Nissan and Mitsubishi have launched their first all-electric production passenger kei cars in Japan as part of a joint project.
Badged Nissan Sakura and Mitsubishi eK X EV, the two minicars were co-developed by the two automakers and are built at Mitsubishi's Mizushima Plant in western Japan by the NKMV kei car joint venture. Previewed by the IMk Concept at the 2019 Tokyo Auto Show, the Nissan Sakura shares design cues from the Ariya electric SUV, including the closed-off grille with a shield look for a high-tech feel.
The Mitsubishi eK X EV has been previewed earlier this year by the K-EV Concept X-Style and looks pretty much identical, with highlights including the rugged X-shaped front end look and prominent side fascia lighting that reminds of the redesigned Mitsubishi Outlander SUV.
While featuring different front and rear end designs, as well as distinct dashboards, the two battery-powered kei cars are essentially identical from a mechanical standpoint, as they share a dedicated EV platform and feature the same motor, battery and range specifications.
Gallery: 2023 Nissan Sakura
The five-seat, four-seat minicars are powered by a 20 kWh lithium-ion battery that feeds energy into a front-mounted electric motor that makes 47 kW (63 hp) and 144 lb-ft (195 Nm) of torque. The range is estimated at up to 111 miles (180 kilometers) based on Japan's WLTC cycle. While that doesn't sound like much, Nissan says the Sakura is "perfect for daily use," especially in Japan's major cities.
Unsurprisingly, the Nissan Sakura and Mitsubishi eK X EV are similarly priced, with the former starting at 2,333,100 yen (approximately $18,210) and the latter at 2,398,000 yen ($18,720). The prices include Japan's 10% consumption tax but are before any subsidies and rebates. Both vehicles are eligible for a 550,000 yen ($4,300) national subsidy and subsidies from local governments in some areas, so the price can go down to $14,000 or even lower.
For Nissan, the Sakura is the third all-electric model in the lineup after the Leaf compact hatchback and the recently released Ariya crossover. Mitsubishi's eK X EV will be the brand's second EV available in Japan after the Minicab MiEV full-electric commercial vehicles.
Japan’s kei car market makes up around 40% of light-vehicle sales in the country, but EVs are vastly underrepresented, accounting for just 1.7% of total Japanese passenger car sales. The only other electric passenger kei car available in Japan at the moment is the Toyota C+pod two seater.
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