iQ: small, clever, not a kei car

There’s a particularly interesting post over on Wired’s Autopia.

It explains the popularity of small cars in Japan, where the streets are crowded and fuel isn’t cheap.

Kei cars are one particular class of small car in Japan. They came about after the Second World War, when the Japanese government wanted to give the country’s car industry a shot in the arm.

It created exemptions for cars below a certain size, the descendents of which survive today.

About 11 feet long and less than five feet wide, the tiny cars are ideal for driving on the crowded streets of Tokyo. With a maximum 660cc engine, they’re pretty economical to run, too.

A few kei cars have made it over to the UK, with Suzuki’s Cappucino and the Honda Beat both finding favour in the mid-90s.

But iQ isn’t a kei car. Although it is short, its stance is too wide for the kei car regulations, and at one litre its compact engine is a little too big.

iQ is just part of an upsurge of interest in Japanese car design, though. Later this month, the Science Museum opens Japan Car – a look at how Japan’s small cars may hold the answer to a crowded world’s transport needs.

iQ will be there, along with Toyota’s iREAL concept.

Toyota's iREAL concept vehicle


  1. I would like to praise Toyota’s new venture “The ireal”.

    This product could change the perception and stigma that surrounds the disabled. As a disabled preofessional, I personally would welcome the opportunity to see if an ireal can be modified to my needs but more importantly we at the Priority Trust hope to be able to bring your amazing product to disabled children who could benefit the most from it.

    With this in mind, I wondered if Toyota would be willing to begin a dialogue to see how a mutually beneficial partnership might be formed.

    Yours truly,

    Kieran T. Prior

  2. Hi Kieran, thanks for your comment. I don’t think there are any plans to put the iReal into production as such, but I’ve passed on your comment and hope that we can find out more that could be of use.


  3. Hi Simon, the press reports in the UK say that the iReal is likely to go on sale for around £2,000. As Kieran says, that could revolutionise the market for powered wheelchairs for people with reduced mobility. these machines typically cost upwards of £6,000.

    Can you put us in touch with someone in the UK, at least for Kieran to test the iReal? W’ve been in touch with the BBC programme Top Gear, who have trialled the iReal to see if they’d be interested in following up with Kieran.

  4. Hi Mark, thanks for following up. I’ll try to track down the right person and get back to Kieran and you.

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