Lack of space is the mother of invention when it comes to Japan's Kei cars, a class of vehicle limited by regulation to a length of 3.4 meters (11.2 feet) and engines of 660cc displacement. Mazda announced a new addition to its Kei offerings, the Flairwagon, a name that seems like something got lost in translation.
Able to maneuver through the narrow back alleys of Tokyo, Mazda maximizes the limited amount of space available in the Flairwagon. Limited by law to a width of 1.48 meters (4.9 feet), the Flairwagon's rear bench only seats two, giving it a carrying capacity of four passengers.
Mazda cleverly does away with consoles and cupholders, and puts the shifter on the dashboard, making it possible to move across the front seats. The length of the Flairwagon means you choose between rear passengers or cargo. Mazda's photos show the rear seats raised above the level of the fronts, with ample leg room.
Although Mazda equips the car with a keyless ignition, cabin tech appears extremely limited otherwise. The dashboard does not even have a radio in Mazda's photo, although there is space for one.
The 660cc engine puts power to the front or all wheels through a continuously variable transmission. Apparently acknowledging this type of transmission, Mazda left the tachometer off the instrument cluster in favor of a big speedometer. According to Mazda's figures, the Flairwagon should get about 50 mpg.
As the Flairwagon would probably have to about double in size to meet U.S. safety regulations, it will not be available here. In fact, Mazda says Japan is the only country to get this tiny, economical people mover.