Who doesn’t love a good kei car?
Kei is the name given to cars with an engine no larger than 660cc in capacity, no more power than 63bhp, and a footprint no greater than 3400mm long and 1500mm wide. Every Tokyo motor show seems to throw up new models that show off Japanese automotive creativity at its weird and wonderful best.
What puzzles me is that, no matter how often we eulogise about how wonderful kei cars are, exports further afield never materialise, and nor are they likely to do so.
Shame. For I, like many other commentators, genuinely feel kei cars have huge potential in London and Europe’s over-crowded urban hotspots. I understand there are safety regulations to consider, but what's good for Tokyo should be good for us. It’s that width figure as much as anything that steals the headlines for me.
New cars might be getting lower and lighter, and sometimes even shorter, but the one thing they never are is narrower. Cars around two metres in width are becoming the norm. At the same time, urban roads in major cities such as London have not got any wider to compensate.
When driving into central London, I do so via the M4 and A4. Past the Hammersmith Flyover and Earls Court, the three narrow lanes become two narrow lanes, and at all times you really have to be alert and on guard to make sure you keep within your lane. There is little margin for error, and, as I’m sure you know, other motorists aren’t as well behaved as you or me.
You only need a daydreaming National Express driver on his way to Exeter or an errant Land Rover Freelander to go walkabout to be on your brakes, thereby causing all those behind you to do the same. Thanks to all those in question on the A4 on Sunday night…
Now if only everyone was driving around in such wonders as the Daihatsu D-Base concept, the Nissan Teatro for Dayz, the Suzuki Mighty Deck or Air Triser, then Londoners could waft around in their narrow lanes as much as they liked without impeding motorists in others.
We can only dream.