Since I seem to be on the theme of cars recently I have another automobile-related post for you today, this time at the opposite end of the spectrum.
Japan has a special category of light vehicles called kei-jidousha (軽自動車) that are cheap to own and operate. When I was previously living in Japan (before I had kids) I owned one of these. To give you an idea of its size, when sitting in the driver’s seat I could touch all four corners of the interior roof with my left hand! They are perfect for short commutes and as a daily runner.
To qualify as a Light Vehicle, cars must have an engine size no more than 660cc and maximum power of 47kW, as well as meet certain physical size restrictions. These small cars are identified by yellow number plates and qualify for lower stamp duty on purchase, lower highway tolls, lower road tax, lower insurance, and lower vehicle inspection fees (weight tax component). Being so small, they also result in lower human survival rates in crashes. As we were told in one of our orientation seminars when first arriving in Japan, “If you get a kei car, and you have a highway accident, don’t expect to be able to use your legs again.”
There is even a category of ute known as a Kei Truck. My parents-in-law use one of these midget utes around the farm.
Of course a huge advantage with Kei cars is that they are fuel misers. Suzuki are currently advertising a new model that achieves over 30km per litre of petrol. Our Camry back home would go about 7.7km by comparison. (Incidentally, I like the km/litre metric that is used in Japan to measure fuel consumption. It’s much easier to calculate running costs compared to Australia’s litres/100km metric.)