Zest Minicar On Sale March 1
The Japanese market has seen variations on the tiny fuel-sipping car theme for many years. In the USA, we may refer to them as minicars. In Japan this class is called “kei cars”. We at VehicleVoice and AutoPacific can fondly remember the Honda City that came with a diminutive motor scooter in the cargo area circa the mid-1980s. Never made it to the States except as Honda test cars or gray market one-offs. The scooter was its claim to fame, but in American traffic a car the size of a Japanese kei car is just a bit frightening. But Japanese car companies need to compete with these types of cars in their home market where where are substantial tax benefits.
Honda introduced its new Zest kei car on March 1 in Japan. In Japan, the Zest kei car class is comprised of cars that meet certain exterior and engine size requirements. Among the requirements are a cap for overall length set at a 3395mm and a power output cap of 64HP. These small cars, while they fall in and out of fashion globally, are in part the result of government restrictions and manipulations in the Japanese economy. High taxes and government rules make kei cars attractive to many Japanese consumers, a situation that does not exist in the States. While on paper, these small cars sound like a terrific solution for U.S. buyers looking for ultra-economic transportation, they are too small to sell in sufficient numbers in the States to be profitable.
The Zest measures less than 134 inches long, though there is a terrific amount of space inside. While in Japan the segment with cars this size is significant, the Zest is a full sixteen inches shorter than the three-door Toyota Yaris hatcback. Other cars that U.S. buyers consider small have an overall length even further from the Zest, and are pictured below. Mazda’s MX-5 convertible is almost 156 inches long, Scion’s xB is 155 inches long, Toyota’s Yaris sedan is nearly 170 inches long, and Honda’s Fit is more than 157 inches long. These examples seem to be about as small as the North American buyer is willing to go, despite any inherent logic that a small city car may have in terms of inexpensive operation and a usable size for city driving. The fact is that we do not need cars as small as the Zest in the USA, and so far, it doesn’t seem that Americans want them, either. So, admire from afar kei-car enthusiasts! You’ll have to wait til your next trip to Tokyo to see the Zest in person.