The new 2007 Daihatsu Sonica mini-MPV somehow manages to combine an extremely small footprint with a *cough* spacious interior that allows five (or rather four plus very tiny one) persons to travel from point A to point B in *cough* relative *cough* comfort. Just to understand how compact the car is, consider that it is almost six inches shorter than the upcoming 2007 Fiat 500! Well, that is why it is called a Kei-car, isn’t it?
What is a Kei-car? Basically, it is a Japanese motor vehicle, which is built in compliance with a set of tax and insurance preferences for the ultra-compact cars that makes your life easier if your car is no more than 3.4 meters long, 1.48 meters wide and 2 meters tall.
The regulations were introduced by the local government to combat traffic congestion inside their overpopulated urban conglomerates. Surprisingly, the tiny vehicles proved quite popular among local motorists not only because of obvious financial advantages thanks to lower taxes and lower expenses on gasoline, but also because Japanese car manufacturers now have an impressive experience designing extremely small vehicles that allows them to create cars that are not only small, but also quite comfortable and highly ergonomic.
Created to neatly fit the regulations dimensions that are required by the regulations, the 2007 Daihatsu Sonica measures only 3,395 mm in length, 1,475 mm in width and 1,470 mm in height.
Although clearly narrower and lower than the European hipster’s icon Smart ForFour, the Japanese vehicle is nevertheless around 40 centimeters shorter although its wheelbase is almost the same: 2440 millimeters against 2500 mm of the four-door Smart.
This still leaves enough space for four grown-ups and a small kid, as well as provides for a tiny luggage compartment in the rear.
The car seems to offer adequate rearview visibility featuring quite large side mirrors with integrated turn signals and a wide window in the cargo hatch. Its short bumpers allow high maneuverability (you will love it on a cramped parking lot) and the doors seem to be long enough for passengers to enter and exit without bumping their heads on A and B pillars, but still adequately short if you find your car squeezed between a Tacoma on the right and an F-150 on the left.
The new JDM-only kei-car was first presented last year in Tokyo as a Daihatsu SK Tourer and soon went on sale with only minor modifications to its head lights, hood, rear view mirrors and front bumper.
On the Japanese market the vehicle competes with the new Suzuki Cervo, Subaru R2 and Mitsubishi i ultra-compacts, is powered by a tiny 64 hp, 0.658-liter (this is the maximum power output and displacement automakers can get if they want their vehicles to fit the kei-car category), three-cylinder turbo KF-DET engine mated to the latest continuously variable transmission (CVT).
This kind of engine/transmission combination does not only ensure smooth driving but also provides impressive fuel economy — the front-wheel drive trim can run 23 kilometers (about 14 miles) on just one liter of gasoline (it’s something like 4.36 L/100km or 54 mpg).
The 2007 Daihatsu Sonica, which sits four passengers, comes in three trims — R, RS, and the RS Limited, but it is not clear from the corporate press release, what difference those indexes make. Probably, it’s all about interior finish and some ‘premium’ options.
In Japan, the car will cost ¥1.13 – 1.475 million (approx. $9,840 – 12,840).