It would be hard to find a Japanese “Kei” vehicle more iconic than the Daihatsu Atrai. Since 1960, this model has been produced as both a light truck and a van. Under the Daihatsu badge, the Atrai was actually known by many names, the most common of which was the Hijet, but also Extol, Hi-Max and Zebra. It was also rebadged under other brands such as Mitsubishi, Subaru, Toyota and Piaggio.
The present incarnation of the Daihatsu Atrai people carrier has been around since December of 2004, and is the tenth generation of Atrai to emerge. While the earlier Atrai models shared many traits, the designs have greatly diverged over the years to the point where the modern Atrai van has truly become its own vehicle. The only things that remain shared today are the engines and the name Hijet/Atrai.
Key Stats for the 10th Generation Daihatsu Atrai MPV (2004-present)
Wheelbase: 2,400mm (94.5”)
Length: 3,395mm (133.7”)
Width: 1,475 (58.1”)
Height: 1,770mm (69.7”)
Fuel efficiency: The 2004 Atrai people carrier is an efficient vehicle able to deliver 26.9mpg in the city and 43.46mpg in the countryside.
Background – Daihatsu Atrai
From the earliest days in the 1960s where the Hijet truck sported a 356cc engine and a 3-speed manual transmission, the series developed and grew, delivering the first Atrai people carrier (known as a microvan in Japan) in 1981 with the sixth generation of vehicles. There were microvan models before that, but the first time that the name Atrai came into the mix was in 1981.
The S65, as it was also known, started sales in September 1981. After continuing to play second fiddle to the truck category for two more years, it became its own category as a people carrier from October 1983. Atrai was the passenger vehicle, and the workman-like Hijet was kept to indicate the truck/commercial van categories.
The Atrai was always a progressive model centred on passenger experience. The S65V even included a handicap-friendly wheelchair accommodation. Perhaps even more exciting was the turbocharged Atrai which joined the series in February of 1984.
Features – Daihatsu Atrai
Throughout its long history and evolution into multiple styles, engines were the one consistently shared item between the Hijet/Atrai models. The various generations of JDM Daihatsu Atrai passenger cars had the following engine choices:
6th Generation: 547cc AB20/50/55; 843cc CD20; 993cc CB41
7th Generation: 547cc EB60/70/80; 659cc EF-CS/XL/XS; 796cc ED; 993cc CB; 1295cc HC
8th Generation: 659cc EF
9th Generation: 659cc KE/EF; 1296cc K3-VE
10th Generation: 658cc KF; 659cc EF; 998cc 1KR
Features – Daihatsu Atrai
From the first generation, the passenger car design set the tone for the future. The Atrai is a compact and versatile van built for those markets where space really matters. They weren’t thinking of drivers on the boundless continents of North America and Australia when they built this formidable kei truck. They were thinking of the narrow streets of Tokyo and Osaka. It naturally, then, fits in well in the UK where we have our own space issues.
The flattened front-end is what really makes a big difference, as well as a modest width. Height was maintained, however, which is what keeps the Atrai’s utility intact, even when the small frame might make some think its use as an MPV would be limited.
In the current generation, facelifts and of the Atrai have helped it to become something of a fashion symbol. Details like a nifty athletic spoiler, coloured bumpers, stunning alloys and custom paint jobs have made them into a powerful cultural symbol. The ability to customize and personalize is, after all, one of the things that makes JDM such a popular choice among auto enthusiasts.
Daihatsu Atrai – A JDM Favourite
What makes the Atrai such a popular choice amongst all Japanese imports available? First and foremost, depending on which year you purchase from, it’s among the most affordable of the people carrier options. Older models from the early 1990s make perfect work transports, carrying workers to and from sites. Newer models are great as family cars for those conscious of how much space they have, and still remain relatively affordable.
Next, theses vans may be compact, but they are so durable, inside and out. There’s a reason people are still buying these models, even ones from as early as 1993. Even when the edges get a little battered from too many trips to the construction site, the Atrai people carriers run well and will never let you down.
Finally, the Atrai today delivers on utility, looks and reliability, which as a package is impossible for JDM enthusiasts to resist. It’s iconic status as a mainstay in the kei car world make it one of those cars that you just have to have.
If you’re looking to source a JDM Daihatsu Atrai, get in touch today and take a look through our selection of available models.