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Kei Cars: The Little Cars That Can

In the Western world, cars seem to have been getting bigger.  For example, my early 2000 Volvo S70, a generous sedan when it came out, is shorter than the more modern “little” hatchbacks in the supermarket car park beside it.  However, this isn’t the case around the world.  In Japan, congestion is a problem in busy cities such as Tokyo and Kyoto, so one of the solutions was to introduce what are known as kei cars, also known as compact cars. Some people call these K-cars, as this is approximately the way the word “kei” is pronounced.

The concept of kei cars isn’t new; in fact, the Japanese government introduced the general idea and legislation related to these vehicles in the late 1940s as part of the post-WWII recovery efforts.  Back then, it was more about encouraging car ownership and stimulating the local automotive industry (and you can see for yourself how well that worked, given the number of Japanese makes on Australia’s roads).  Today, however, it’s more about congestion and fuel consumption.

What is a kei car?  As the Japanese name suggests (in full, it’s kei-jidōsha), it’s a small car.  Specifically, it’s one that has restrictions on its size, both in terms of its dimensions and its engine displacement.  To qualify as a kei car, an automobile has to be no taller than 2 metres, no wider than 1.45 metres and no longer than 3.4 metres.  In terms of engine displacement, the maximum allowed is 660 cc. There’s no official limit on engine power, but it’s very unusual for a factory kei car to have more than 47 kW.  Not that tuning and tweaking to get a bit more power is out of the question for those interested… Most of them are speed-limited to 140 km/h, which makes sense, given that these are designed for crowded city streets, not open road rural running.  The width means that they don’t handle quite as well at high speeds, so that’s another reason why their top speed isn’t as high as what you’d find with the average Toyota Corolla.

Needless to say, electric kei cars are out there as well.

To encourage the adoption of kei cars, the Japanese government has a few incentives set up.  If a car qualifies to have the distinctive yellow kei plates, it’s exempt from the need to buy parking space (apparently, to buy a car in Japan, you first have to buy street space to park it).  Various on-road taxes are reduced with kei cars, as these taxes are based on things such as the engine displacement and the weight. 

Now, we all know that where there are large numbers of people, there are houses to fix and goods to be transported, which require vans and trucks.  Your typical kei car has the sort of cargo space that would suit a minimalist (Marie Kondo would love these, if she doesn’t already).  However, kei vans and kei trucks are a thing – although we’d call latter kei utes, as they’re “pickup truck” rather than a miniature version of a big old Scania.  The kei vans or microvans are allowed to be taller than the kei cars, which allows the to carry more of a load and has earned them the nickname of “miàn bāo chē” (meaning “bread loaf cars” in nearby China. The kei trucks have the same basic wheelbase but a cab-chassis layout.

Because of their low fuel consumption, suitability for urban settings, kei cars and their relatives are growing in popularity in other parts of the world outside Japan.  Their general cuteness relates to another Japanese concept, namely the kawaii (cute) aesthetic.  Although many customers in Australia are leery about very small cars, given that physics says that they’re not going to come off well in a collision with an SUV, some popular kei marks are found in the Aussie market. Do any of these sound familiar?

These are all “regular” cars that meet the criteria for kei cars that you can find down at your local dealer (which is why we have them in our reviews page).  Plenty of people also arrange for private imports of popular kei cars such as various Daihatsu models, the stylish Honda Beat coupe convertible, the Suzuki Every van, the Toyota Copen sports car and the Subaru Sambar, just to name a few. There’s even a kei version of the Mitsubishi Pajero, the Pajero Mini.

Hydrogen-Fuelled Hiace Van Tested for Light Commercial Duties

Fancy a new van for the business?  Like, I mean a really cool new van that runs on hydrogen… Well, this fancy might just be getting fulfilled a little sooner thanks to some Australian business owners who have been given a Toyota Hiace with a hydrogen-powered internal combustion engine (ICE).  Yes, that’s right – hydrogen ICE – like the old school ICEs but with new technology that can allow for the cleaner burning hydrogen fuel to be burned as a much cleaner option.

Toyota’s Hydrogen Hiace Van has been undergoing testing by local businesses to see how the hydrogen ICE performs and fulfils its role for powering the Toyota Hiace van while it carries out its daily duties in the real world.  If the testing goes well, showing that Toyota’s new Hydrogen ICE is a goodie, then the legendary car manufacturer will set about putting these sorts of vehicles into production. 

Let’s start with what’s under the bonnet?

