It was October 2019 when Nissan signaled its desire to launch an electric kei car in Japan with the IMk concept. Fast forward to May 2022, the production version has arrived and it's named after a local cherry blossom – Sakura. Going forward, this will serve as the company's entry-level EV, both in terms of pricing and size. With a turning radius of just 4.8 meters (15.7 feet), it's ready to tackle the urban jungle in the Land of the Rising Sun.
The boxy little hatchback looks a lot like the IMk before, right down to the funky wheels styled after the Japanese mizuhiki decorative knots. Being developed exclusively as a kei car, the Sakura must comply with certain regulations in terms of size. Therefore, it's only 3,395 millimeters (133.6 inches) long, 1,475 mm (58 in) wide, and 1,655 mm (65.1 in) tall. Its wheelbase stretches at 2,495 mm (98.2 in), which is quite generous in relation to the overall length.
2023 Nissan Sakura
How was this achieved? By utilizing a dedicated electric car platform to minimize the overhangs and increase the distance between the axles for greater interior legroom. You can tell by the length of the rear doors the Nissan Sakura is a spacious kei car. It seats four people and offers a luggage capacity of 107 liters (3.77 cubic feet). It's also one of the lightest EVs out there, tipping the scales at 1,070 kilograms (2,358 pounds) in its base form while the fully loaded configuration adds 10 kg (22 lbs).
At the heart of the zero-emissions kei car is an electric motor good for a decent 63 horsepower (47 kW) and 195 Newton-meters (144 pound-feet) of torque. You won't be setting any Nürburgring lap records with the Sakura, but the top speed of 81 mph (130 km/h) will be more than enough for the city where the bite-sized EV will spend most of its time.
Nissan's engineers have fitted the tiny hatch with a lithium-ion battery pack featuring a 20-kWh capacity and enough energy for up to 112 miles (180 kilometers). However, we should point out that the range figure is based on the local WLTC cycle. Interestingly, the battery can double as a power bank to juice up a house for an entire day presuming you don't need more than 12 kW. That's the average power consumption for a household in Japan. Once the battery warning light is on, a full charge will take eight hours. If you're in a hurry, charging for 40 minutes will replenish the battery to 80 percent.
Even though it's not exactly the most powerful EV out there, the Sakura has a Sport mode, joining Standard and Eco. One-pedal operation is possible courtesy of regenerative braking by easing off the accelerator pedal. Nissan mentions it has developed the quietest cabin in the kei segment and the first car of its kind to automatically steer, accelerate, brake, shift and use the parking brake while parking thanks to the ProPILOT Park system.
Available this summer in S, X, and G trim levels, the 2023 Nissan Sakura costs only 1.78 million yen ($14,000) in its base guise after factoring in the local incentives for electric cars.