European car manufacturers have grown their cars into monsters. The original Golf was a small, fun hatchback that has grown over the years into something substantially larger. Added safety and comfort has led to “small hatchbacks” that are as large as family saloons from twenty years ago. Heavier, larger cars are more difficult to park, consume more fuel and fill up our roads.
This is why I have a soft spot for the Kei Car. The Japanese have stubbornly clung to the idea that narrow streets require small cars and there’s an entire segment dedicated to them. Strict limits are put on the physical size and engine capacity of these cars, resulting in relatively inexpensive vehicles ideally suited to city driving.
Not a box on wheels
While most end up looking like boxes on wheels, some manufacturers like to have a little fun. Daihatsu has been producing the two seat, open top sports car “Copen” for decades and I have to admit I have something of a soft spot for it. It reminds me of the old MG Midget or Frogeye Sprite far more than Mazda’s MX-5. It’s underpowered and the chassis is, by many accounts, a little “supple” but it looks the part with its round eye headlamps and compact styling.
At the moment my car is a Mercedes SLK, which I thoroughly enjoy. Having such a large and powerful car is probably going to be impractical in Kobe, so I might have to keep my eyes open for a Copen.