Americans Won't Be Able To Get Their Hands on New Nissan, Mitsubishi EVs

Nissan and Mitsubishi simultaneously unveiled boxy little Kei car electric vehicles (EV) for Japan this week. The five-door Sakura and five-door eK X go on sale this summer in the country measuring just 133.6 inches tall, about two feet shorter than the smallest Mini Cooper.

The US automakers don't sell the diminutive Kei cars here due to our current regulations and buying habits, but they make up about 40 percent of the market in Japan. The ultramini category was created in the 1940s with maximum regulations for size, engine capacity and output, so that owners pay less in taxes and insurance.

The double release of these vehicles is due to the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance, founded by former Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn.

Both the Nissan Sakura and Mitsubishi eK X come with a 20-kilowatt-hour battery and one electric motor connected to the front wheels making a miniscule 63 horsepower and a respectable 143 pound-feet of torque. Three drive modes for driving include Eco, Standard and Sport.

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They also feature one-pedal driving, meaning when the driver lets off the accelerator the vehicle begins to slow down, regenerating energy. They take about eight hours to charge on a normal Japanese outlet and 40 minutes to get 80 percent from a fast charger.

The Sakura uses lessons Nissan learned from its Leaf EV, shrinking the battery space but offering an electric range of 180 km (111 miles) before needing a recharge. That range is based on the Japanese test cycle.

The new EV comes with all the safety tech Nissan is known for on its modern domestic cars. That includes the ProPilot hands-on driver assistance system with adaptive cruise control, Steering Assist and a stop and go function that will put the car back at a set speed once traffic clears. It also has the ProPilot Park system (a first for an ultramini) that controls the steering, braking and shifting when parallel or perpendicular parking.

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On the Mitsubishi side, the eK X gets Mi-Pilot Parking with the same features and Mi-Pilot, an advanced driver assist system.

Buyers can choose from 15 body colors on the Sakura, including four two-tone options that Nissan says evokes the different seasons.

Standing at just 5-foot-5, the four-seat Sakura comes with slim projector headlights, aluminum wheels and a charging port on the rear right that lights up in the dark for safe nighttime charging. Upgraded models get LED rear combination lights that match the rear door pattern.

The eK, at the same height, gets Mitsubishi's new front end found on the Eclipse Cross SUV and others.

Mitsubishi eK X
The Mitsubishi eK X gets the same electric powertrain as the Nissan Sakura. Mitsubishi Motors

Inside, buyers get a 7-inch driver display and a 9-inch touchscreen with navigation as standard equipment. That system plans routes around EV chargers so drivers always know how far they can go. Wireless Apple CarPlay is also standard. Mitsubishi has both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and the same 7- and 9-inch screens.

Cloth seats get copper trim and Nissan says the Sakura has "ample storage space" for daily needs including places for a wallet, phone and other items. It gets just 3.7 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats. The Mitsubishi also gets cloth seats, with a slightly different look.

The Nissan Sakura comes in three trims with the base S model starting at $18,261 (2,333,100 yen) before EV tax credits in the country, which amount to about $4,300; the top G model costs $23,007, again converted from yen as this vehicle will only be sold in Japan. Mitsubishi has yet to give a price.

In a first for Nissan, it revealed the car in person in Japan, digitally online on YouTube, and in the metaverse simultaneously. Fans can watch the live presentation, which is still on Nissan's YouTube channel.