• SUV-styled Kei car imported from Japan • UK registered with full MOT and V5C • Three-speed auto • Less than 3.4 metres long!
The Japanese Kei Car culture has brought about plenty of quirky and offbeat vehicles over the years, among them the likes of the Nissan Figaro, Daihatsu Avanzato and this: the Mitsubishi Pajero Mini.
Introduced in 1994, the Pajero Mini was built to Kei Car requirements of being less than 3.5 metres long and 1.5 metres wide, meaning it could be driven into urban areas where larger cars were banned and was subject to special tax dispensations. It also had a 659cc petrol engine, as the maximum allowed cylinder capacity for a Kei Car was 660cc. It’s actually a pretty clever unit, too – a lean-burn 16-valver with four cylinders, unlike most Kei Cars that ran three-pot engines often derived by lopping a cylinder off a four-cylinder.
It also applied ‘Russian Doll’ styling. The Mitsubishi Pajero (better known as the Shogun in the UK) was a full-size SUV, the Pajero Pinin essentially a half-size replica and the Pajero Mini a pint-sized tribute. It really is tiny, yet is also a full four-seater that totally looks the part. Think of it as a motorised Tonka toy – it’s wonderful hilarious fun.
The seller loves obscure and unusual cars from around the world and fell in love with the Pajero Mini when on a business trip to Tokyo in 2003.
It took him a further 17 years to get around to buying one, though, finally biting the bullet in the summer of 2020 when he bought this one in a Japanese online auction. He then imported it to the UK via Southampton Docks, had it transported home and did all the work to make it road legal, such as wiring in a fog lamp and getting it MOT’d and registered with the DVLA.
The car passed its MOT at the first attempt and was finally registered in January 2021. The owner used it through the spring and summer and loved it that much that he went online and bought another, this time an earlier model with a more retro front end.
Much as he’d like to keep both (one for each foot), he needs the funds from this one to do the work required to make the newly arrived earlier model road legal, so it sadly has to go.
The Pajero will be supplied with an MOT certificate valid until November 2022 and has a full UK V5C in the name of the vendor.
Other than that, there’s nothing else – all of the import paperwork was retained by DVLA but the car is fully legal and registered in the UK.
The first thing you notice about the Pajero is its size – or moreover the lack of it. It’s absolutely tiny, about the same size as a Fiat Cinquecento, but taller.
It has a funky two-tone paint scheme, metallic blue over silver, and it’s in really smart and tidy original condition. It is, however, a 22 year old car so it isn’t perfect. There are a couple of bubbles on the roof panel, a tiny dent behind the spare wheel carrier and a small crease in the lower nearside rear bumper, along with a scuff on one bumper corner and some tiny dings in the driver’s door, but none of these really stand out. They’re small marks that don’t really jump out, and overall V157 VKE is a really smart little thing.
It’s even better underneath – the chassis is completely rot free having spent most of its life in Nagoya, which has a temperate climate. It even has a Nagoya Mitsubishi bumper sticker.
Most Kei Cars left the factory with no underbody protection and this one was no exception, so one of the first things the current owner did was get it on a ramp and paint the underside with stone chip paint. It’s a neat job, and you can see that the chassis is completely solid.
The tyres are nearly new all-round, too, as the owner replaced them all when the car first arrived in the UK in late 2020.
Simple, functional and chunky, the Pajero Mini’s cabin is well laid-out and surprisingly spacious given its diminutive dimensions.
The cabin is trimmed in durable fabrics – grey and blue cloth seats and blue tweed carpets with rubber Mitsubishi over mats, and aside from some wear to the driver’s floor mat it’s all in great order, complete with full Japan-spec steering wheel cover, as seen on almost every Kei Car on the road.
The radio works, but has Japanese FM frequencies from 74.0-90.0, meaning the choice of UK stations is limited. The vendor uses an FM transmitter to play music from his smartphone, which works perfectly.
The 659cc 16-valve engine develops a mighty 64bhp, which may not sound a lot but in a car this small is plenty enough to hustle it along with surprising vigour, largely because it weighs about as much as a stapler.
The power, such as it is, is transferred to the road via a hilarious three-speed automatic transmission, which holds on to its gears right through the rev range for optimal power delivery. It’s neither quiet nor refined but it’s screaming good fun to drive, with amazingly sharp brakes and decent steering.
It has covered just over 135,000km from new – about 81,000 miles – and most recently had a cambelt change at 101,000km according to the under-bonnet sticker.
It drives absolutely spot-on and puts a huge grin on your face, especially when you see other drivers do a double take when they see how small it is.
If you want something that’s great fun, is guaranteed to make you and everyone else smile and is wonderfully different, then a motorised Tonka Toy from the Land of the Rising Sun is hard to beat.
This is a fabulous retro Kei Car in really smart original condition. You’re unlikely to see another one coming the other way and all the hard work is done – it’s UK road legal, has an almost full MOT and is ready to enjoy.
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