Toyota has designed and built the van’s hydrogen ICE, which is based on the V6 turbo-petrol ICE used in the Land Cruiser 300 model series.  The LX600’s 10-speed automatic transmission has been retained in the test van, but it runs with rear-wheel-drive rather than the Land Cruiser’s all-wheel drive system.  In petrol form, the V6 is able to pump out 305 kW of power and 650 Nm of torque.  In hydrogen form, with the relatively minor changes, the motor puts out a decent 120 kW and 354 Nm.  Toyota engineers deliberately matched the 120-kW output found in the standard Hiace 2.8-litre turbodiesel that is currently for sale.  The diesel unit provides 66 Nm more torque; however, the new hydrogen ICE prototype’s output and torque sounds pretty decent for a Hiace van, which will be used primarily in business logistics and, obviously, as a trade van, which is classed in the light commercial segment. 

The hydrogen fuel is stored under the van’s floor in three tanks, which is good for a range of up to 200 km.  What about the emissions from the exhaust?  Tailpipe emissions amount to a little bit of nitrogen oxide, and that’s it.

So why hydrogen instead of an EV Hiace? 

There is the lack of emissions, but also the fact that a hydrogen Hiace van can theoretically be put into production quickly without any major changes to Toyota’s supply chain, which make the hydrogen alternative desirable from a cost and logistical point of view.

There is also the fact that Toyota gurus, and other tests, have shown that electric vehicles lose a significant amount of range when they are fully loaded up, working hard, or used for towing.  Add in the fact that the van shape isn’t the most aerodynamic outline on the market, then we can see why an EV van starts to look a bit sketchy in the real world.  Hydrogen, as a fuel, is far more suited for a van that will work hard with heavy loads on board, run against headwinds, or be used for towing.  With hydrogen, the driving range is not as significantly impacted as what it is in an EV alternative, so the panic of running out of battery range in between jobs won’t be a concerning issue for your typical tradie – or the person waiting for the plumber to turn up to fix the loo.  

Toyota is likely to bring out an Electric Hiace anyway, but they would also like to be able to provide a hydrogen Hiace in the future as well; obviously not straight away, but for when the infrastructure for hydrogen refuelling does become a reality. 

On all accounts, it seems that it the prototype Toyota Hiace Hydrogen Van is capable of doing its job well, and really could be all ready for action at the drop of a hat or once the hydrogen infrastructure arrives.

New Cars, New Year.

Happy New Year to you all!  2023 sees some brand new cars coming into view, and we’re set to observe a considerable increase in the number of EVs sold on our shores.  Here’s a brief look at some of the exciting cars and SUVs you can get your hands on in the near future!

Alfa Romeo Tonale

Here’s the first of the Alfas that take the special brand into EV mode.  The Alfa Romeo Tonale Hybrid kicks it off with its hybrid engine offering the new 48-volt hybrid propulsion system.  You’d expect an Alfa to be sporty, and the nicely designed compact SUV delivers on this front.  Comfortable interiors and decent technology make this a good way of upgrading into 2023.


The smallest X model from BMW comes in as the X1, and the iX1 is the EV model with a battery range up over 400 km.  Nicely laid out interiors, an athletic driving style (typical Beemer), and a good dollop of performance make this a great new compact SUV.

BYD Atto 3

The BYD Atto 3 is a new kid on the block for Australia.  Being an electric medium-sized SUV with a decent range makes this an efficient EV for the new year.  The Atto 3 also offers a comfy interior and plenty of the latest technology and safety features.


CUPRA cars are exciting.  They have plenty of performance and are generally a well-priced product with high-end features.  This new model called the CUPRA Born is an EV with a handsome range of beyond 500 km.  The CUPRA Born is an exciting car to look at, and it comes with advanced technology and great connectivity.

Ford E-Transit

Ford’s lovable Transit has a new ticker with the latest vans now offering electric power.  This is a brand new, full-size, pure-electric E-Transit that features a 68 kWh battery and a driving range of up to 317 km.  Ford say that it is possible to fast-charge the E-Transit from 15% to 80% in a bit over 30 minutes.

GWM Tank 300

One of the best vehicles to come out of 2023 will be the impressive looking GWM Tank 300.  Doesn’t it make a statement!  The Tank is powered by a 2.0-litre petrol-electric hybrid system, and the internal-combustion engine offers a juicy 180 kW.  Nappa leather, all the tech, and very handy off-road makes this a hugely appealing.

Lexus RX

Toyota has their luxury Lexus brand offering their latest RX.  If you’re wanting a new hybrid, these are some of the best ones out there.  Toyota make a great hybrid powertrain with smooth performance and impressive efficiency.  The RX interior sees an updated luxury interior design with ever-impressive build quality.  The RX is roomy too and very comfortable.

Maserati Grecale

Maserati is becoming ever more affordable.  That’s a great thing because they make great cars.  The new Maserati Grecale is a front-engine, medium-sized luxury SUV that comes with the promise of plenty of performance.  Three engines are available: two 2.0-litre petrol motors and a 3.0-litre V6 petrol.  Generous on the equipment levels, the Grecale will be rewarding to drive.


