think you don't even need license for them...
Those were the quadricycles, weren't they?
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  #5  
Old 05-25-2011, 05:25 AM
MilesR MilesR is offline
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Kei cars, according to the current rules, must have dimensions (L/W/H) of less than 3,400mm/1,475mm/2,000mm, from memory. Their engine displacement is limited to 660cc, and their maximum power output cannot exceed 47kw. They have been through a few incarnations, with engine sizes including 100cc two stroke, 150cc, 360cc and 550cc four stroke at various stages. The older, smaller engine examples were not power limited, and had smaller physical size constraints. The Honda N600 sold in america was a Japanese N360, with a bigger engine. The larger engine disqualified it from the kei car class in Japan at the time, although the dimensions were otherwise the same as the domestic market kei car.

These cars are wonderful. I owned, until recently, a Daihatsu Mira kei car, from 1993, when the rules mandated a 660c engine, and dimensions of 3,300mm/1,400mm/2,000mm. It was a terrific car to drive, as it was small, light and telepathically agile. It was like driving a glove - small and close fitting, but also comfortable, despite its size. The engine was low powered in absolute terms, but with 41kw, it had an impressive specific output by any normal modern standards. The torque was low, but adequate, and there was a lot of enjoyment to be had from driving in such a way that it would keep up with traffic, without having to push it hard. It also felt fast at low speeds, and it was possible to drive it enthusiastically, without being booked for speeding. I could hold top gear from 40km/h, with a gentle right foot, and achieve about 4L/100km. It had a claimed top speed of 130km/h, and when I (accidentally) had it at about 125km/h, it felt like it had plenty left on tap. I loved finding difficult parking spots, just so that I could leave it where no-one else could. Mine had air conditioning, five speeds, four valves per cylinder (three cylinder), an overhead cam and electronic multi-point injection. In Japan, my model was also available with dark sensing headlights, rain sensing wipers, four wheel drive, a turbo and an automatic gearbox, as options, as shown here:


These cars are terrific. They are available in Japan as everything from minimalist, cheap motoring (the van model of the new Mira comes with an old-fashioned key and wind-up windows) to quite luxurious and sophisticated cars. The new Daihatsu Move comes with options like adaptive cruise control, reversing cameras, lane departure warning, and auto engine stop-start, among other features. This model is still relatively cheap to buy, and fuel consumption is claimed to be less than 4L/100km. Not bad for a cheap, non-diesel, non-hybrid conventional petrol car.

There are a number of oddball models, too. Honda made the Beat in the 1990s, which was a true successor to the old s500/600/800 models of the '60s. It had a mid-mounted engine, with a sophisticated variable valve system, 47kw at about 8,500rpm and a rev limit of about 9,0000rpm. Mitsubishi currently makes the i, which is the domestic market model of the electric iMIEV, (which has been marketed in Australia - I don't know about Europe or US). The petrol model has a rear-mounted engine, with an optional turbo, and De Dion rear suspension. This allows the engine to sit under the rear seat, creating more interior space.

The 47kw power limit has interesting consequences. 47kw is not a lot of power, but it is easily enough for the purpose. The turbo engines, particularly the JB-DET from the Daihatsu Copen, generates its peak torque at about 4,000rpm, and its peak power just above 5,000rpm. However, the engine (a 660cc four-cylinder in this case) redlines at about 8,500rpm. Therefore the turbo boost is progressively limited at high revs, reducing the torque to comply with the power limit. This gives this engine (and other model engines likewise), its best torque at normal engine speeds, but the potential to rev high, for sporty driving. The power output is effectively constant from 5,000rpm to 8,500rpm, so changing gear such that the revs remain in this range means that the engine will develop its peak power all of the time. It also means that the power can be boosted very easily, just by tweaking the turbo to maintain its boost at higher revs.

I love these cars. The limits on the power and engine size, combined with the relative constancy of the rules, has resulted in very sensible, well engineered, well packaged and refined cars. I wish that enough people bought them to make them viable in the rest of the world. Surely introducing kei class rules could be used as a very cheap environmental policy, for governments, like mine, that are currently sabotaging themselves with carbon tax policies.
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  #6  
Old 05-25-2011, 05:43 AM
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Heh, back when Top Gear was the most informative car show....


..


.. In the world.
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Old 05-25-2011, 06:23 AM
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the mira's are quite popular here


i personally had a lot of fun offroad in a suzuki LJ10 (? whatever the 70's model willy's jeep look alike was). was so small and light it could traverse obstacles that a bigger car would sink into.
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Old 05-25-2011, 06:29 AM
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I'd like to have a Suzuki Cappuccino.....

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Last edited by RacingManiac; 05-25-2011 at 06:31 AM.
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  #9  
Old 05-25-2011, 06:36 AM
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I always sort of fancied the Autozam AZ-1. It's like a compressed super-car. Mid-engined, gullwing doors, glass roof. It is a little ugly, and it's got those stupid uneccessary semi-window things, but it's cool nonetheless.
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Old 05-25-2011, 11:41 AM
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Swapped a Honda Beat with mate for a weekend and it was one of the most FUN days driving. Great handling, point it and it goes, most twisties can be easily straightened out
Not great acceleration, but getting there sounded great and weight/handling meant you didn't need to slow down as much for corners.
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  #11  
Old 05-25-2011, 03:54 PM
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i actually think they've a lot in common with the old mini. a sort of spiritual successor!
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  #12  
Old 05-26-2011, 01:50 PM
Bugace Bugace is offline
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You guys are just top!
But Miles, from what I read about the old Subaru R2ss, and I guess most of those other Kei cars with 360 engines, it was two stroke, not 4 stroke. Also, I know they had a power limit before, and today. But the 354ccm R2ss had 100, 99.7 to be excact, bhp per litres, as it had 35.5 horses. Also 63 hp from a 660ccm engine is not bad at all.
Now I will have to check some more, because there are so many developments in the "rules" for the Kei cars.
The export versions of some of these cars, might have other specs then the domestic Kei cars. I know that the Daihatsu Copen is available with both left, and right hand steeringwheel. Not sure if any of the others have been made with LHD.

Last edited by Bugace; 05-26-2011 at 01:58 PM.
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  #13  
Old 05-26-2011, 07:19 PM
MilesR MilesR is offline
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The wikipedia page has a good general table of the changes to the kei rules over time. In the earliest days, four stroke engines were limited to 150cc, while two-strokes were limited to 100cc. Those limits grew fairly rapidly, and from 1955, no distinction was made between two- and four-stroke. Therefore, two-stroke was widely used, for the sake of the extra power, until emission restrictions put an end to that. And yes, the specific outputs were impressive. My naturally aspirated four stroke Mira was claimed to have about 40.5kw, which is about 60kw (80hp) per litre, in its unmodified economy tune.

The export models did tend to have variable specs. The Honda Z600 was sold with the larger engine for the american market, the Subaru REX had a 750cc engine in overseas markets, while the Mira was available with the option of an 850cc. The current export model Suzuki Alto is a 1,000cc, physically enlarged variant of the domestic market kei car. As far as I know, many models' convertible, turbo, four-wheel-drive and other high-specification options, such as those mentioned in the Top Gear video, were available for the domestic market only.

Because the kei class is specifically a feature of the Japanese market, many models in the kei class are intended for the Japanese domestic market only, so LHD availability is patchy at best.
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Old 05-26-2011, 07:20 PM
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cute!

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Old 05-26-2011, 09:48 PM
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I love Cappuccinos and Honda's Beat. Not quite old enough yet to import from Canada... gotta be 25 years old by US law.
They still look contemporary, it's hard to believe they're almost that!

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