The Tokyo motorshow isn’t all Teatro for Dayz with your Bongo Friendees. Daihatsu is rolling out some very interesting minimalist keis, even if the cute hides it well.

Since Daihatsu is effectively the bit of Toyota that makes tax busting, parking cheating kei cars for the Japanese market, their products tend to be automotive bonsai, if you’ll forgive the cliché. These people have been eking full size car utility out of tiny vehicles for a long time. So it’s worth looking at what they manage to do, even if you can barely buy them outside of Japan.

First up: the Noriori. It may be cute as a whole box of buttons and toy-like in proportions, but look closer. Noriori means something like ‘getting on and off’, and that is indeed the point:

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That’s two wheel chairs and two seats, or five seats or a whole shedload of crap, or any combination in between. Check out those overhead luggage bins too. All of this is in a vehicle that sticks to kei standards, and is therefore 3.4 meters long by 1.48 meters wide (11 ft. by 5ish ft.) but almost 2 meters tall (6’67”) inside, and motivated by a 660 cc triple. To accommodate the wheel chairs, it drops its suspension when parked, and has those massive sliding doors on both sides.

What’s so great about it isn’t just the frankly astonishing packaging, but also the clean, simple and functional design. Yes, like modern consumer electronics, but adopting from that tech what applies to cars, not what some marketing twerp thinks is hip. Just check the dash:

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Anyone can walk in there, and drive off immediately. Everything you need and nothing you don’t, 21st century edition.

Daihatsu promises a production version “soon”. If I ran a community shuttle service or the USPS, I’d be making some calls to Kyoto.

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Next up: the Tempo

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Whether it is a reference to Germany’s Tempo Hanseat of the ‘50s, I’m not sure, but it seems apposite. It’s a food truck, pure and simple:

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Yes, it does have screens on the outside, but on a food truck that actually makes some sense. As the Noriori, it fits in the kei dimensions, but is ‘only’ 2 meters on the outside. That seems a bit low, but people in Japan do seem to work their kei food trucks sitting down.

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The Tempo does have a turbo on its 666 cc triple, but what effect that has on its, er, tempo is unknown. No idea about production plans, but, doors apart, its design does seem to preview Daihatsu’s next generation of kei vans.

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The closest to production is the Hinata, which means something like ‘sunny place’. Ain’t it just. Conceptually not a million miles from many existing kei microvans, it’s nonetheless remarkable for the same clean and clear surfaces, and decent proportions. Not easy, given the kei restrictions. Also, those are the finest, most unapologetic hubcaps I’ve seen in a long time.

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What’s not so conventional is the interior lay out and door arrangement:

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For getting children in their child seats, and elderly relatives in the car, this could really work.

While the decor may take the Hinata idea rather far – astroturf, anyone? –, the interior design seems fairly close to production.

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Now the Noriori, Tempo and Hinata are fine tools for folk with other priorities than ‘ring times, but Daihatsu also has something more conventionally automotive, the D-base.:

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Styling wise as overdone and meh as the others are clean, functional and interesting, but I suppose 3 l./100 km (78 mpg US) is pretty damn good, and the result of a combination of low weight, aggressive energy recovery and a CVT.

While the kei proportions pretty much guarantee Japan only status for these ... vehicles, I sure do hope that the purely functional focus and clean design of the Noriori, Tempo and Hinata will get picked up by others.

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(Photo credit: Daihatsu, and Lokilech at wikimedia)