Is The Smart Car A Kei Car?

The SMART Car, a compact and innovative vehicle, has often been compared to Kei cars, a category of small automobiles popular in Japan. This article aims to explore whether the SMART Car fits into the Kei car classification, considering its design, specifications, and intended use.

Defining the Kei Car

Kei cars, or “keijidōsha,” are a Japanese vehicle category characterized by their small size and engine capacity. The primary attributes of a Kei car include:

  • Maximum length: 3.4 meters
  • Maximum width: 1.48 meters
  • Maximum height: 2 meters
  • Engine displacement limit: 660 cc
  • Power output limit: 63 horsepower

These specifications are subject to Japanese government regulations, which also offer tax and insurance benefits for Kei car owners.

The Kei car class is extremely popular in the Japanese Domestic Market

The SMART Car: An Overview

The SMART Car, initially developed by the Swiss company Swatch and Mercedes-Benz, was designed as a small, efficient city car. Key features include:

  • Compact dimensions, ideal for urban environments
  • Innovative design focusing on minimalism and efficiency
  • Engine variants and sizes, typically ranging above the Kei car limit

Comparison and Analysis – Kei Car vs Smart Car

Size and Dimensions

The SMART Car, particularly the SMART Fortwo model, aligns closely with Kei car dimensions in terms of length and width. However, its design is more European, focusing on a different aspect of compactness and style compared to the boxier Kei cars.

Engine Specifications

The engine size in SMART Cars generally exceeds the 660 cc limit set for Kei cars. While some older models might have engines closer to this limit, the majority of SMART Cars are equipped with engines that disqualify them from the Kei category.

Intended Use and Market

Kei cars are specifically tailored for the Japanese market, adhering to local regulations and consumer preferences. The SMART Car, on the other hand, was designed with a global market in mind, particularly targeting urban drivers in Europe and North America.

Conclusion – Is The Smart Car A Kei Car? 

While the SMART Car shares similarities with Kei cars, especially in terms of size and urban utility, it does not strictly conform to the Kei car specifications, particularly regarding engine size. Furthermore, the design philosophy and target market of the SMART Car differ significantly from those of the traditional Kei car.

In essence, while the SMART Car embodies the spirit of compact, efficient urban transportation akin to Kei cars, it remains a distinct category, better classified as a European city car rather than a Japanese Kei car.


  • Sam

    Sam focuses mainly on researching and writing the growing database of Car Facts articles on Garage Dreams, as well as creating interesting list content. He is particularly enthusiastic about JDM cars, although has also owned numerous European vehicles in the past. Currently drives a 3rd generation Suzuki Swift Sport, and a Volkswagen Touareg (mainly kept for taking his border collie out to the hills to go walking)

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