MG offers the new MG4 hatchback this year.  It is an affordable electric hatchback that has been packed full of innovation, style, technology, and an impressive 440 km driving range.

Nissan X-Trail E-Power Hybrid

Nice to look at, and equally at home off-road as it is on, the Nissan X-Trail E-Power Hybrid SUV is very comfortable and very well-equipped.  Rear cargo capacity in the 5 seat version of this awesome SUV is 575 litres (super handy for a family).  A 7-seat option is also available.  The entry point model is a mild hybrid version and uses a 1.5-litre petrol most of the time.  The other powerplant uses the same 1.5-liter ICE, but it doesn’t connect to the wheels directly.  Instead, it becomes the electrical generator of the system that works in unison with a small battery operating as a buffer.  The wheels are fed power via electric motors.

Renault Kangoo

Renault’s new Kangoo definitely can do, especially with its brand new E-Tech EV versions becoming available for the Australian market.  This will be Australia’s cheapest electric van.  The E-Tech has a 90 kW/245 Nm electric motor that drives the front wheels via a single-speed transmission.  You should easily run about town for well over 250 km before needing to recharge.

Keep your eyes open for these new models travelling our roads and on showroom floors across Australia.  Also keep your ears open via Private Fleet, where we’ll keep you up to date with what other new models are coming our way shortly.  All the best for 2023!

New Utes and Vans

There are now lots of vehicles for sale that are well-suited for serving in many different roles in all sorts of Trades throughout Australia.  Whether you’re an electrician, a builder, a plumber, a gardener, a boat builder, a florist, a baker, a butcher, etc., – the list just goes on – there is a load of new vehicles available on the market that will aptly serve your business and recreational needs.

Let me take you through them.  I’ll make it easy for you and list them in two categories: Vans and Utes.  In both categories the vehicles are listed in ascending order of price.  That will make it easier to see which of the vehicles may fit into your price range and budget.


LDV G10 (≈$36–38k)


LDV V80 (≈$36–45k)


Peugeot Partner (≈$40–45k)


Volkswagen Caddy (≈$40–51k)


Renault Trafic (≈$44–61k)


LDV Deliver 9 (≈$45–50k)


Volkswagen Transporter (≈$47–66k)


Hyundai STARIA LOAD (≈$48–54k)


Peugeot Expert (≈$48–58k)


Ford Transit Custom (≈$49–60k)


Mercedes Benz Vito (≈$49–79k)


Renault Master (≈$53–64k


Fiat Ducato (≈$53–66k)


Renault Kangoo Van Maxi Z.E (≈$55k) Electric Van


Ford Transit (≈$58–68k)


Volkswagen Crafter (≈$60–160k)


Mercedes Benz Sprinter (≈$66–91k)


Volkswagen Crafter 50 (≈$73–82k)



Mahindra PIK-UP Light Truck S6+ (≈$26–30k)


Mitsubishi Triton Cab Chassis (≈$28–47k)


Toyota Hilux Cab Chassis (≈$28–64k)


Mahindra PIK-UP Cab Chassis (≈$34k)


Mahindra PIK-UP Ute (≈$35–42k)


GWM Ute Double Cab (≈$35–45k)


LDV T60 Double Cab(≈$36–43k)


SsangYong Musso Ute ($36-47)


Nissan Navara Cab Chassis SL (≈$36–52k)


Isuzu D-MAX Cab Chassis (≈$37–65k)


Mazda BT-50 Cab Chassis (≈$38–61k)


Toyota Hilux [Single and Double Cab] (≈$38–76k)


Ford Ranger Cab Chassis (≈$40–67k)


Mitsubishi Triton Ute Double Cab (≈$42–64k)

Nissan Navara Ute Double Cab (≈$44–76k)


Mazda BT-50 Double Cab (≈$47–76k)


Ford Ranger Ute (≈$47–91k)


LDV Deliver 9 Cab Chassis (≈$48k)


Isuzu D-MAX Double Cab (≈$49–73k)


Volkswagen Amarok (≈$51–88k)


Ford Transit Cab Chassis (≈$60–64k)


Volkswagen Transporter Light Truck (≈$60–69k)


Volkswagen Crafter 50 Cab Chassis (≈$69–75k)


Mercedes Benz Sprinter Cab Chassis (≈$74–83k)


Toyota Landcruiser Cab Chassis (≈$74-88k)


Jeep Gladiator Ute (≈$79–88k)


RAM 1500 Ute (≈$89–209k)


Chevrolet Silverado (≈$107–145k)


RAM 2500 Ute (≈$172–177k)


RAM 3500 Ute Laramie Double Cab (≈$177k)