My second full day in Tokyo was marked with exceedingly poor weather. While I had arrived late enough to miss Cyclone Hagibis, Japan caught the tail end of another one which led to more high winds and torrential downpours in Tokyo. Unwilling to be stuck in my room, I went to do some sight-seeing and found my umbrella turned into twisted wreckage within five minutes. So I took a page out of William Stopford’s playbook and headed into a parking garage to get out of the rain for a few minutes and keep walking in the direction I was heading anyway figuring I’d exit at the other end. However, that turned into a fortuitous detour as I spotted this wholly unfamiliar Chevrolet.
Well, wholly unfamiliar as a Chevy anyway, otherwise to most it’ll look like any other Japanese Kei Car, and to those more in the know it’s a rebadged Suzuki Wagon R, one of the more famous of the bunch. But where it differs is that Kei cars are limited in displacement (660cc) and power (50hp for normally aspirated and 64hp for the turbocharged version of Wagon R), which the Suzuki adheres to. However, in the grand tradition of Chevrolet where more is always better even if in this case it ends up pushing it well out of the Kei car class, it’s powered by a 1.3l 4-cylinder producing 88hp, a comfortable 38% more than the most powerful Wagon R! Like an extra inning of baseball, another hot dog, or an additional slice of apple pie, nothing could be more American.
Wearing chunky little alloys and a minimalistic little lower bodykit very reminiscent of the Toyota/Scion xB’s but a fairly massive rear wing, it perhaps could be looked at as a missed opportunity for Chevy to not have sold this in other places. From what I understand Suzuki actually sold these for GM in Japan but since the Wagon R was also sold as the Opel Agila in Europe that means that a left hand drive version exists and could have been brought to North America, in theory at least.
Kei cars do look at little odd at first but the Chevy cues (at least what’s left of them, i.e. the badge and chrome strip on the split grille) are there, this front would have fit right in with a showroom full of Cobalts for example. While it might not fly in Detroit proper, perhaps in some other metro areas that are semi-disposed favorably towards GM (or other American badged vehicles) such as Chicago, Atlanta, or Phoenix it could have had a chance.
Check out the big “Mark of Excellence” at the lower right of the tailgate! I’m guessing that this is a 2008 but it could be several other model years as well, these were offered for almost half a decade or so in Japan and while I didn’t see any others, surely they are around, although the larger engine puts them in a different class than the Suzuki itself. As with almost all cars I saw, it too was virtually spotless.
My aunt in Germany actually had an Opel Agila and called it “das Raumwunder” (translated to “the space wonder”), having to do with how spacious it was inside; If you’ve ever actually been in a Scion xB you’ll know what that means relative to the exterior dimensions. Of course the corollary to the small size externally is a relatively short wheelbase translating to a somewhat choppy ride and not really excelling at high speed, long distance interstate travel. But with 88hp and this size, zipping around town or for a quick commute, this is ideal with excellent visibility, cargo capacity, parkability and general space utilization far better than any other type of vehicle if all aspects need to exist in the same package.
My interior shot is marginal at best but there are two seats in front, no intrusive center console and all the necessary controls up on the dash. And another two seats in back. Note the column shifter for the automatic in this one as well for all the comforts of the land of the free and the home of the brave. Just like in your Silverado 3500HD Dually, simply think of this as its preemie little brother…From little acorns and all that.