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[ T H E E R A’s ]
The 360cc era (1949 – 1975)
Since world War Two, engine sizes have changed 3 times. With the 1955 change to 360cc as the upper limit for 2-strokes, as well as 4-strokes, the kei-class really began to take off, with cars from Suzuki (Suzulight) and then the Subaru 360, the first mass produced kei-car, finally able to fill the people’s need for basic transportation without being too severely compromised.
The 550cc era (1976 – 1990)
Throughout the 1970’s, the government kept whittling away at the benefits offered to kei cars, which combined with ever stricter emissions standards to lower sales drastically through the first half of the decade. Honda and Mazda withdrew from the contracting passenger kei-car market, in 1974 & 1976, respectively, although they both maintained a limited offering of commercial vehicles.
The 660cc era (1990 to date)
Because regulations only restrict physical size and engine displacement (and latterly outright power), manufacturers are now able to introduce many advanced technologies. As a result, kei-cars are now often available with forced-induction engines, automatic and CV transmissions, front, rear, and 4-wheel drive, air conditioning, GPS, and many other innovative features.