The Nissan Moco was a five-door hatchback kei car produced from 2001 to 2016.
Nissan Moco Introduction and Kei Car Background
Although sold under the Nissan brand, the Nissan Moco was actually produced by Suzuki and provided to Nissan under an OEM agreement. The name of the Suzuki model was the MR Wagon, and the rebadged Nissan model sold as the Moco. Both were available only as a the five-door hatchback and both were only sold in the local Japanese domestic market. As part of the kei car segment, the Nissan Moco was an incredibly small five-door hatchback. Kei cars were also known as Japanese city cars, ultra-minis, and microcars due to their ultra-compact design. Kei cars were the smallest highway-legal passenger cars available in Japan, with small overall dimensions and small engine displacement to make it an ideal option for driving around cities on an incredibly efficient platform. The segment was created by the Japanese government in 1949, providing the owner's of these ultra-efficient vehicles with additional tax and insurance benefits. It has been quite popular, accounting for upwards of 40% of the Japanese domestic new car sales in 2013.
Design and Introduction
The first generation Nissan Moco was first sold in 2001. It featured Suzuki's 658 cc K6A inline-3 engine producing 54 PS and also had a turbocharged option of the same engine, eventually producing up to 64 PS and 76 lb ft of torque. It was available as a front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive vehicle, paired with a four-speed automatic transmission. The initial exterior shape was quite square, with a long sloped front end that stretched the bumper cleanly back to the windshield and roof. The triangular headlights were found on both Nissan Mocos and Suzuki MR Wagons, but the Nissan wing grille was distinct for the Moco while the Suzuki version had a more rectangular grille shape.
Second Generation Updates
In 2006, the second generation Nissan Moco was released. It retained the 656 cc inline-3 engine, available in both naturally-aspirated and turbocharged variants as before. It also kept the 4-speed automatic transmission. The external shape was updated, now featuring bold round headlights up front and a slightly more rounded overall design. When introduced as a concept car, it was unveiled as a Mom's Personal Wagon vehicle, offering food trays, a front bench seat, and other features that were marketed at growing families. Those options were not included when the production model came out.
Third Generation Changes
Another significant update to the Nissan Moco came in 2011, brining in the third generation of design for this ultra-compact vehicle. Once again, the exterior shape was dramatically reformed. The front end now has a more defined hood structure that more closely resembled larger vehicle shapes, with a square passenger cabin. The engines for this generation were updated to an all-new Suzuki R type, including a very similar 658 cc R06A inline-3 that came in both naturally-aspirated and turbocharged variants. Both used variable valve timing and a 11.0:1 high compression ratio was found in the NA version. Other updates to the Moco came in 2013, when Suzuki and Nissan added new technology to increase the compact car's fuel efficiency. This included stop-start capability that allowed the vehicle to shut down the engine when stopped for a period, then restart as soon as necessary. The Nissan Moco and Suzuki WR Wagon did well in the Japanese market, the only place it was offered, thanks to its ultra compact design and incredible fuel efficiency that helped obtain kei car tax and insurance benefits. Even though it was actually a Suzuki-made vehicle, the Nissan badged version sold better throughout the years, before both were discontinued in 2016.