The Daihatsu Atrai is probably one of the quirky Kei vans that you’ve never heard of until now. Scaled down to size, this tiny van seats four and delivers incredible economy and comfort. It is the definition of what a small, urban, runabout should be. Its surprisingly capable cargo volume, phenomenal gas mileage, and quirky good looks make it a blast to drive and own. The usefulness of this little van is seemingly endless. A city hauler, marketing vehicle, or simply just a fun commuter all rolled into one package! The Atrai was marketed all over the globe under various different titles, the more recognizable one being the HiJet. We previously had a HiJet deck van which is the chopped version of these. The beauty of the van is not only your ability to comfortably carry four, but you can also keep anything that you need for your trip safe from the element and wandering hands. This lovely little 1992 is finished in Daihatsu’s Sea Foam Green which fits perfectly with the vans perky attitude. Since these were designed with utilitarian purposes in mind the body has been kept up with surprisingly well. The expansive doors and rear hatch are all pretty much dent and ding free. Of course with any vehicle, there are going to be some routine little blemishes like stone chips but overall it really looks great. Then again seeing as it’s only accrued a tick under 33K verified miles the condition comes as no surprise.
The interior is really where the micro vans shine. While it’s physical dimensions are almost comical the interiors are cavernous in these. Japan truly is the king when it comes to space utilization. The cab over engine design allows for you to almost see the front bumper from the driver’s seat which makes parking an absolute breeze. Loading and unloading cargo is exceptionally easy thanks to the full rear hatch opening completely parallel with the roof making loading up cargo a snap. With two full-size sliding doors, passengers can easily scoot in and out. While manual crank windows, all four windows do roll down for those nice cruising days. When the sun starts to take its toll the Atrai does have a “cool box” A/C system. While the system does work don’t expect it frost up the windows. You even have the original radio with a tape player so you can use an adapter to stream Spotify on the run. In fitting with its quirky nature, the vibrant blue and grey striped seats play off the Seafoam body nicely. All 4 seats are quite supple making this rather comfortable cruising around town. The cloth itself has held up well, free of any tears or burns however, there are some light stains to be found. The same can be said about the rear cargo area as these were intended to be functional carriers. In order to build on the cargo space when you don’t need to haul around 4, the rear seats will fold up against the front seats adding another couple of feet of useable space. The Japanese really know how to get the most out of a small package.
The EF series 659cc inline-3 engine starts right away and idles correctly. The small-displacement powerplant makes some cool sounds, and its high revving nature is something special when it comes to the experience of driving it. The little mill makes enough power to get this featherweight up to highway speeds and makes adequate mid-range torque should you not want to push it all the way to redline. Being that this is a RWD 5 speed model it will do highway speeds, however, they’re most happy when you’re around town. When the Atrai is in its element you can anticipate seeing some serious fuel economy making them great little dailies. The steering is light, unassisted, and very precise with a suspension that handles road imperfections drama free. Whether it’s cruising around town or loading it up for a day’s work, the Atrai can do it all. Its sporty nature and eye-catching looks make this the ideal turn-key classic Japanese micro-van!
*California Residents: In order to register a Grey Market vehicle in the state of California then it will have to be made CARB complaint first. CARB certifications will have to be performed within the state. Depending on the vehicle and any existing modifications will affect the pricing. Typically CARB compliance will range between 5-10K. Additional information can be found on the California Air Resources Board website.