The Subaru Rex debuted in 1972 as a rear-engined kei car with rear-wheel drive that was followed by a second generation in 1981 that switched to a front-mounted powertrain and FWD. The Japanese automaker transitioned the pint-sized vehicle to the Mk3 model in 1985 with supercharged engines before pulling the plug in 1992. The Rex is back for 2023, and this time around, it's not a Subaru per se since we're looking at a rebadged Daihatsu Rocky.
Also sold as the Toyota Raize and Perodua Ativa, the subcompact crossover is much bigger than the three Subaru kei cars before it. The third-gen Rex is 3995 millimeters (157.3 inches) long, 1695 mm (66.7 in) wide, and 1620 mm (63.8 in) tall, with a wheelbase measuring 2525 mm (99.4 in). Although the Rocky is sold with an optional all-wheel-drive system, the Subaru version is strictly front-wheel drive.
2023 Subaru Rex
Power is provided by a naturally aspirated 1.2-liter gasoline engine rated at a mighty 87 hp (64 kW) and 113 Nm (83 lb-ft) of torque. The three-pot mill sends its muscle to the front axle via a continuously variable transmission. It's worth mentioning Daihatsu also sells the Rocky with a more potent turbocharged 1.0-liter engine with 98 hp (72 kW) and 140 Nm (100 lb-ft) but it's not available for the Subaru Rex.
While the engine seems anemic, the Rex is a light car considering it tips the scales at less than 1,000 kilograms (2,200 pounds). Subaru is confident the three-cylinder mill is capable of delivering "powerful and smooth acceleration" while providing excellent fuel economy. There are even driving modes available for what will primarily be a city car.
Available in G and Z grades, the new Rex starts at 1,820,000 yen (about $13,000 at current exchange rates) and rises to 2,171,100 yen ($15,600) for the better-equipped model. Subaru doesn't project it will be a huge seller as the target is to move only 150 cars per month.