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Retro-styled Daihatsu Mira Tocot debuts

by Ben Hsu

A charming compact that doesn\'t look cheap.

Toyota subsidiary Daihatsu has launched a retro-styled hatchback in its home market of Japan.

The Mira Tocot is the small car specialist's latest offering in the heavily regulated kei class of city cars. Its styling recalls other throwback designs like the Honda N-One. Unlike, say, the Fiat 500 or Mini Cooper, it doesn't reference a specific model, but appears to take inspiration from a whole era of Japanese compacts from the 1960s, most of which were never sold in the US.

Because kei car regulations are so strict — limiting not only engine displacement and horsepower but the car's overall length, width and height — companies rely on interesting design to differentiate models. As a result, cars like the Mira Tocot shares almost no body panels or exterior lighting with other Mira models, even though underneath the skin they are largely the same. The Mira Tocot is powered by a 660cc inline-3 making 58 horsepower. It's available in front- or all-wheel-drive, and a CVT is the only available transmission.

The Tocot boasts a utilitarian look, comes in cool throwback colors, and greets you with round headlights. There's an optional canvas-textured roof that, alas, doesn't open. The door panel design seems to reference bead-rolled steel, a method of strengthening sheetmetal that in the old days were left exposed as part of the design. And, though most kei cars now are tall boxes to maximize space given their mandated footprints, the Tocot keeps a charming hatchback profile.

The Daihatsu logo isn't even on the grille, which can be color-matched with the roof. Cabin-wise, the dashboard is cheerful and simple, with white and tan inserts that lighten up the interior. Even the seats are two-tone and color keyed to match, something economy cars offered in the US can learn from.